OTTOMAN EMPIRE. The Ottoman Empire emerged circa 1300 with the establishment by the first Ottoman ruler, Osman, of a small principality bordering on Byzantine territory in western Anatolia. It reached its greatest extent in 1590, when the empire comprised central Hungary, the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia, Mespotamia, Syria and Palestine, western Arabia, Egypt, and lands in the Caucasus and western Iran. In Europe, Transylvania, Walachia, Moldavia, and the Crimea were tributary principalities, while in North Africa, Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers were semiautonomous provinces. Between 1603 and 1606, the Ottomans lost the lands in Iran and the Caucasus that had been ceded to them in 1590. In 1669, however, they took control of Crete.
By 1450, the Ottoman Empire was a regional power, comprising western and northern Anatolia and much of the Balkan Peninsula. Mehmed II (ruled 1451–1481) expanded and consolidated Ottoman rule in this region. His conquest of Constantinople in 1453 finally extinguished the Byzantine Empire. In the Balkans, he annexed Serbia between 1455 and 1458, Bosnia in 1463, and, in 1466, defeated George Kastriote (Scanderbeg) in central Albania. In 1460 he removed the last two Byzantine rulers of the Peloponnese, and in 1461 conquered Trebizond, the last independent Greek city.
In 1463, fearing for its Greek colonies, Venice declared war. The war was fought in the Peloponnese, in Albania, and on the Aegean, the naval conflict encouraging the growth of the Ottoman fleet. Mehmed had used a fleet at the siege of Constantinople, and he inherited the naval dockyard at Pera when he annexed this Genoese colony in 1453. He used the fleet first against the Genoese, taking Enez and Phokaia in the 1450s, Amasra on the Black Sea in 1459, and Lesbos in 1462. The amphibious war with Venice culminated with the conquest of the Venetian island of Evvoia (Negroponte) in 1470.
To defeat the Ottomans, Venice allied with Hungary in 1464, with no results, and then with the Akkoyunlu Sultan Uzun Hasan, lord of much of Iran, Iraq, and eastern Anatolia. In 1467–1468, Mehmed had conquered and annexed the emirate of Karaman in south-central Anatolia, bringing him into dispute with Uzun Hasan, who also coveted the principality. The dispute led to war in 1473 and an Ottoman victory that secured Ottoman territories in Anatolia.
The removal of this danger allowed Mehmed to extend his conquests to the Black Sea. Using a dispute within the Tatar khanate as a pretext, in 1475 he sent a fleet to the Crimea, reducing the khan to the status of Ottoman tributary, and capturing the Genoese city of Caffa. An attempt to strengthen his domination of the region with an incursion into Moldavia in 1476 merely provoked a Hungarian counterattack. Two years later, Mehmed led an assault on Venetian settlements in northern Albania, persuading the Venetians to cede Shkodër and to conclude a peace in 1479. In the same year, the Ottomans occupied Cephalonia, Levkas, and Zante as a preliminary to capturing Otranto on the Italian mainland in 1480. Simultaneously, Mehmed's fleet unsuccessfully attacked Rhodes.
Mehmed's son Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512) withdrew the garrison from Otranto and adopted a conciliatory policy toward the West. In 1482 his brother Jem had fled to Rhodes, and the threat to foment civil strife in the Ottoman Empire by releasing him from captivity provided Catholic Europe with a new weapon. It was only after Jem's death in 1495 that Bayezid opened hostilities in the West. Before this, in 1483, he had attacked Moldavia, seizing the ports of Kilia and Akkerman, and, between 1485 and 1490, had waged an unsuccessful war against the Mamluks, rulers of Syria and Egypt since the mid-thirteenth century. In 1499, however, following the public burial of Jem's remains, Bayezid declared war on Venice, capturing several Venetian strongholds in the Peloponnese despite the formation of a Venetian-French-Spanish alliance.
During Bayezid's final years, the most significant political development was the unification of Iran under the Shi‘ite Safavid dynasty, which claimed the religious and political loyalties of many Ottoman subjects and posed both an internal and an external threat. It was adherents of the Safavids who formed the core of a rebellion that broke out in 1511 in southwest Anatolia. The rebellion, suppressed with great difficulty, coincided with a succession struggle between Bayezid's sons. It was the youngest who forced his father to abdicate and ascended the throne as Selim I (ruled 1512–1520).
THE EMPIRE AT ITS HEIGHT
After defeating and executing his brothers Korkud and Ahmed, Selim attacked the Safavids, routing Shah Isma‘il I's army at Chaldiran in 1514. Over the next four years he expelled the Safavids from southeast Anatolia. This war led to a new conflict. Isma‘il I had sought an alliance with the Mamluk sultanate, which by 1516 shared a border with the Ottomans in northern Syria. In 1516 Selim invaded and defeated a Mamluk army near Aleppo. In early 1517, he defeated a second Mamluk army outside Cairo, bringing the Mamluk domains, which included the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina, under his control. Gunpowder technology was a significant element in these Ottoman successes. A further addition to Selim's empire was Algiers, whose ruler Hayreddin Barbarossa, seeking protection against Spain, submitted voluntarily to Selim's overlordship.
Selim's son Suleiman I (ruled 1520–1566) opened his reign with the conquests of Belgrade in 1521 and Rhodes in 1522. The loss of Belgrade weakened Hungary's defenses and, in 1526, Suleiman invaded and killed the Hungarian king at Mohács. After the battle, he supported the newly elected John Szapolyai against the claims to the Hungarian throne of the Habsburg Ferdinand of Austria. In 1529, Suleiman expelled Ferdinand from the Hungarian capital Buda and unsuccessfully laid siege to Vienna. Peace with Ferdinand in 1532 allowed him to lead a campaign against Iran, which by 1536 had added Baghdad and Erzurum to the empire. During this campaign, in 1533, Suleiman invited Hayreddin Barbarossa to command the Ottoman fleet. The war at sea opened with the loss of Tunis to a Spanish force under the command of Ferdinand's brother, Charles V. The loss made Suleiman welcome the French king Francis I's proposal for an anti-Habsburg alliance. However, the plan for a Franco-Ottoman attack in 1537 on the Habsburgs' Italian possessions did not materialize. Suleiman instead unsuccessfully attacked the Venetian island of Corfu. In response, Venice allied with Charles V, Austria, and the pope. Barbarossa, however, defeated the allied fleet at Prevesa in 1538, and the war concluded with the cession to Suleiman of most of the Venetian insular and mainland possessions in Greece.
After 1540, Suleiman made no more major conquests. The death of Szapolyai in 1540 led to war as Ferdinand again tried to assert his claims to the Hungarian crown. Suleiman's response was to convert central Hungary to an Ottoman province, and to appoint Szapolyai's infant son ruler of Transylvania, the eastern part of the old Hungarian kingdom. A campaign in 1543 restored Ottoman authority in Hungary. Meanwhile, in 1541 Charles V had made an unsuccessful attack on Algiers, the war in the Mediterranean continuing in 1543 with the Franco-Ottoman capture of Nice. A treaty in 1547 between Suleiman and the Habsburgs Charles V and Ferdinand concluded the war in Hungary but, since Ferdinand still claimed the crown of Transylvania, hostilities continued on a smaller scale until 1556, with Suleiman occupying Temesvár and Lipova in 1552. Immediately after 1547, however, his preoccupation was with Iran. Two expeditions in 1548–1549 and 1553–1554 brought no gains, and concluded with the treaty of Amasya in 1555, confirming the existing eastern border.
However, the war in the Mediterranean continued. In 1551, the Ottomans conquered Tripoli, and later in the decade they occupied Wahran and Bizerta, near Algiers. In 1560, the Admiral Piyale Pasha expelled the Spaniards from Jerba, off the Tunisian coast. Then, in 1565, Suleiman's fleet unsuccessfully attacked the Knights of St. John on Malta. Outside the Mediterranean, the Ottomans tried but failed to establish their power in the Indian Ocean and to control the trade coming from India and southeast Asia.
Suleiman died in 1566 on campaign in Hungary. As he had already executed one son, Mustafa, in 1553, and another, Bayezid, in 1562 following the latter's rebellion and flight to Iran, Selim II (1566–1574) came to the throne unopposed. The effective ruler throughout his reign was the grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. Sokollu's plans to facilitate Ottoman navigation in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean by constructing a canal across the isthmus of Suez, and on the Caspian by constructing a canal between the Don and Volga rivers, both failed. Instead the major amphibious undertaking was the assault in 1570 on Cyprus. In 1573, and despite the rout of the Ottoman fleet off Lepanto in 1571, Venice ceded the island. Then in 1574 an Ottoman expedition expelled the Spaniards from Tunis. Ottoman expansion did not end with these wars. Taking advantage of Safavid dynastic problems, the Ottomans, in a war between 1578 and 1590, captured Safavid territory in the Caucasus and western Iran, bringing the empire to its maximum size.
THE TIMES OF TROUBLE
Following a series of incidents on the Bosnian border, in 1593 the grand vizier Koja Sinan Pasha successfully pressed for a war against Austria. Despite unexpected victories at Eger and Mezö-Keresztes in 1596, at Kanizsa in 1600, and the reconquest of Esztergom in 1605, the war showed that the Ottomans had lost their military superiority over the Habsburg forces. Furthermore, they suffered from the defection of Walachia in 1595 and the uncertain loyalty of Transylvania. In 1606, the Treaty of Zsitva-Török brought the war to an inconclusive end. By this time, the Ottomans were fighting on three fronts. In Anatolia, a series of uprisings seriously shook Ottoman power. In 1603, war broke out with Iran, and by 1606, Shah Abbas had reconquered Erivan and Tabriz, and all the territories that Iran had lost between 1578 and 1590. To add to Ottoman troubles, the governor of Aleppo, Janbuladoghlu Ali, rebelled against the sultan Ahmed I (1603–1617), cooperating with the rebels in Anatolia. It was at this time too that Cossack raiders from the Ukraine began to launch attacks on Ottoman settlements on the Black Sea coast, which were to continue into the 1640s.
Between 1607 and 1609, the grand vizier, Kuyuju Murad defeated Janbuladoghlu Ali of Aleppo and the rebels in Anatolia. However, renewed war with Iran failed to recapture the territory lost to Shah Abbas, and the death of Ahmed I in 1617 precipitated another crisis. His successor was his mentally defective brother Mustafa (ruled 1617–1618, 1622–1623). Within a year a faction had deposed Mustafa and placed Ahmed's son Osman II (ruled 1618–1622) on the throne. Osman's declaration of war on Poland and his treatment of the janissaries during the unsuccessful siege of Chotin, and the suspicions of the janissaries that he wished to abolish the corps, led to a janissary insurrection, the reinstatement of Mustafa on the throne, and finally to Osman's murder. During Mustafa's second reign, unrest continued in the capital. In Anatolia the governor-general of Erzurum, Abaza Mehmed Pasha, rebelled, claiming to seek vengeance on Osman's murderers. Then Shah Abbas captured Baghdad. In 1623, Mustafa was deposed. His successor was the twelve-year-old Murad IV (ruled 1623–1640), with effective power going to his mother, Kösem Sultan.
Unrest continued for much of Murad's reign. Abaza Mehmed Pasha did not surrender until 1628, and campaigns against Iran in 1626 and 1630 failed to recapture Baghdad. In the early 1630s, the soldiery in the capital rebelled, with the agitations of fundamentalist preachers adding to the tense atmosphere. With the restoration of order, Murad led his armies against the Safavids, in 1638 recapturing Baghdad, which was to remain in Ottoman hands until World War I. A treaty in 1639 fixed the Ottoman-Safavid border, essentially as agreed at the Treaty of Amasya. Murad IV died in 1640, having restored Ottoman military prestige, and having begun to reform the Ottoman fiscal system. The grand vizier Kemankesh Mustafa Pasha continued this work under Ibrahim I "the Mad" (1640–1648), also a son of Ahmed I and Kösem. In 1644, however, as Ibrahim's mental condition deteriorated, a faction gained power that catered to his extravagant whims. The invasion of the Venetianheld island of Crete in 1645 exacerbated the crisis. Despite the capture of Chania, Herakleion (Candia) and other fortresses resisted, while naval superiority allowed Venice to blockade the Dardanelles. In 1648, the crisis led to the deposition and execution of the sultan.
THE KÖPRÜLÜ VIZIERATE
The seven-year-old Mehmed IV (ruled 1648–1687) succeeded Ibrahim, with his mother Turhan Sultan as regent. Faced with political instability and a Venetian blockade of the straits, Turhan in 1656 invited a provincial governor, Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, to become grand vizier. Within a year, he had defeated the Venetians and reoccupied Tenedos and Limni at the entrance to the straits. By the time of his death in 1661, he had suppressed a rebellion in Anatolia, and reformed the financial system so that, for the first time in almost a century, income almost balanced expenditure. His successor was his son, Fazil Ahmed. His period of office opened with a war with Austria between 1662 and 1664 in support of the Ottoman candidate to the throne of Transylvania. Ottoman forces captured the fortress of Nové Zamky and, by the Treaty of Vasvar in 1664, retained it, despite a defeat at St. Gotthard. Fazil Ahmed next turned his attention to the war on Crete, completing the conquest with the fall of Herakleion in 1669. This new phase of expansion continued with the capture of Kamieniec in the Polish Ukraine, the call for assistance from the Cossacks of the Dnieper providing the pretext for war. Hostilities with Poland continued until 1676, the year of Fazil Ahmed's death. In addition to the conquest of Crete and strengthening the empire's northern frontier through intervention in Transylvania and the Ukraine, Fazil Ahmed continued his father's internal reforms.
THE YEARS OF DISASTER
Fazil Ahmed's successor as grand vizier, Kara Mustafa Pasha, tried unsuccessfully to strengthen the empire's northern border, and to reassert Ottoman power in Hungary. His campaigns between 1676 and 1681 against Russia in the Ukraine failed. The Treaty of Radzin, which concluded the war, was unfavorable, establishing the frontier along the the Dnieper and the Bug, forcing the Ottomans to recognize the tsar as sovereign of Russia and protector of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, and permitting the creation of a patriarchate at Moscow, as a rival to the patriarchate of Constantinople. However, it was Kara Mustafa's ambitions in Hungary that led to catastrophe.
In support of the rebel Imre Thököly's claim to part of Austrian-ruled Hungary, Kara Mustafa besieged Vienna in 1683. The failed siege led to his execution and, in the following year, to the formation of the Holy League of Austria, Russia, Poland, Venice, and the papacy. In 1686, Buda fell to the Austrians. Belgrade followed in 1688. In 1687, Venice occupied Athens and most of the Peloponnese. War taxes and harvest failure increased unrest among the sultan's subjects, leading to the deposition of Mehmed IV in 1687. The measures of his successor, Suleiman II (ruled 1687–1691), and the grand vizier Köprülü Fazil Mustafa restored the authority of the government and the military position. In 1690, Fazil Mustafa recaptured Niš, Smederovo, and Belgrade. However, in 1691, with the death of Suleiman II, and the defeat and death of Fazil Mustafa at the battle of Slankamen, the counteroffensive failed. So too did English and Dutch attempts to broker a peace, which would have enabled the Austrians to join a western alliance against France. Some successes against the Venetians followed the accession of Mustafa II (ruled 1695–1703), but the Russians took Azov in 1696, and the defeat in 1697 at Zenta forced the Ottomans to seek peace. By the Treaty of Carlowitz of 1699, the sultan ceded Hungary and Transylvania to Austria, Podolia and western Ukraine to Poland, Azov and part of Ukraine to Russia, and Athens, Corinth, the Peloponnese, and some sites in Dalmatia to Venice.
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
After the Treaty of Carlowitz, the grand vizier Amjazade Hüseyn Pasha reformed the fiscal system by lowering taxes, reducing expenditure by cutting janissary numbers, and controlling the grant of fiefs. A new stability in the currency is one indication of his success. However, the reforms made him enemies and forced both his resignation and the abdication of Mustafa II in 1703. His successor, Ahmed III (ruled 1703–1730), suppressed the rebellion, reestablishing the authority of the sultanate.
Encouraged by this new stability, the grand vizier Silahdar Ali Pasha, attempted to regain the losses of 1683–1699. The flight to the Ottoman court of Charles XII of Sweden after his defeat by the Russians in 1709 led to a war with Russia that, by the Treaty of Edirne in 1713, forced Peter the Great to cede most of what he had gained at Carlowitz. In 1714–1715, the Ottomans reconquered territories lost to Venice, and in 1716 attacked Austria only to lose Belgrade, northern Serbia, Temesvár, and western Walachia. The Treaty of Passarowitz of 1718 confirmed the Austrians in possession. Acknowledging Ottoman military weakness, the grand vizier Damad Ibrahim Pasha sought peaceful diplomatic relations with the European powers, in the 1720s sending embassies to Paris, Vienna, Warsaw, and Moscow.
In 1730, a rebellion—in part against the extravagance of the court—led by the janissary Patrona Halil secured both the execution of Damad Ibrahim and the abdication of the Ahmed III. His successor, Mahmud I (ruled 1730–1754) suppressed the insurrection. Abroad, Mahmud faced a war in Iran. In 1723, the collapse of the Safavid dynasty had given the Ottomans the opportunity to occupy territory in the Caucasus and western Iran, but by the mid-1730s the consolidation of Nadir Shah's power in Iran led to their abandonment and a new peace in 1736. Another factor in Ottoman withdrawal was the Russian seizure of Azov in 1736. The sultan declared war, hoping to form an alliance with Austria. The Austrians, however, allied with Russia, launching attacks into Bosnia and Bulgaria. The Ottoman counteroffensive thwarted the allies, and the Treaty of Belgrade in 1739 restored to the Ottomans the territory lost at Passarowitz and maintained the status quo with Russia. The last war of Mahmud I's reign, against Iran, aimed to check the ambitions of Nadir Shah. The outcome was the treaty of 1746, reconfirming the treaty of 1639.
A rare period of peace followed, allowing the grand vizier Koja Ragib Pasha (ruled 1757–1763) to initiate military and fiscal reforms. The prosperity of this period tempted the grand vizier Silahdar Hamza Pasha in 1768 to respond to a Polish call for assistance by declaring war on Russia. The war was disastrous. The Russians occupied Moldavia in 1769 and Walachia in 1770. In 1769 the Russian Baltic fleet sailed to the Mediterranean but, despite destroying the Ottoman navy at Çeşme in 1770 and offering support to rebels in the Peloponnese and Egypt, achieved very little. On land the Russian advances continued into the Crimea, Walachia, and the Dobrudzha. In 1772, following failed peace negotiations, they crossed the Danube into Bulgaria. In 1774, the new sultan Abdülhamid I (1774–1789) sued for peace. By the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca the Russians acquired Azov, the territory between the Dnieper and the Bug, and the districts of Kuban and Terek, while the Crimea became independent of Ottoman overlordship. Equally significantly, the Russians obtained the right to "protect" Orthodox subjects in Istanbul, and the right to navigate freely in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Aware of the weakness in the army, Abdülhamid I retained the services of the Frenchmen De Tott and Aubert and the Scot Campbell to improve the Ottoman artillery and to reopen the school of military engineering that the Frenchman Count Bonneval had established in 1734. Aware, too, of the forces of autonomy in the empire's provinces, the sultan attempted to reach personal agreements with the powerful notables. His reign, however, ended with further losses. By the treaty of Aynali Kavak in 1784, he recognized the Russian annexation of the Crimea. However, the Russian annexation of Georgia and establishment of naval bases on the Black Sea again led to war. The Treaty of Jassy, which ended hostilities in 1792, while less unfavorable than the treaty of 1774, confirmed Russian occupation of Georgia and the Crimea and placed the Ottoman Empire under increased Russian pressure.
By the end of the eighteenth century, therefore, the major themes of the later history of the empire were already visible: the threat of Russian expansion, contained as much by the opposition of European powers as by effective Ottoman resistance; the reform of the Ottoman armed forces; and internal political reforms intended to convert what was effectively a medieval empire into a modern state.
THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
The Ottoman Empire was a multinational, dynastic state. Its territories comprised the inherited lands of the reigning sultan and, in addition, any that he may have won through conquest. From the beginning of the empire, Ottoman territory was indivisible. All male heirs were entitled to inherit and, since there was no law governing succession, from the fourteenth until the sixteenth century, whichever of the deceased sultan's sons defeated and killed his brothers occupied the throne. However, after the accession of Murad III (ruled 1574–1595) and Mehmed III (ruled 1595–1603)—both elder sons—seniority became the usual, although not invariable, mode of succession. The practice of automatic fratricide also came to an end with the accession of Ahmed I (ruled 1603–1617), as a reaction to the scandal caused by Mehmed III's execution of his nineteen brothers.
For most of the sultan's subjects, the primary focus of loyalty was to their own religious or other community, but the sultan alone was the single, if secondary, focus of loyalty for all the multifarious groups throughout the empire. Allegiance to the sultan was therefore the principle that gave the empire its unity, a notion that found a practical expression in the system of appointments. The leaders of important institutions within the empire—for example, the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchs, and the heads of urban craft guilds—held their positions by virtue of a sultanic warrant. The institutions themselves might be virtually autonomous, but their heads were always royal appointees. For most subjects the loyalty that the sultan demanded consisted simply of paying taxes in cash, kind, or services. He required, however, a more active allegiance—to the extent of submitting willingly to execution—from those who served him in political and military office. These men and their families, together with those who held judicial or religious office, had, by the mid-fifteenth century, come to form a distinct class of non-taxpaying royal servants. By 1500, members of this class—designated "military" (askeri or askeriye) —were subject to a separate jurisdiction from ordinary taxpayers.
At the pinnacle of the military class were the viziers—usually three of four until their numbers increased from the late sixteenth century—who sat on the sultan's Imperial Council (Divan). This met in the palace under the presidency of the grand vizier, and issued decrees in the sultan's name. By the second half of the fifteenth century, viziers had typically served as provincial governors before their elevation. Viziers, like the sultan himself, also served as military commanders. So too did governors of provinces and of sub-provinces (sanjaks), each sanjak consisting of the lands in a specific area distributed as fiefs to cavalrymen, who fought in times of war under their sanjak governor. It was these cavalrymen who made up the bulk of the military class. In addition, men holding Islamic judicial-religious posts were also designated "military."
Between 1450 and 1600, the ways of recruitment to judicial, military, and political office were fairly clear. Graduates of Muslim colleges (madrasas) received, with appropriate patronage, office as judges in the provinces, as madrasa teachers, or as imams, although the highest judicial offices, notably the two military judgeships with the right to a seat on the Imperial Council, became from the sixteenth century the preserve of a few elite families. The fiefholding cavalrymen were mainly Muslim by birth, and the right to a fief was hereditary. However, the viziers and provincial governors were usually converts from Christianity. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a succession of viziers were scions of Byzantine or Balkan dynasties. For example, two of the viziers of Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512), Mesih Pasha and Hersekzade Ahmed Pasha, were, respectively, members of the Byzantine imperial family and of the ducal house of Hercegovina. By conversion, therefore, the pre-Ottoman ruling class became absorbed into the Ottoman elite. From the mid-sixteenth century, more of the governing class entered the sultan's service through the devshirme, the system whereby the sultan made a levy within his own domains of Christian lads, usually peasants from the Balkan peninsula. After conversion to Islam, most of these served in the janissaries, the sultan's household infantry. A select group, however, received an education in the palace and, after serving the sultan within the palace, received appointments as provincial governors. The most succcessful could then return to the capital as viziers.
From about 1580 this system began to change. The need to increase revenues raised the status of financial officers, who began sometimes to replace military appointees in governorships. At the same time, in the Austrian war of 1593–1606, the Ottomans encountered a new form of warfare, with larger armies and an increased use of infantry carrying firearms. The need for more infantrymen led to a decline in the system of fiefholding, which had supported cavalry, and to the recruitment of more foot soldiers either as irregulars or as janissaries, whose numbers had risen to about forty thousand by 1609. With this expansion, their role as an elite corps ended, and the system of recruitment through the devshirme broke down. By the eighteenth century, the devshirme had ceased altogether. To pay for these troops, the government converted many former fiefs into tax farms.
These changes in the fiscal, military, and political structure of the empire affected the elite. Viziers were no longer typically recruited through the devshirme, although links with the palace remained essential to preferment. From the seventeenth century, viziers were usually of Albanian or Caucasian descent and, once in power, furthered the careers of their kinsmen from their native areas. The Köprülüs, who from 1656 established a vizieral dynasty, were Albanians. With the decline of the fiefholding cavalry, sanjaks, which had essentially been agglomerations of fiefs, and with them, sanjak governors, declined in importance, while the role of the governors-general of provinces expanded. A new land code, in force from the 1670s until 1858, acknowledged these changes. The increasing importance of tax farms from 1600 onward and the introduction in the eighteenth century of lifetime tax farms, allowed some holders to transform these into estates, which could pass to their heirs. In the eighteenth century these local "estate owners," such as the Karaosmanoğlu family of Manisa, became local powers on whom the sultan relied for essential tasks, such as the levy of troops for war. Throughout this same period, however, the structure of the Ottoman legal establishment remained essentially the same as it had been in the sixteenth century, with the mufti of Istanbul and the two military judges at its head, and a network of Islamic courts throughout the empire. The efficiency of the legal system, which, by and large, enjoyed the trust of the sultan's Muslim and non-Muslim subjects, was a factor that allowed the empire to survive in times of crisis.
EUROPEAN COMMERCE AND WESTERN PERCEPTIONS
In the mid-fifteenth century, the western European polities with the closest links to the Ottoman Empire were the Italian city-states, particularly Venice and Genoa. These maintained fortresses and colonies in the Levant to protect trade routes, to serve as entrepôts, or for production. Genoese Caffa or Venetian Negroponte, for example, served as centers for the slave trade, while the Genoese produced mastic on Chios, alum in Phocaea (Foça), and salt at Enez. From 1451, Mehmed II began to occupy these enclaves, with a view to financial as much as territorial gain, the resulting loss of commerce being the major factor in Genoese disengagement from the Levant. The Venetian presence was more long-lived, but the loss of Levantine colonies was the major cause of the withdrawal of Venetian capital from maritime commerce. Venice nonetheless retained a commercial presence in the Ottoman Empire and, as spoils of war, even gained possession of the Peloponnese and of Athens between 1699 and 1715.
From the sixteenth century onward, the commercial power of western European states with an Atlantic seaboard began to be felt in the Ottoman Empire. During the sixteenth century, the Portuguese, having established themselves in the Indian Ocean, tried with partial success to gain a monopoly of the trade from southeast Asia to Europe, which had previously passed through Egypt and the Gulf and provided a source of revenue for the Ottoman sultans. Ottoman attempts to dislodge the Portuguese from Diu in Gujarat in 1538 and from Hormuz in 1552, and to encounter them in the open sea, failed. By the seventeenth century, when the Dutch, English, and French began to dominate long-distance trade in the Indian Ocean, the Ottoman presence was no longer significant. At the same time, the Atlantic powers came to dominate foreign trade within the Ottoman Empire itself, although without completely displacing Italian and other traders. Foreigners in the empire gained the right to trade through a grant of privileges from the sultan, the earliest such concessions being to Genoa and Venice. The French obtained a grant from the sultan in 1569, obliging the English, Spaniards, Portuguese, and others to trade under the French flag. The English negotiated concessions in 1583, and the Dutch in 1612.
These powers came to play an important role in the Ottoman economy, in the mid-seventeenth century even supplying coin to the Ottoman currency market. The Ottoman government, for its part, was able to exploit these concessions to political ends. During the war of 1683–1699, the sultan granted new trading concessions to France in order to maintain her support, and after 1697 to England. After the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, the Austrian Habsburgs and later Russia obtained concessions, marking the beginning of a period when the European powers were able to use the concessionary regimes to exert political pressure on the weakened empire, and to treat it as an economic colony of western Europe.
Commerce and diplomacy both stimulated a European interest in the Ottoman Empire. In the sixteenth century, descriptions of the empire multiplied, outnumbering works on any other parts of the non-European world. These were often the product of diplomatic and commercial interest. The following of the French ambassador Gabriel d'Aramon, who departed for Istanbul in 1546, included the botanist Pierre Belon, the traveler Nicolas de Nicolay, and the scholar Guillaume Postel. The Habsburg ambassadors and their retinues, notably Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq who, between 1553 and 1562, negotiated a peace between Suleiman I and Ferdinand of Austria, were equally productive. This tradition continued in the following centuries: The Present State of the Ottoman Empire of 1668 by the English consul Sir Paul Rycaut, and the letters of Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the English ambassador to Ahmed III in 1717–1718, belong to the same genre.
These books enjoyed an educated readership. They did not, however, form the popular European perception of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans entered the consciousness of Catholic Europe particularly after their defeat of crusading armies in 1396 and 1444, while the Ottoman assault on central Europe following the battle of Mohács in 1526 produced an apocalyptic fear of "the Turks." In the German-speaking lands in particular, pamphlets and woodcuts circulated that place the Turkish threat in an eschatological context, drawing on Joachimite and other medieval prophetic traditions. This eschatological fear, spread through sermons, prints, and pamphlets, had a long-lasting and popular following, especially in central Europe, where it enabled the Austrian Habsburgs to justify their rule as "bulwarks against the Turk." By the eighteenth century, when Ottoman military power had declined, so did the apocalyptic vision. By the end of the century, the sultan's palace even figured as the setting for popular entertainment. Nonetheless, hostility to the Ottomans persisted throughout western Europe. The Ottomans had, and still have, little place in Western cultural perceptions.
See also Austro-Ottoman Wars ; Harem ; Holy Leagues ; Janissary ; Mediterranean Basin ; Ottoman Dynasty ; Russo-Ottoman Wars .
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İnalcik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300–1600. Translated by Colin Imber and Norman Itzkowitz. London, 1973.
Kołodziejczyk, Dariusz. Ottoman-Polish Diplomatic Relations (15th–18th Century). Leiden, 1999.
Kreiser, Klaus. Der Osmanische Staat, 1300–1922. Munich, 2001.
Kunt, I İ. Metin. The Sultan's Servants: The Transformation of Ottoman Provincial Government, 1550–1650. New York, 1983.
Mantran, Robert, ed. Histoire de l'Empire Ottoman. Paris, 1989.
Pamuk, Şevket. A Monetary History of the Ottoman Empire. Cambridge, U.K., 1999.
Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2000.
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Ottoman Empire: Overview
OTTOMAN EMPIRE: OVERVIEW
multiethnic, multireligious, monarchical muslim empire founded by the ottoman (or osmanli) turks in the late thirteenth century; it survived until after world war i, when, as one of the losing central powers, it was formally dissolved by the peace treaties of 1918–1922. mustafa kemal (atatürk) overthrew the last sultan in 1922.
In the thirteenth century, as the power of the Seljuk Turks declined, the Ottoman Turks began to absorb their small states. In the fourteenth century, the Ottomans took over some of the Byzantine Empire's territories and, late in that century, several Balkan states. Under Selim I and Süleyman I (the Magnificent), the Ottomans brought Hungary and much of the Balkan peninsula, parts of Persia (now Iran), and the Arab lands under their rule. In 1453, they conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) and made it their capital. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire was at its peak and controlled much of southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, comprising some 1.2 million square miles (1.9 million sq. km) with some sixteen million people. That area would today include parts or all of the following: southeast Hungary, Albania, the six republics that were pre-1991 Yugoslavia (Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina), Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, southern and Caucasian Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria.
By 1914, only about 11,000 square miles (17,700 sq. km) remained of the Ottoman Empire in Europe of the 232,000 square miles (373,000 sq. km) controlled during the sixteenth century, with 613,000 square miles (986,000 sq. km) remaining overall—about half the territory of the sixteenth century. That greatly reduced territory included only what is now Turkey, the Arab states, and Israel until the empire's official dissolution (1918–1922).
The empire's early capitals included Bursa and Edirne (formerly Adrianople), but Constantinople (Turkish, Konstantiniye) served as its capital from its capture in 1453 until 1923, when the Republic of Turkey declared its new capital at Ankara. Constantinople was by far the largest Ottoman city, with about 400,000 population in 1520 and some 1 million in 1914. Other major Ottoman cities included Belgrade, Aleppo, Cairo, and Damascus. After 1800, cities such as İzmir (Smyrna), Beirut, and Alexandria rose to prominence—products of increasing nineteenth-century economic ties with Europe.
The empire's administrative divisions changed with time. By the nineteenth century, most provinces (vilayets) were divided into districts (sanjaks) and sub-districts (kazas), each of which had a number of village areas (nahiyes).
The Sprawling Empire
Geography and climate varied greatly, since the empire ranged over three continents, including much of what is today's Middle East. Mountains of modest height cut by corridor valleys and heavy forests characterized part of the European provinces, while in Anatolia, narrow coastal plains and high interior plateaus with little vegetation rose to rugged snow-capped mountains in the eastern part of the peninsula. In the Syrian province, similarly narrow coastal plains bordering the Mediterranean rose to the mountains of Lebanon. To the east, highlands yielded to desert and, beyond, to the alluvial lowlands of Mesopotamia (now Iraq). A spine of mountains branches south from the Syrian province, just inland—with one range heading into the Sinai peninsula and the other emerging along the western edge of the Arabian peninsula, reaching the greatest height in Yemen. The great rivers of the empire included the Danube, Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile—but navigable rivers were comparatively rare in both the European and Middle Eastern areas of the empire.
Climatic conditions ranged from the cold heights of eastern Anatolia to the heat of the Egyptian, Arabian, and North African deserts, including the sweltering heat and humidity of the coast of the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. Almost everywhere rainfall was sparse—a fact of Ottoman life.
The empire had a wide base of natural resources; and much of its expansion can be understood as an effort to seize and control areas rich in various resources. For example, the Ottoman conquest of Serbia derived, in part, from an interest in its silver mines. As the empire lost territory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it also lost the rich diversity of its resource base. The Ottoman state bent the economy to meet its imperial needs before any others. Edicts directed mineral, agricultural, and industrial products to satisfy both the imperial military and the bureaucracy.
The Empire's Agricultural History
Agriculture was the basic economic activity, providing a livelihood for the majority of Ottoman subjects through the centuries—although the produce varied according to time and place. Some areas were not cultivated during periods of political disorder but were tilled again with the guarantee of political security. During the sixteenth century, the areas under cultivation were so extensive that they remained at peak production until the post-1830 period of increasing governmental recentralization. The fertility of the soil was legendary in some areas, such as the Nile delta or the Aydin river valley in western Anatolia. More commonly, however, the soil was not rich or, when fertile, lacked sufficient rainfall. In many areas, agriculture was a precarious enterprise; crop failures and famines were normal in the cycle of life. Consequently, to survive, many families mixed animal raising and handicraft production with farming. Landholdings were usually small, a pattern preferred by the state, which sought direct relations with the farming families (and fiscal and political control over them). Large estates became more common after 1750, as agriculture became increasingly commercial—particularly on new land being brought into cultivation. Hence, great estates were most common in the eastern Syrian and Iraqi regions that were settled or resettled in the later nineteenth century. Such large holdings grew cereal grains; generally, overall grain output increased because of rising market opportunities. Vineyards and olive orchards flourished in the Mediterranean provinces of the empire, and cotton grew in the Macedonian, Anatolian, Syrian, and Egyptian regions—but their yields fluctuated greatly over time. Forest products were common to the Balkan regions and along sections of the Anatolian Black Sea coast, while dates were harvested in the Iraqi areas.
Industrial production first served both international and domestic markets but, after about 1800, internal demand predominated. Textiles, leather making, and food processing were of great importance; urban-based enterprises were highly visible, but rural manufactories were extensive and important. Until the nineteenth century, guildlike bodies (esnaf) in the cities and towns played important roles in organizing and controlling production. They worked in an uneasy cooperation with the state, helping it to obtain goods in exchange for government support of esnaf privileges.
Significant economic changes in the Ottoman Empire resulted from the rising economic, political, and military power of Europe in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Until about 1750, the Ottoman economy was autarkic—that is, relatively self-sufficient—by government design. It imported comparatively little and exported a variety of textiles and other manufactured goods, both to the East and the West. Thereafter, the export of many finished products decreased, but the export of agricultural products and raw materials, such as cereal grains and raw cotton, increased—almost exclusively to Western markets. Ottoman industry received a rude shock from the competition of European manufactured goods. Ottoman textile manufacturers then restructured their enterprises along nonguild lines with unregulated production and lower wages, so most of the craft guilds lost power and ceased functioning. Using machine-made thread and other low-technology imports, many nineteenth-century local textile makers survived and even increased production for the expanding domestic market. In addition, several new international export industries emerged that employed tens of thousands of poorly paid workers, notably in raw-silk reeling and carpet making.
The Challenges of Ethnic Diversity
The ethnic and religious makeup of the Ottoman Empire was diverse and intermingled. As if to lead by example, the Ottoman ruling family was truly international, counting dozens of ethnic groups among its ancestors. The relative size of the empire's ethnic groups is very difficult to determine, since the pertinent statistics were manipulated for use as weapons by nineteenth-century nationalism. Various ethnic groups sought their own states or attempted to deny the claims of competitors. In the era before territorial shrinkage, speakers of Turkish and of the Slavic languages formed the two largest groups in the empire. The largest ethnic groups were the Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Slovenians, Serbs, Albanians, Ruthenians, Wallachians, Moldavians, Croatians, Armenians, Laz, and Kurds. The official language of the empire was Ottoman Turkish, an administrative language consisting largely of Turkish grammar, with Turkish, Arabic, and some Persian vocabulary. The elite classes spoke and wrote in Ottoman Turkish, exchanging official correspondence and sharing a high culture, which gave the empire a unity that was superimposed over its diversity. The religious makeup was equally diverse. Until the nineteenth century, when districts with large Christian populations broke away, most Ottoman subjects were Christians of various denominations, usually of the Orthodox church, the descendant of the Byzantine state church. There also were Armenian and Greek Orthodox Catholics, Maronites, and those belonging to smaller Christian denominations; there was as well a diverse but small population of Jews. Within the Ottoman Islamic community, adherents of Sunni Islam slightly out-numbered adherents of Shiʿism. During the nineteenth century, Islam became the predominant religion in the empire, just as Turks became the dominant ethnic group. By 1914, about 83 percent of the population practiced Islam.
During the four centuries before 1850, the Ottoman state had sought to organize the various ethnic and religious communities into a smaller number of religious nations, called millets. Under the leadership of its own religious authority, each millet organized, funded, and administered its own religious and educational institutions. The Greek
Orthodox millet, for example, ran schools and churches for the lay population, as well as seminaries to train its clergy. The sultan, who had descended from Osman, the fourteenth-century founder of the dynasty, ruled the empire throughout its history. Until 1453, the sultans shared power with other important families, as the first among equals. Thereafter, they theoretically were without peer, although power passed from the sultan to members of his government after about 1640. Until the end of the seventeenth century, power rested with the central state in the capital; during the eighteenth century, power became dispersed among provincial notables. A centralized state emerged during the early 1800s—based on internal evolutionary developments, as well as borrowings from Western models. Struggles for control of the state between the reforming sultans and the reforming bureaucrats swung in favor of the bureaucracy between 1839 and 1878 and then back to the sultan until 1908. After the revolution of the Young Turks in July of 1908, the last sultans reigned rather than ruled.
During the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire lost its Balkan territories to rising European nationalism and imperialism—especially panSlavism as instigated by Russia. Various Balkan ethnic groups—the Serbs, Greeks, and Bulgarians—abandoned, with great-power sponsorship, the Ottoman multicultural formula and opted for nation-statehood, which aspired to ethnic homogeneity but did not achieve it. Government efforts to create a competing Ottoman nationality foundered in the face of exclusivist nation-state identity. Efforts to eradicate differences among its remaining subjects were similarly unsuccessful. Take for example the state program to abolish the millets; fearing a loss of influence, various religious authorities—both Christian and Muslim—as well as many European statesmen opposed the move.
Increased Westernization Shapes the Empire
At the same time, ongoing domestic-reform efforts produced a revitalized, powerful Ottoman state that reasserted its presence in an unprecedented fashion. A series of reform decrees—the Hatt-i Şerif of Gülhane (1839) and the Hatt-i Hümayun (1856)—presented the path that Ottoman leaders intended
to follow. Ottoman military forces successfully adopted Western weapons, strategy, and tactics and crushed local notables, nomadic tribes, and other domestic challenges to the central regime. The state apparatus became marked by increasing centralization, specialization of function, and ever greater size. Knowledge of Western languages, administrative practices, and culture became critical to advancement in the political and, finally, social spheres. The government, for example, founded a vast network of secular, nonsectarian, Westernizing schools to inculcate the new values. In the realm of popular culture, entertainment forms of Western origin—the theater and novels—became increasingly popular, as did European-style clothing and manners. Nineteenth-century Ottoman experiences foreshadowed those of third-world states of the twentieth century in yet other ways. After increasing taxation to finance the expensive civil and military changes, the Ottoman Empire ultimately resorted to borrowing vast sums from abroad, which eventually resulted in virtual bankruptcy and a partial foreign takeover of the Ottoman economy. Toward the end, despite centuries of success, the empire could not compete with the explosion of twentieth-century European economic, military, and political power; after participating as a member of the losing Central powers in World War I, it was partitioned.
see also tanzimat; young turks.
Davison, Roderic H. Turkey. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.
Faruqhi, Suraiya. "Agriculture and Rural Life in the Ottoman Empire, ca. 1500–1878." New Perspectives on Turkey 1 (1987): 3–34.
Gerber, Haim. The Social Origins of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, CO: L. Rienner, 1987.
El-Haj, Rif'at Ali Abou. Formation of the Ottoman State: The Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries. Albany, NY: 1991.
Inalcik, Halil. "Application of the Tanzimat and Its Social Effects." Archivum Ottomanicum (1973): 97–128.
Karpat, Kemal H. Ottoman Population 1830–1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.
Owen, Roger. The Middle East in the World Economy, 1800–1914. London: Methuen, 1981.
Pitcher, Donald Edgar. An Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire from Earliest Times to the End of the Sixteenth Century. Leiden, Neth.: Brill, 1968.
Quataert, Donald. Social Disintegration and Popular Resistance in the Ottoman Empire, 1881–1908: Reactions to European Economic Penetration. New York: New York University Press, 1983.
"Ottoman Empire: Overview." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire-overview
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OTTOMAN DYNASTY. Osman I, the eponymous founder of the Ottoman dynasty, established a state in northwestern Anatolia in the late thirteenth century and was, according to later tradition, invested by the Seljuk sultan. This tradition formed part of the legitimation of the dynasty as successors to the Seljuk Turkish dynasty of Anatolia, while a genealogy tracing the family back to Oghuz Khan gave them an ancestry superior to their rivals. Very little is actually known, however, about the origins of this dynasty, which ruled for over six hundred years.
During the course of the fourteenth century, the Ottoman state, merely one of a number of Turkish principalities and by no means the largest or most important, swallowed up many of its Turkish rivals and emerged as the preeminent power. Quite why this happened is not clear. Many of the characteristics used to explain Ottoman success, such as the role of gazi (warrior for Islam) or commercial acumen, are equally attributable to other states. The Ottomans, however, do not appear to have had damaging internal power struggles, their early rulers were long-lasting and apparently talented, and the Ottomans may also have been particularly astute diplomats in their dealings with their neighbors.
Before the middle of the sixteenth century, succession did not pass automatically to the eldest son but to the son who succeeded in a power struggle. This changed after the death of Suleiman I (ruled 1520–1566), with succession usually going to the eldest son and, from 1617, to the oldest surviving male of the family. By the seventeenth century what took a son to the throne was the success of a particular palace faction. Ahmed I (ruled 1603–1617), Mustafa I (ruled 1617–1618, 1622–1623), Osman II (ruled 1618–1622), and Ibrahim (ruled 1640–1648) all came onto, and on occasion off, the throne through factional intriguing, which also, in the cases of Osman II and Ibrahim, resulted in the murder of the deposed ruler. The systematic practice of fratricide, later justified as essential to safeguard the stability of the state, ended after the reign of Mehmed III (ruled 1595–1603), who on his accession in 1595 murdered his nineteen brothers.
While succession could pass only through the male line, women nevertheless played a major role in power politics of the dynasty. Kösem Mahpeyker, mother of both Murad IV (ruled 1623–1640) and Ibrahim, effectively controlled government until she was ultimately murdered in 1651, apparently at the instigation of Turhan Sultan, mother of Mehmed IV (ruled 1648–1687), herself a figure of political importance. Later in the century power passed largely from these women not to the sultan but to the grand viziers from the Köprülü family.
While the mothers of the sultans were mostly slaves, the early Ottoman rulers did marry but for political rather than reproductive purposes. Once the practice ceased to be of use, it was discontinued. The last marriage of an Ottoman ruler or son of the ruler to a foreign princess was that of Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512). Initially princesses of the royal house were married to the sons of foreign royal houses, but the importance of such "foreign" marriages was limited. Women could not marry non-Muslims, which thus restricted their use politically, and any children from such marriages were not useful for any territorial claims the Ottomans might make as descent was through the male, not the female, line. From around the middle of the fifteenth century the princesses were married to men of the ruling elite within the empire, a system useful for the Ottoman dynasty as it tied those men more
|Ottoman Ruling Dynasties|
|Osman (ruled ?–?1324)|
|Orhan (ruled ?1324–1362)|
|Murad I (ruled 1362–1389)|
|Bayezid I (ruled 1389–1402)|
|Mehmed I (ruled 1413–1421)|
|Murad II (ruled 1421–1444)|
|Mehmed II (ruled 1444–1446)|
|Murad II (ruled 1446–1451)|
|Mehmed II (ruled 1451–1481)|
|Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512)|
|Selim I (ruled 1512–1520)|
|Suleiman I (ruled 1520–1566)|
|Selim II (ruled 1566–1574)|
|Murad III (ruled 1574–1595)|
|Mehmed III (ruled 1595–1603)|
|Ahmed I (ruled 1603–1617)|
|Mustafa I (ruled 1617–1618)|
|Osman II (ruled 1618–1622)|
|Mustafa I (ruled 1622–1623)|
|Murad IV (ruled 1623–1640)|
|Ibrahim (ruled 1640–1648)|
|Mehmed IV (ruled 1648–1687)|
|Suleiman II (ruled 1687–1691)|
|Ahmed II (ruled 1691–1695)|
|Mustafa II (ruled 1695–1703)|
|Ahmed III (ruled 1703–1730)|
|Mahmud I (ruled 1730–1754)|
|Osman III (ruled 1754–1757)|
|Mustafa III (ruled 1757–1774)|
|Abdülhamid I (ruled 1774–1789)|
closely to the ruling house and lessened the possibility of rival households forming.
Although at first sons or brothers of the ruler apparently were involved in government, this soon changed as the sultan became the dominant figure. Young sons were sent as governors to the provinces to gain experience under the guidance of their tutors. This practice changed with the death of Suleiman I and was restricted to only the eldest son. From the end of the sixteenth century, sons were confined to the palace until one of them succeeded to the throne. Confinement produced, in general, sultans less able than their predecessors. There were, of course, exceptions, such as Murad IV, who became known for his great severity, avarice, and absolutist rule. According to the Venetian bailo at Istanbul, no other sultan attained such total dominance.
In a system where power was so highly centralized on the figure of the sultan, the character of the individual was of considerable importance. When the state was in the hands of competent rulers, the empire functioned well. But with the accession of sultans who were mentally unhinged, as in the cases of Mustafa I and Ibrahim, or of minors, such as Osman II and Mehmed IV, government could easily fall prey to palace intrigues and janissary revolts.
Initially great warriors who personally led their armies on the field of battle, the sultans after Suleiman I rarely set off to war. Such warlike qualities, important in the legitimation of the early rulers, became much less significant, and sultans after Suleiman I were not war leaders in the way their predecessors had been. However, both Mehmed III and Osman II sought to exploit the warrior image in a period when the empire's need for reform and restructuring was becoming evident. Mustafa II (ruled 1695–1703) also took a more active military role.
Mustafa II also tried to wrest power away from the viziers and back into the hands of the sultan. He was unsuccessful, however, and the center of political power during the eighteenth century lay not in the palace but with the pashas. With effective control elsewhere, the Ottoman sultans sought other ways to maintain their position at the center of power and underline their legitimacy. Ahmed III (ruled 1703–1730) and the Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha (1718–1730), created a "court of consumption," a world of lavish display, luxury, and cultural extravagance during what came to be known as the Tulip Era, in an attempt to put the court back at the center.
Political power and decision making, however, largely lay elsewhere through the eighteenth century as the empire struggled with ever less success to face the growing economic, technological, and military threat from Europe.
Alderson, A. D. The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty. Oxford, 1956. Standard work on the Ottoman dynasty.
Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300–1481. Istanbul, 1990. Good political history of the early period.
——. The Ottoman Empire, 1300–1650. Basingstoke, U.K., and New York, 2002. Contains an interesting section on the Ottoman dynasty.
İnalcik, Halil, and Donald Quataert, eds. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, 1300–1914. Cambridge, U.K., 1994. Detailed coverage of Ottoman economy and society.
McCarthy, Justin. The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923. Harlow, U.K., 1997.
Peirce, Leslie P. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. Oxford and New York, 1993. Assessment of the political power of royal women.
"Ottoman Dynasty." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-dynasty
"Ottoman Dynasty." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved June 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-dynasty
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Ottoman Empire (ŏt´əmən), vast state founded in the late 13th cent. by Turkish tribes in Anatolia and ruled by the descendants of Osman I until its dissolution in 1918. Modern Turkey formed only part of the empire, but the terms
were often used interchangeably.
Organization of the Empire
Economically, socially, and militarily, Turkey was a medieval state, unaffected by the developments in the rest of Europe. Turkish domination over the northern part of Africa (except Tripoli and Egypt) was never well defined or effective, and the eastern border was inconstant, shifting according to frequent wars with Persia. Of the vassal princes, only the khans of Crimea were generally loyal.
The sultans themselves had sunk into indolence and depravity. Until the ascension (1603) of Ahmad I, the succession to the throne was habitually contested by all the sons of the deceased sultan, and it was the patriotic duty of the victor to kill his rivals in order to restore order. Although this practice was barbarous, when it ceased other problems arose. The eldest male member of the family was recognized as the heir-designate, but to prevent threats to the sultan the imperial prince was denied any involvement in public affairs and was kept in luxurious imprisonment. When the prince finally ascended the throne, he was often alcoholic or lunatic.
Actual rule was usually exercised by the grand viziers, many of whom were able men (notably those of the Köprülü family). The sultans themselves often were the creatures of the Janissaries, whose favor was purchased by large gifts at the ascension of a sultan.
One of the most nefarious aspects of the court of Constantinople (known as the Seraglio and the Sublime Porte) was the all-pervading corruption and bribery that had been raised to a system of administration. The pashas and hospodars (governors) who administered the provinces and vassal states purchased their posts at exorbitant prices. They recovered their fortunes by extorting still larger sums from their subjects. The peasantry was thus reduced to abject misery.
A positive feature in Ottoman administration was the religious toleration generally extended to all non-Muslims. This, however, did not prevent occasional massacres and discriminatory fiscal practices. In Constantinople the Greeks and Armenians held a privileged status and were very influential in commerce and politics. The despotic system of government was mitigated only by the observance of Muslim law.
The Ottoman state began as one of many small Turkish states that emerged in Asia Minor during the breakdown of the empire of the Seljuk Turks. The Ottoman Turks began to absorb the other states, and during the reign (1451–81) of Muhammad II they ended all other local Turkish dynasties. The early phase of Ottoman expansion took place under Osman I, Orkhan, Murad I, and Beyazid I at the expense of the Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria, and Serbia. Bursa fell in 1326 and Adrianople (the modern Edirne) in 1361; each in turn became the capital of the empire. The great Ottoman victories of Kosovo Field (1389) and Nikopol (1396) placed large parts of the Balkan Peninsula under Ottoman rule and awakened Europe to the Ottoman danger. The Ottoman siege of Constantinople was lifted at the appearance of Timur, who defeated and captured Beyazid in 1402. The Ottomans, however, soon rallied.
The Period of Great Expansion
The empire, reunited by Muhammad I, expanded victoriously under Muhammad's successors Murad II and Muhammad II. The victory (1444) at Varna over a crusading army led by Ladislaus III of Poland was followed in 1453 by the capture of Constantinople. Within a century the Ottomans had changed from a nomadic horde to the heirs of the most ancient surviving empire of Europe. Their success was due partly to the weakness and disunity of their adversaries, partly to their excellent and far superior military organization. Their army comprised numerous Christians—not only conscripts, who were organized as the corps of Janissaries, but also volunteers. Turkish expansion reached its peak in the 16th cent. under Selim I and Sulayman I (Sulayman the Magnificent).
The Hungarian defeat (1526) at Mohács prepared the way for the capture (1541) of Buda and the absorption of the major part of Hungary by the Ottoman Empire; Transylvania became a tributary principality, as did Walachia and Moldavia. The Asian borders of the empire were pushed deep into Persia and Arabia. Selim I defeated the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, took Cairo in 1517, and assumed the succession to the caliphate. Algiers was taken in 1518, and Mediterranean commerce was threatened by corsairs, such as Barbarossa, who sailed under Turkish auspices. Most of the Venetian and other Latin possessions in Greece also fell to the sultans.
During the reign of Sulayman I began (1535) the traditional friendship between France and Turkey, directed against Hapsburg Austria and Spain. Sulayman reorganized the Turkish judicial system, and his reign saw the flowering of Turkish literature, art, and architecture. In practice the prerogatives of the sultan were limited by the spirit of Muslim canonical law (sharia), and he usually shared his authority with the chief preserver (sheyhülislam) of the sharia and with the grand vizier (chief executive officer).
In the progressive decay that followed Sulayman's death, the clergy (ulema) and the Janissaries gained power and exercised a profound, corrupting influence. The first serious blow by Europe to the empire was the naval defeat of Lepanto (1571; see Lepanto, battle of), inflicted on the fleet of Selim II by the Spanish and Venetians under John of Austria. However, Murad IV in the 17th cent. temporarily restored Turkish military prestige by his victory (1638) over Persia. Crete was conquered from Venice, and in 1683 a huge Turkish army under Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa surrounded Vienna. The relief of Vienna by John III of Poland and the subsequent campaigns of Charles V of Lorraine, Louis of Baden, and Eugene of Savoy ended in negotiations in 1699 (see Karlowitz, Treaty of), which cost Turkey Hungary and other territories.
The breakup of the state gained impetus with the Russo-Turkish Wars in the 18th cent. Egypt was only temporarily lost to Napoleon's army, but the Greek War of Independence and its sequels, the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29 (see Adrianople, Treaty of), and the war with Muhammad Ali of Egypt resulted in the loss of Greece and Egypt, the protectorate of Russia over Moldavia and Walachia, and the semi-independence of Serbia. Drastic reforms were introduced in the late 18th and early 19th cent. by Selim III and Mahmud II, but they came too late. By the 19th cent. Turkey was known as the Sick Man of Europe.
Through a series of treaties of capitulation from the 16th to the 18th cent. the Ottoman Empire gradually lost its economic independence. Although Turkey was theoretically among the victors in the Crimean War, it emerged from the war economically exhausted. The Congress of Paris (1856) recognized the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire, but this event marked the confirmation of the empire's dependency rather than of its rights as a European power.
The rebellion (1875) of Bosnia and Herzegovina precipitated the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, in which Turkey was defeated despite its surprisingly vigorous stand. Romania (i.e., Walachia and Moldavia), Serbia, and Montenegro were declared fully independent, and Bosnia and Herzegovina passed under Austrian administration. Bulgaria, made a virtually independent principality, annexed (1885) Eastern Rumelia with impunity.
Sultan Abd al-Majid, who in 1839 issued a decree containing an important body of civil reforms, was followed (1861) by Abd al-Aziz, whose reign witnessed the rise of the liberal party. Its leader, Midhat Pasha, succeeded in deposing (1876) Abd al-Aziz. Abd al-Hamid II acceded (1876) after the brief reign of Murad V. A liberal constitution was framed by Midhat, and the first Turkish parliament opened in 1877, but the sultan soon dismissed it and began a rule of personal despotism. The Armenian massacres (see Armenia) of the late 19th cent. turned world public opinion against Turkey. Abd al-Hamid was victorious in the Greco-Turkish war of 1897, but Crete, which had been the issue, was ultimately gained by Greece.
In 1908 the Young Turk movement, a reformist and strongly nationalist group, with many adherents in the army, forced the restoration of the constitution of 1876, and in 1909 the parliament deposed the sultan and put Muhammad V on the throne. In the two successive Balkan Wars (1912–13), Turkey lost nearly its entire territory in Europe to Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and newly independent Albania. The nationalism of the Young Turks, whose leader Enver Pasha gained virtual dictatorial power by a coup in 1913, antagonized the remaining minorities in the empire.
The outbreak of World War I found Turkey lined up with the Central Powers. Although Turkish troops succeeded against the Allies in the Gallipoli campaign (1915), Arabia rose against Turkish rule, and British forces occupied (1917) Baghdad and Jerusalem. Armenians, accused of aiding the Russians, were massacred and deported from Anatolia beginning in 1915; an Armenian uprising in Van (1915) survived until relieved by Russian forces. In 1918, Turkish resistance collapsed in Asia and Europe. An armistice was concluded in October, and the Ottoman Empire came to an end. The Treaty of Sèvres (see Sèvres, Treaty of) confirmed its dissolution. With the victory of the Turkish nationalists, who had refused to accept the peace terms and overthrew the sultan in 1922, modern Turkey's history began.
See P. Wittek, The Rise of the Ottoman Empire (1938); W. Miller, The Ottoman Empire and its Successors, 1801–1927 (rev. ed. 1936, repr. 1966); L. Cassels, The Struggle for the Ottoman Empire, 1717–1740 (1968); B. Lewis, Emergence of Modern Turkey (2d ed. 1968); H. Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300–1600 (tr. 1973); C. H. Fleischer, Bureaucrat and Intellectual in the Ottoman Empire (1986); S. Pamuk, The Ottoman Empire and European Capitalism 1820–1913 (1987); H. Islamoglu-Inan, ed., The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy (1988); R. Lewis, Everyday Life in Ottoman Turkey (1988); A. Wheatcroft, The Ottomans (1993) and The Enemy at the Gate (2009); J. Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons (1999); R. Crowley, Empires of the Sea (2008); E. Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans (2015).
"Ottoman Empire." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire
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Ottoman Empire: Civil Service
OTTOMAN EMPIRE: CIVIL SERVICE
government administrative service exclusive of the military.
In the sense of an administrative system that recruits and promotes officials on merit and operates by impartially applied rules, civil service is an anachronistic concept almost anywhere (except China) before the mid-nineteenth century. Even after that time, to apply the concept to the Ottoman Empire is questionable, in that the regulatory apparatus, although created, was used to thwart its impartiality.
For centuries, however, the Ottoman Turks had had a branch of the ruling elite whose functions were civil—in the sense of being neither military nor religious. Until the end of the eighteenth century, this group is best understood as scribes. Ottomans referred to them with terms like kalem efendileri ("men of the pen" or "of the offices"), or the corresponding abstract noun kalemiye. The scribes conducted the government's correspondence and kept its financial accounts and records on land tenure. Nineteenth-century reforms expanded and changed this branch of service into something like the civil services then emerging in Europe. From the late 1830s on, it also was referred to with a different term, mülkiye, having implications associated with land tenure and sovereignty. Particularly relevant to local administration, this term came to refer generally to civil officials, memurin-i mülkiye.
The state of the late eighteenth-century scribal service shows where this change began. It had a core of fifteen hundred men, serving in Istanbul in the Land Registry (Defterhane-i Amire), the grand-vizierial headquarters that Europeans called the Sublime Porte (Bab-i Ali), and the Treasury (Bab-i Defteri). Considering that scribes also served in military organizations or on provincial governors' staffs, an outside total can be estimated at two thousand. While it may seem odd that so few could suffice for a large empire, the Ottomans did not historically use scribes as administrators. In the years of conquest and through the sixteenth century, for example, local administration had been largely in cavalry officers' hands. By the eighteenth century, an able man might rise through scribal ranks to provincial governor, a kind of proto-foreign minister (reis ülküttab), or grand vizier. Such careers were exceptional, and an ordinary scribe's role remained that of secretary (katib).
Many traits of the scribal service indicated its obscurity within the ruling elites. It had as yet no recruitment system beyond familial and patronage networks. It lacked its own form of training, other than apprenticeship. Except for those raised to heights that exposed them to elite factional politics, career patterns bore imprints of the guild tradition and the Sufi ethos that permeated it. To serve as a scribe was the chief practical application of the adab-tradition—the worldly, literary aspect of the learned Islamic culture. Building on an ancient Middle Eastern cultural elitism, Ottoman scribes had elaborated their craft to a high point in which mastery of stylistic conventions became more important than clear communication.
The shift from scribal to civil service began under sultans Selim III (1789–1807) and Mahmud II (1808–1839). In response to defeat by Russia during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Selim's "New Order" (Nizam-i Cedit), the first attempt at comprehensive governmental overhaul, included both reform of existing agencies and the first Ottoman attempt to create European-style systems of permanent consular and diplomatic representation. In 1821, Mahmud II created the Translation Office (Tercüme Odasi) at the Sublime Porte, which trained young Muslims as translators. Following his abolition of the janissary infantry (1826), administrative reform accelerated. In the 1830s, Mahmud II revived the diplomatic corps and reorganized government departments as ministries. To support his efforts at centralization, he also laid the bases of civil personnel policy by reforming conditions of service. He created a new table of civil ranks, abandoned the practice of annual reappointment (tevcihat) to high office, replaced old forms of compensation (such as fee collecting) with salaries, founded the first secular civil schools, and enacted laws eliminating some insecurities inherent in officials' historical status as the sultan's slaves. These reforms climaxed with the Gülhane Decree, which proclaimed "security for life, honor, and property" and equality for all—civil officials included.
Several weak sultans followed Mahmud II. This enabled top civil officials—their position in relation to the ruler now much secured, and their importance increased by their role in negotiating with the European powers on whom the empire was becoming dependent—to run the government until another strong sultan emerged. The period so opened became known as the Tanzimat (the Reforms, 1839–c. 1871). The center of power shifted from the palace to the Sublime Porte. As civil officialdom's Westernizing diplomatic vanguard grew in power, a new line of promotion appeared, running from the Translation Office through the embassies to the post of Foreign Minister and the grand vizierate. Westernizing policy changes followed en masse, as the Ottoman government grew in size and in its impact on people's lives. Civil officials now did take responsibility for local administration. Westernizing legal reform and the creation of secular courts gave them judicial roles. Modern census and population registration systems required Ottomans to face civil officials to get identity papers and passports. The teachers in the new secular schools were civil officials. Out of the Westernist official elite a literary vanguard emerged, too; from it the region's first Western-style political protest movement, the Young Ottomans (Yeni Osmanlilar), in turn arose to exploit the tensions created by rapid change.
Between the death of Grand Vizier Ali Paşa (1871) and Sultan Abdülhamit II's accession (1876), the Tanzimat political configuration broke up. Abdülhamit shifted power back to the palace, making it the hub of a police state. Administrative reform continued along the lines charted during the Tanzimat, however. For example, Abdülhamit's reign became a growth period for education, publishing, and public works, especially railroads. In addition, his reign became the most important since Mahmud II's for the development of personnel policy for civil officials. The process began with creation of the personnel records system (sicill-i ahval, 1877). A decree on promotion and retirement followed, in 1880, introducing the idea of a retirement fund (tekaüd sandiği) financed by salary deductions. Commissions were set up to supervise the appointing of civil officials. With these, the civil personnel system assumed the general outlines of a modern, merit-based civil service, except that Abdülhamit manipulated the system, using it rather as a tool by which to control his officials. Under him, the growth of civil officialdom continued, as he pressured the politically conscious to accept office, in which they would become dependent on him. Ultimately, he had about 35,000 career officials and an equal number of hangers-on in civil service.
With the revolution of the Young Turks (Jön Türkler) in 1908 came a bold start in purging civil officialdom and streamlining administrative agencies. Despite gains like the 1913 provincial administration law, World War I and the dismemberment of the empire overcame these efforts. Still, in terms of elites, legislation, and organization, the Republic of Turkey inherited enough so that the early development of its administrative system has been described as evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.
see also abdÜlhamit ii; mahmud ii; sublime porte; tanzimat; young ottomans; young turks.
Findley, Carter Vaughn. Bureaucratic Reform in the Ottoman Empire: The Sublime Porte, 1789–1922. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.
Findley, Carter Vaughn. Ottoman Civil Officialdom: A Social History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.
carter v. findley
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Ottoman Military: Ottoman Army
OTTOMAN MILITARY: OTTOMAN ARMY
Military organization that defended the Ottoman Empire and helped establish the Turkish republic.
The origins of the modern Ottoman army date to the destruction of the janissaries by Sultan Mahmud II (June 1826). Mahmud then laid the foundation for a new military organization based on Western models. Its centerpiece was a European-style infantry corps, the Trained Victorious Troops of Muhammad (Muallem Asakir-i Mansure-yi Muhammadiye, Mansure for short). Other military services—cavalry, artillery, and transport—were established mainly by reforming existing military units. Mahmud also created a modern corps of imperial guards out of the Bostanci corps, which had guarded imperial palaces.
There also were attempts to centralize the command structure. The authority of the commander in chief (ser asker) of the Mansure was gradually extended over the other services and branches. Thus his headquarters (Bab-i Ser Asker) gradually came to combine the roles of a ministry of war and general staff, and eventually was in charge of all land forces.
Under Mahmud II the military engineering schools were rejuvenated and reformed. He also established a military medical school (1827) and an officer school (1834). Russia and Britain sent military instructors. Most useful services were rendered by a Prussian military mission that grew from one officer (Helmuth von Moltke) in 1835 to twelve in 1837.
In the 1830s Mahmud sought to strengthen the army. Large permanent units with regular commanding officers and staffs were formed. In 1834 a provincial militia (redif) was established to provide reserve forces. However, the commissary system could not support the rapid increase of the military. Epidemics were rife, and over a quarter of all recruits succumbed to disease. Desertion was very common. Although the army had been successfully employed as an instrument of coercion and centralization, as a military force it remained relatively small and poorly organized, trained, and equipped. By the end of Mahmud's reign there were only some 90,000 men in all the services. The wars with Russia (1828–1829) and with Muhammad Ali's Egypt (1831–1833, 1839) resulted in heavy losses and the disruption of the army's development.
During the Tanzimat period (1839–1876) the army consolidated and built on the shaky foundations
laid in the previous era. The Bab-i Ser Asker continued to acquire new departments. The army steadily grew, and recruitment and training improved. In 1843 the army, renamed the Regular Imperial Troops (Asakir-i Nizamiye-yi Şahane, Nizamiye for short), was organized in permanent territorial commands, each consisting of an army corps (ordu) under a field marshal (müşir). The field marshals, directly responsible to the ser asker, had wide jurisdiction in all military matters. This limited the provincial governors' ability to intervene in military affairs, and was intended to centralize further the military organization and strengthen the authority of the ser asker. Five territorial army corps were established, with headquarters in Istanbul, Üsküdar, Monastir, Sivas, and Damascus. In 1848 a sixth corps was established with headquarters in Baghdad. In 1849 the Nizamiye had some 120,000 men and the redif, 50,000. With local and semiregular organizations, the empire's land forces numbered some 250,000 men.
The reign of Abdülaziz (1861–1876) witnessed considerable increases in military appropriations and improvements in the army's equipment and training. Modern weapons were purchased abroad, mainly from Germany, and with them came German military instructors. Since the majority of the officers were poorly educated, in 1855 the army initiated its own network of schools to prepare youths to become soldiers and officers. In 1867 over 8,000 students were enrolled in these schools.
In 1869 the army was reorganized into seven territorial corps, with headquarters in Istanbul, Shumla, Monastir, Erzurum, Damascus, Baghdad, and Sanʿa in Yemen. Each corps was required to have some 26,500 men. During the Russian war of 1877–1878 the Ottoman army had some 500,000 men, of whom some 220,000 took the field. During this period the Ottoman Empire reemerged as an important military power in southeastern Europe and the Middle East. Its army performed well during the Crimean War (1853–1856) and in the early stages of the Russian war of 1877–1878. In the latter conflict, however, the Ottomans were out-classed by the superior Russian army.
Under Abdülhamit II (1876–1909) the army benefited from ever increasing allocations, improved recruitment and training, and modern weaponry (mostly from Germany). It received assistance from a German military mission led by Kolmar von der Goltz (1883–1896). At the same time, however, Abdülhamit weakened the authority of the ser asker and placed military affairs under the supervision of permanent commissions staffed by his confidants. He personally approved the appointment and promotion of officers, and established networks of informers throughout the army.
By the 1890s the officer corps had become rife with discontent and sedition. The great expansion of the military had brought growing numbers of young officers from classes whose loyalty to the regime was not unconditional. Furthermore, the officers were better educated, and many espoused liberal ideals. In addition, officers and men were poorly paid, with salaries usually months in arrears. Finally, throughout most of Abdülhamit's reign the army was employed, with little success, in suppressing national and ethnic uprisings as well as lawlessness, especially in Macedonia and eastern Anatolia. Many officers, frustrated by the growing numbers of casualties, believed that the government was either unwilling or unable to provide the necessary means to restore order and protect the empire's territorial integrity. This led many officers, especially in the junior and intermediate ranks, to join the Young Turk movement, which called for the overthrow of Abdülhamit. The Young Turk Revolution (July 1908), which restored constitutional government and led, a year later, to Abdülhamid's deposition, began as a mutiny in the Third Army Corps, based in Macedonia.
In the following years, the Young Turk regime provided the army with increased allocations, modern weapons, and another German military mission, led by Gen. Otto Liman von Sanders (November 1913). At the beginning of World War I, the Ottoman army had some 640,000 men. During the war the Ottomans mobilized an estimated total of some 4 million men. Although the army was plagued by problems of logistics and command, it generally fought well and was successful, especially in Gallipoli (1915–1916) and in Iraq (1915–1916), and in defending Anatolia from foreign invasion following the war. In the end, however, the army could not save the empire from final collapse. Nevertheless, as the institution that had benefited more than any other from reform and modernization, it played a crucial role in the rise of the Turkish republic.
see also abdÜlhamit ii; crimean war; mahmud ii; mansure army; russian–ottoman wars; tanzimat; young turks.
Levy, Avigdor. "The Officer Corps of Sultan Mahmud II's New Ottoman Army, 1826–1839." International Journal of Middle East Studies 2 (1971): 21–39.
Ralston, David B. Importing the European Army: The Introduction of European Military Techniques and Institutions into the Extra-European World, 1600–1914. Chicago, 1990.
Shaw, Stanford J., and Shaw, Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol. 2: Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808–1975. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976–1977.
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The Ottoman Empire (c. 1290–1922) provides a vivid example of durable and successful state building in world history. A late medieval creation, the Ottoman state achieved world empire status in 1453 because of its conquest of Constantinople. During the surrounding several centuries, it was among the most powerful states in the world. Although geography and luck played roles, the success of the empire mainly derived from pragmatic and flexible Ottoman policy-making and considerable openness to innovation, including military technology. At its peak, the empire covered parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Its extent is suggested by this partial list of successor states: Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Montenegro, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Syria, and Turkey.
Expansion slowly faded into memory and territorial contraction began thanks partly to developments elsewhere in the world, notably the rise of capitalism and industrialism in Europe and then elsewhere, and to the New World wealth that poured into Europe. As wealth flowed elsewhere, the Ottoman Empire was unable to compete and lost its preeminent position; by about 1800 it had become a second-class economic, military, and political power. Within the empire innovation faded, partly because entrenched bureaucrats, statesmen, and military personnel acted to protect their children’s positions and closed entry to newcomers.
During the nineteenth century a successful series of programs measurably strengthened the state and its military. The bureaucracy grew both in size and in the scope of its activities, now not merely collecting taxes and providing security but also taking responsibility for the health, education, and welfare of its subjects. Yet, the empire fell defeated in World War I (1914–1918) and was partitioned by the Great Powers, notably Great Britain and France.
In its domestic polity, the Ottoman state underwent continuous change. The Ottoman ruler, the sultan, began as one among equals, but between about 1453 and 1600, sultans ruled as true autocrats. Thereafter until about 1826, sultans reigned, but others in the imperial family and other inhabitants of the palace—often in collaboration with provincial elites—maintained real control of the state. Then, bureaucrats and sultans vied for domination of the state apparatus. In sum, the sultan presided over the imperial system for all of Ottoman history, but actually personally ruled for only portions of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Also, political power almost always rested in the imperial center and, depending on the particular period, extended into the provinces either through direct military and political instruments or indirectly through fiscal means.
A combination of religious and secular laws regulated the lives of Ottoman subjects. Under Ottoman state authority Muslim, Christian, or Jewish judges presided over the legal affairs of their respective communities. Often, however, subjects of all religions used the Muslim courts because rulings from such courts might have greater weight than those from Christian or Jewish sources. In addition to this religious law, the state routinely passed its own, secular, ordinances, often with lip-service adherence to Islamic principles. In the nineteenth century, when a flood of ordinances and regulations marked the presence of an expanding bureaucratic state, even the lip service frequently fell away in favor of scientific management.
This was an agrarian empire that, again, changed considerably over time. Most Ottoman subjects were and remained cultivators, raising a wide variety of different crops for subsistence and for sale. The particular mix of crops changed over time. Cereals remained dominant throughout the Ottoman period, but important new crops emerged at different times, for example, tobacco in the seventeenth century. In theory, the vast majority of land was owned by the sultan, but in practice, generally, land users enjoyed security of tenure. Sharecropping was widespread and the major vehicle by which goods came to market; most holdings were small. Commercialization of agriculture considerably developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Ottoman manufacturing, for its part, remained largely small-scale and handcrafted, with some late mechanization. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries foreign markets for Ottoman manufactures fell away, but producers continued to enjoy a vast domestic market for their wares; in the nineteenth century export markets emerged for Ottoman rug makers and silk spinners, who usually were women working outside their homes. In transportation and communication there were important technological breakthroughs during the second half of the nineteenth century, including steamships, railroads, and the telegraph.
Ottoman intercommunal relations are hotly argued, and many popular stereotypes persist around the “terrible Turks” who slaughtered Ottoman Christians. For nearly all of Ottoman history, this stereotype is not true. For most of its duration, the Ottoman Empire can be characterized fairly as a tolerant political system. At times, the Ottoman state led the way in extending tolerance to minorities. For example, at the end of the fifteenth century Ottoman sultans welcomed the large Iberian Jewish population that the new Spanish monarchs were expelling from their own kingdom. More generally, the key to Ottoman success and a major reason for its longevity lay in the tolerant governmental treatment of those who did not share its professed religion. This tolerance was based both in practical politics and in the dictates of Islam. Until the 1870s the majority of Ottoman subjects were Christians and the state’s official religion was Islam, which required that the Muslim state protect the religious rights of its Christian and Jewish subjects. The Ottoman Empire, for nearly all of its history, was a multinational, multireligious entity that did not seek to impose Islam on its subjects. This fact often has been forgotten in the confusion surrounding the end of the empire and the emergence of the Ottoman successor states, but it remains true nonetheless. Overall, the Ottoman system recognized difference and protected those differences so long as subjects rendered obedience and paid taxes. Until the eighteenth-century era of the Enlightenment, minorities in the Ottoman world likely were treated better than in Europe. Atrocities did occur, but they were exceptions in the rule of a generally admirable record of intercommunal relations over the 600-year life span of the Ottoman Empire.
Imber, Colin. 2002. The Ottoman Empire, 1300–1650: The Structure of Power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lowry, Heath. 2003. The Nature of the Early Ottoman State. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Quataert, Donald. 2005. The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922. 2nd ed. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
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Ottoman Military: Ottoman Navy
OTTOMAN MILITARY: OTTOMAN NAVY
Military vessels and fleets of the Ottoman Turks.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, sea power played a central role in the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, and Ottoman fleets operated on the high seas in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and east into the Indian Ocean. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Ottoman navy was generally neglected and its effectiveness declined, but it was revived at times during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The decline of the navy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was largely due to the new geostrategic realities, whereby the main challenges to the empire no longer came from the naval powers of Spain, Portugal, and Venice, but from the land powers of Austria, Poland, Russia, and Persia (now Iran).
The origins of the modern Ottoman navy can be traced to the Russian-Ottoman Wars of 1768–1774. A Russian fleet based in the Baltic circled the European continent and destroyed the Ottoman fleet at Cheshme (July 1770). This led to a massive effort to rejuvenate the navy. During the reigns of Abdülhamit I (1774–1789) and Selim III (1789–1807), scores of modern warships were constructed under the supervision of European ship-wrights. The Naval Engineering School (Tersane Mühendishanesi) was founded (1776), and the navy's command structure was modernized and placed under the supervision of the newly established Ministry of the Navy (1805). At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the navy was once again a formidable, though largely untested, force. In 1806, it listed 27 ships of the line and 27 frigates, as well as smaller vessels, armed with 2,156 guns and manned by some 40,000 sailors and marines.
After the fall of Selim III (1807), the navy was again neglected, and its strength declined. During the Greek War of Independence (1821–1830), it suffered many losses at the hands of the Greeks. The heaviest single blow, however, came on 20 October 1827, when a combined British-French-Russian fleet destroyed the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet inside the harbor of Navarino (now in Greece). The Ottomans alone lost thirty-seven vessels and thousands of sailors. It took the navy more than a decade to recover from the disaster at Navarino. By 1838, it had fifteen ships of the line and an equal number of frigates, as well as smaller vessels.
As of 1838, there was growing cooperation between the Ottoman and British navies: Ottoman and British squadrons conducted joint maneuvers; the navy was reorganized on British lines; Ottoman officers were sent to Britain for training; and British naval officers and engineers arrived in Constantinople (now Istanbul), the Ottoman capital, to serve as advisers from time to time.
In July 1839, the Ottoman grand admiral, Ahmet Fevzi Pasha, suddenly sailed the entire fleet to Alexandria and surrendered it to Egypt's ruler, Muhammad Ali, who was trying to become independent from the empire. This extraordinary act was the result of a power struggle within the Ottoman government following the death of Mahmud II. The fleet was returned in the following year as part of a general settlement of Ottoman-Egyptian relations, giving Egypt its autonomy.
During the Tanzimat (reform) era (1839–1876) in the empire, considerable resources were directed toward the further development and modernization of the navy, and sailing vessels were replaced with steamships. On the eve of the Crimean War (1853–1856), the Ottoman navy had 10 ships of the line and 14 frigates, as well as smaller vessels, with a total of 2,080 guns and a staff of more than 20,000 men. On 30 November 1853, Russia's Black Sea squadron, using new shell-firing guns, destroyed an Ottoman wooden fleet at Sinop. This had important political consequences, since it enraged British public opinion against Russia, leading to the Crimean War. It also marked an important milestone in naval history, resulting everywhere in the construction of iron-clad warships. The Ottoman navy also replaced most of its main wooden warships with iron-clads. By 1877, it had thirteen iron-clad frigates in addition to three wooden frigates, four corvettes, and various smaller craft.
During the reign of Abdülhamit II (1876–1909), priority was given to the development of the army, while the navy, because of financial constraints, was neglected, leading to its decline. In 1912, the navy listed four battleships, two cruisers, eight destroyers, three corvettes, and smaller craft. During the Balkan Wars (1912/13), it was outclassed by the Greek navy, which dominated the Aegean Sea.
Following the Balkan Wars, the Ottoman government, led by the Young Turks, placed great emphasis on modernizing and strengthening the navy. A British naval mission led by the Admiral Arthur H. Limpus helped reorganize the navy and its various departments. The navy was to be greatly strengthened by two modern battleships ordered from Britain whose delivery was expected in August 1914. On 3 August, however, the British government announced that with the impending European crisis (that very soon became World War I), the ships would not be delivered. On 11 August, the Ottoman government permitted two powerful German cruisers, Goeben and Breslau, to enter the Dardanelles; they subsequently announced their purchase by the Ottoman navy as replacement for the British-built warships. The cruisers were given Turkish names, but they remained under the command of their German crews. On 29 October, Ottoman warships, including the two former German cruisers, suddenly attacked Russian ports in the Black Sea, marking the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war.
see also balkan wars (1912–1913); crimean war; greek war of independence; russian–ottoman wars; tanzimat.
Marmont, Duc De Raguse, Marshal. The Present State of the Ottoman Empire, translated by Frederic Smith. London, 1839.
Oscanyan, C. The Sultan and His People. New York: Derby and Jackson, 1857.
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Ottoman Empire: Debt
OTTOMAN EMPIRE: DEBT
borrowing in the ottoman empire by the government and within the private sector.
Throughout most of its history, from 1300 to 1922, the government of the Ottoman Empire relied on short-term loans from individual lenders as well as currency debasement and short-term notes to resolve fiscal shortfalls. On occasion, the Ottoman government just confiscated the monies needed, either from the lenders or from state officials. In the private sector, individuals, who only sometimes were professional moneylenders, lent their surplus to others. Both public and private borrowers commonly paid interest for the privilege. Both public and private borrowing persisted until the end of the empire—although confiscation became rare after about 1825. Very important changes occurred in the forms of borrowing, within and outside the government, beginning about 1850, when foreign capital became available and assumed an unprecedented role.
In many ways, the international borrowing experiences of the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century anticipated those of today's third-world nations. The Ottoman economy was competing in a world dominated by the industrialized nations of the West, which possessed superior military technologies and political and economic power. Ottoman survival strategy required large, modern military forces and state structures. As both were exceedingly expensive, government expenditures mounted accordingly. Unlike the economies of many of the countries with which it was competing—notably Britain and France—the Ottoman economy remained essentially agrarian and incapable of generating the funds needed for increasingly complex and costly military and civilian structures. Thus, the government borrowed to modernize and survive.
Acutely aware of the dangers, Ottoman statesmen resisted international borrowing until the crisis provoked by Ottoman participation in the Crimean War, 1854–1856. International loans then quickly succeeded one another, on decreasingly favorable terms. These loans were private, the creditors being European bankers and financiers who were usually given diplomatic assistance by their own governments. By the early 1870s, Ottoman state borrowing too easily substituted for financial planning; between 1869 and 1875, the government borrowed more than its tax collectors took in. The Ottoman state suspended payments on its accumulated debt in 1875, after crop failures cut revenues between 1873 and 1875 and the global depression of 1873 dried up capital imports.
Perhaps fearing occupation by the European governments of its creditors, the Ottoman government eventually honored its obligations. Prolonged negotiations resulted in a reduction and consolidation of the total Ottoman debt and the formation, in 1881, of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration; this body took control of portions of the economy. The Ottoman Public Debt Administration supervised the collections of various tax revenues, turning the proceeds over to the European creditors—an international consortium representing bond-holders of Ottoman obligations. Residents of France, Great Britain, and Germany held most of the bonds. The ceded revenues came from the richest and most lucrative in the empire—taxes imposed on tobacco, salt, silk, timber, alcohol, and postage stamps.
Although nominally a branch of the Ottoman government, the Debt Administration actually was independent and answerable only to the bondholders. Many scholars consider its founding as the beginning of Ottoman semicolonial status—when the state lost control over parts of its economy. Still worse, perhaps, the state's legitimacy and relevancy also declined in the eyes of subjects who had to pay their taxes to a foreign group rather than their own state. The Debt Administration represented a true loss of Ottoman sovereignty, but, as the government may have hoped, the consortium reassured foreign investors, who provided still more loans to the state, which needed still more cash to finance modernization.
Foreign capital invested in the Ottoman private sector became significant only after 1890. A part of the more general diffusion of European capital into the global economy, these investments also derived from the comforting presence of the Debt Administration, which was involved in many of them. Industrial or agricultural investment was nearly completely absent. Railroads, port facilities, and municipal services absorbed most of these monies, more firmly linking the Ottoman and international economies by facilitating the outward flow of raw materials and the import of finished goods. French financiers were the most important single source of funds, while the British and Germans also were significant providers. Almost all these new loans were administered by the Debt Administration.
By 1914, Ottoman public and private debts to foreign financiers consumed, in roughly equal shares, more than 30 percent of total tax revenues. In one way or another, the Debt Administration administered virtually the entire amount. This pattern of indebtedness makes clear the ongoing subordination of the late Ottoman economy to the European until the demise of the empire after World War I.
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attempt at representative government in the empire between 1877 and 1920.
The Ottoman parliament met from 1877 to 1878 and between 1908 and 1920. The constitution of 1876 stipulated a bicameral parliament: a lower Chamber of Deputies elected popularly and a Chamber of Notables nominated by the sultan. The parliament of the First Constitutional period (1876–1878) had two terms that convened March to June, 1877, and December 1877 to 14 February 1878, when Sultan Abdülhamit II abolished parliament. The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 forced Abdülhamit to re-institute it. The three parliaments of the Young Turk period met December 1908 to January 1912, May to August 1912, and May 1914 to December 1918. The last Ottoman parliament that convened in January 1920 dissolved itself after the Allied occupation of Istanbul in March 1920.
For the 1877 to 1878 parliament, previously elected provincial administrative councils selected the deputies according to quotas based on population and proportionate allocations of Muslims and non-Muslims (seventy-one Muslims and forty-eight non-Muslims in the first session; sixty-four Muslims and forty-nine non-Muslims in the second). Due to inaccurate population figures in remoter Asian and African provinces and the political exigency of catering to separatist Christian elements and their European protectors, non-Muslim communities and European provinces received higher quotas.
Abdülhamit intended to legitimate his rule by giving his consent to parliament but stripped it of the authority to legislate independently and to limit the executive. Nevertheless, the deputies, who on the whole represented the provincial elites, were vocal in their criticism of the government. Abdülhamit closed parliament indefinitely on the pretext of the national emergency engendered by the ongoing war with Russia.
Thirty years later, the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 reintroduced the constitution and parliament. Constitutional amendments enhanced parliament's legislative prerogatives vis-à-vis the sultan, provided for ministerial accountability to parliament, and eliminated religious quotas. In the two-tier elections, males above the age of twenty-five voted for secondary electors, who then elected the deputies. Candidates had to be literate males who knew Turkish and were above the age of thirty. The election of one deputy for every 50,000 males produced chambers of around 250 deputies. The Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) managed to dominate the elections due to its revolutionary élan and moral authority in 1908, through electoral manipulation in 1912, and by suppressing opposition and effectively instituting a single-party regime in 1914. Electoral victory did not guarantee CUP's domination of parliament, which was the breeding ground of opposition.
From the dissolution of the body in August 1912, which followed a government crisis and anti-CUP rebellions, to May 1914, parliament remained in suspension. New elections were delayed until the winter of 1913/14 due to the extraordinary circumstances of the Balkan Wars, the forcible CUP takeover in January 1913, and the assassination of Grand Vizier Mahmut Şevket Paşa in June 1913. As World War I began, emergency powers were ceded to the cabinet, and parliament's significance diminished even though it continued to meet with interruptions.
The two-tier election system favored the election of representatives of privileged social groups: Ulama, officials, landowners, and professionals. However, party politics produced a more diverse Chamber of Deputies in the Second Constitutional period compared with 1877/78. Parliament always served as a forum where both local and national issues were voiced. Newspapers reported its proceedings on a daily basis. Despite the executive's attempts to control parliament, the Chamber of Deputies served as a check on the sultan, the cabinet, and occasionally on the CUP's extralegal interventions.
see also balkan wars (1912–1913); committee for union and progress.
Ahmad, Feroz. The Young Turks: The Committee of Union and Progress in Turkish Politics, 1908–1914. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969.
Devereux, Robert. The First Ottoman Constitutional Period: A Study of the Midhat Constitution and Parliament. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1963.
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The Ottoman Empire was established by Osman, a Turkish tribal leader who overthrew the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia in the late thirteenth century. The Ottoman armies crossed into the Balkan Peninsula in the middle of the fourteenth century and won crucial victories in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 and the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. In 1453, the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II extended Ottoman authority throughout Asia Minor and conquered Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, thus destroying the last remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Mehmed's successors, Selim I and Suleiman the Magnificent, who ruled from 1520 to 1566, brought the realm to the height of its power in southeastern Europe, the Levant, North Africa, and Mesopotamia. Suleiman reorganized the law and justice system of his realm and was a patron of the arts, literature, and Islamic scholarship, as well as a brilliant military leader. Under his leadership the Turks crushed a Hungarian army at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, and then captured the capital of Buda in 1541, overthrowing the Hungarian ruling dynasty. Ottoman sultans ruled as caliph, or head of the entire
The Ottoman government controlled its far-flung domains through a system of vassalage, in which local rulers paid an annual tribute in gold or in goods in exchange for their limited independence. Ottoman's governors oversaw the administration of these territories, paying princely sums in bribery for their lucrative posts and exacting heavy taxes from the populace. During the Renaissance in Europe, the Ottoman Empire posed a most serious foreign threat to Europe's Christian states and rulers. The disunited Christian states, however, were unable to rally an effective striking force to counter Turkish control of the Balkans. The calls for further crusades to the east went unheeded, while in the 1530s the French king Francis I struck up an alliance with the sultan against the Habsburg dynasty. Ottoman armies arrived twice at the gates of Vienna, and Turkish corsairs raided European ports and shipping, taking treasure and slaves back to the Barbary Coast ports in North Africa. Piracy in the Mediterranean finally inspired a united effort on the part of the Habsburgs and Venetians, who gathered a powerful naval force and defeated the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
A decline began in the late seventeenth century. The succession to the throne, which was not limited to the eldest son of the sultan, brought about constant palace intrigue and frequent assassinations. Grand viziers governed the state and a military caste known as the Janissaries, who had originated as a company of Christian slaves converted to Islam and trained as elite warriors, posed a constant threat to the sultan's authority, while the sultans themselves lived in luxury and indolence, completely cut off from their subjects and unable to exercise effective control over their domains. The last siege of Vienna was turned back in 1683, and in 1699 the Turks surrendered Hungary to the Habsburg dynasty. The empire grew weaker under a succession of corrupt and incapable rulers, and after long and expensive wars with Russia and the Habsburgs.
See Also: Fall of Constantinople; Mehmed II; Muslims
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Ottoman Liberal Union Party
OTTOMAN LIBERAL UNION PARTY
Political party opposed to the Committee for Union and Progress, also known as Osmanh Ahrar Firkasi.
The Liberal Union party was established in 1908 by Riza Nur, as the major opposition party after the 1908 revolution. Rooted in Prince Sabahettin's wing of the Young Turk movement, it espoused a platform that sympathized with the ethnic aspirations of Albanians and Armenians, and thus opposed the Committee for Union and Progress's (CUP) strongly centralist and Turkish leanings. The Liberal Union won only one seat, as against the CUP's 288 seats, in the November 1908 parliamentary elections. In 1909 the party was repressed under the martial law that followed the April counterrevolution.
The Liberal Union was revived in November 1911 as an umbrella opposition group called the Freedom and Accord party (Hürriyet ve Itilaf Firkasi). It won a Constantinople (now Istanbul) by-election in late 1911, but it lost the national elections in April 1912. It then allied with the Group of Liberating Officers who dislodged the CUP from power that summer. The coalition ruled only until January 1913, when the CUP forced Grand Vizier Mustafa Kamil Paşa to resign at gunpoint after losses in the Balkan War. The CUP government dissolved the Liberal Union in June 1913, executing and exiling its leadership after Grand Vizier Mahmut Şevket was assassinated. Damat Mehmet Ferit briefly revived the party in 1919 to replace the CUP, but the party split and its liberal wing joined the Kemalists.
Shaw, Stanford J., and Shaw, Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol. 2: Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808–1975. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
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This entry consists of the following articles:
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OTTOMAN EMPIRE , Balkan and Middle Eastern empire started by a Turkish tribe, led by ʿUthmān (1288–1326), at the beginning of the 14th century. This entry is arranged according to the following outline:sources
growth of the ottoman empire until the conquest of constantinople (1453)
the ottoman empire after the conquest of constantinople: the migration of the refugees
The Settlement of the Spanish and Portuguese Refugees in the Empire
the spread of the ottoman empire
The Conquest of Syria, Ereẓ Israel, Egypt, Hungary, North Africa, Iraq, and Yemen
the conquest of iraq (1534–1623, 1638–1917)
The Nasi in Babylon
the era of stagnation and decline of the ottoman empire (the 16th–18th centuries)
Decline of the Political and Economic Status of the Jews
status of the jews in the empire in the 19th century
the poll tax
restrictions on building new synagogues, clothes, headgear, and slaves
the organization of jewish communities in the empire
Religious and Secular Administration (1453-1520)
Communal Organization during the 16th–19th Centuries
disputes between congregations and inside the communities (15th–19th centuries)
the Ḥakham bashi
The Spiritual Revival in the 16th Century
Heterodox Spiritual Trends among Ottoman Jewry
Social and Family Life
powerful jews, physicians, counselors, lords, and mediators in the ottoman empire
reign of abdul-hamid and the last years of the empire
ottoman jewry and zionism
The Salonika Community
Turkish Support for Zionism
The Ottoman Empire spread through Asia Minor, and until 1922 the realm built by ʿUthmān and his descendants was called by his name: the Ottoman-Turkish Empire. The Ottoman Turks continued to extend the areas of their conquests, and in this way the Jewish communities in the region came under their rule (for the earlier period, see *Byzantine Empire).The rule of the Ottoman Empire in North Africa was very loose. Therefore the history of the Ottoman Empire as presented in this entry relates chiefly to Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq (see also the individual countries).
Our knowledge of Ottoman Empire Jewry is based on a wide range of sources, Ottoman, Arabic, European, and Jewish. The Ottoman documents include those of the Ottoman archives, especially the Prime Minister's Archives in Istanbul, which shed light on forms of taxation and on demographic and economic matters, as well as containing collections of orders issued by the Sublime Porte to the various provincial governors. Other Ottoman sources on Jews include travel literature, such as concern the Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi, and some Ottoman chronicles. Other Ottoman historical material relating to the Jews exists in the Muslim courts of law in many cities throughout the empire. The majority of the Arabic historical sources on the Ottoman period are chronicles written in the Arab provinces of the empire. The European material includes diplomatic reports submitted to their governments by foreign ambassadors and consuls, archives of trade companies such as the Levant Company, and letters of merchants and European Itinerary literature. The Jewish sources contain some significant chronicles, letters written by Jews, marriage contracts, records of Jewish courts of law, and especially the vast halakhic literature including hundreds of books. The main considerable historical material is included in the responsa literature. In the last century, the publication of a large part of these sources, and especially new research since the 1950s and its conclusions, has enabled one to portray the history, demography, and social and economic life of the Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire from the 15th to the 20th centuries.
The first Jewish community to come under Ottoman protection was that of *Bursa (Brusa), captured in 1326 by Orhan (1326–1359), the son of ʿUthmān. In accordance with the pact made between the inhabitants of the town and the victors, the Greek inhabitants were removed; the Jews returned to the town by themselves and settled in a special district, Yahudi mahallesi (Jewish quarter). The conquest was a blessing for the Jews after the experience of servitude under Byzantium, which had decreed harsh laws upon them. The Jews were permitted by the sultan, who issued a firman (royal order), to build a synagogue (Eẓ Ḥayyim). They were also allowed to engage in business in the country without hindrance and to purchase houses and land in the towns and villages. On the other hand, they were obliged to pay the government the poll tax, called here *kharāj (or *jizya). At a later period this tax was imposed by district, and the community leaders of every district apportioned it in accordance with the members of each. The Jews of Bursa were all old inhabitants of the country and were called *Romaniots (or Gregos); during the 15th century they were joined by Jews from *France and *Germany, as well as refugees from *Spain and *Portugal. The son of the sultan Orhan, the vizier Suleiman Pasha, proceeded to Europe, capturing *Gallipoli, which from early times had a small Jewish community. With the beginning of Ottoman rule the community grew, however, through the addition of local Jews. Angora (*Ankara) and *Adrianople (Edirne) were captured by the sultan Murad i (1360–89). In Angora there was a Jewish community from early times. Adrianople, which the sultan turned into his capital in 1365 – instead of Bursa – became the largest town in the empire and contained the largest Jewish community in the Balkan Peninsula. Jews from Germany, Italy, and France lived there, as well as *Karaites. The Ottomans continued their conquests taking Philippopolis (*Plovdiv), *Sofia, and other towns. Nicopolis (*Nikopol) and Vidin were captured by the sultan Beyazid i (1389–1403). These towns contained various Jewish communities. Besides the Romanian and Bulgarian Jews, who were early inhabitants, there were also recent settlers from Hungary who had been driven out in 1376 by order of the Hungarian king Ludwig i and admitted to Walachia near Nicopolis. They continued from there, settling in Nicopolis itself and in Vidin. Beyazid conquered all *Bulgaria and fought the *Mongols near Angora. The town of *Izmir (Smyrna) was captured by Sultan Mehmed i (1413–21). Before this conquest not many Jews lived there. The community of Izmir flourished from the 17th century on.
*Salonika was captured by the Ottomans in 1387, but in 1403 the city returned to the hands of the Venetians, and was recaptured by Sultan Murad ii (1421–51) in 1430. Salonika had an ancient Romaniot community which was transferred to Istanbul after 1453. *Ioannina was captured two years later, together with other places in *Albania where Jews lived. The Jews were well treated. Many were enrolled in the troop of foreigners called gharība (aliens) which was then established. Murad ii was the first Ottoman ruler to introduce special clothes for Jews (ghiyār; see Covenant of *Omar). They were compelled to wear long garments like other non-Muslims (Greeks and Armenians); their headgear was yellow to distinguish them from other non-Muslims, while the Turks wore green headwear and were called "green ones" by the Jews. A large part of the Peloponnesus was captured by Murad; Jews had lived there from the earliest times (see *Greece). Murad's attitude toward them was expressed by his appointment of a Jew as personal physician.
*Constantinople was captured in 1453 by Mehmed ii, the Conqueror (1451–81), who changed the name of his new capital to *Istanbul. Immediately after the conquest, in which many Jews, who did not flee in time, were killed, Mehmed ii adopted the transfer policy. In order to renovate the town, populate it, and convert it rapidly into a flourishing and prosperous capital, he adopted a policy of transferring Muslim, Christian, and Jewish inhabitants, most of them merchants and craftsmen, from various regions of the empire – principally from Anatolia and the Balkans – to the new capital. All the transferred Jews were Romaniot and were called by the Ottoman authorities "sürgün" from the Turkish word for "those who were exiled," to distinguish them from other Jews, principally from Spain, Portugal, Ashkenaz (Germany), and other European lands who were named "kendi gelen," meaning "those who came of their own free will." The sürgüns also included survivors and escapees, Jews from the city who resettled in the city as sürgün. All the Jewish population of Asia Minor and many communities in Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, and also a large group of Karaites from Adrianople were deported to Istanbul over a period of 20 years and established synagogues called congregations (kehalim). All these congregations bore the name of their original communities. The chronicler Elijah Capsali described the new Jewish settlement in Istanbul in his book Seder Eliyahu Zuta: "There came into being in Constantinople splendid communities; Torah, wealth, and glory increased in the congregations". The sürgün congregations paid taxes separately from the kendi gelen, and had a special status forbidding their members to leave Istanbul without a permit from the Ottoman authorities. All the Jews of Salonika were transferred as sürgün to Istanbul, so that the Ashkenazim who settled in the city in the second half of the 15th century found no Jewish community there. After a short time the Spanish expellees joined them. The Ottoman censuses and documents and many Jewish sources enable us to evaluate the demographic, social, and economic strength of every ethnic group in the Jewish communities during the Ottoman period. Mehmed ii needed Jews to develop business and crafts, and also imposed taxes upon the Jews: kharāj, those paying it being registered in the sultan's ledger; rab akçesi (rabbi tax), which permitted them to appoint rabbis; and ʿavāriḍ, household tax. The following sultans imposed many other taxes on the Jewish
communities, which considered them difficult. There were many appeals by the Jewish communities to the Ottoman authorities to reduce the taxes. There were also many disputes within the Jewish communities about the division of the tax burden between the congregations.
In the second half of the 15th century, refugees from Germany, as well as French families, came to settle in Adrianople (Edirne). Isaac Sarfati, the rabbi of the congregation, became well known for the letter he sent to the refugees from Germany and Hungary, informing them of the advantages of the sultanate and of its liberal attitude toward Jews. Seven years after the conquest of Istanbul, the entire Peloponnesus, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania, the Crimea, and the Aegean islands, including the large island of Euboea, were conquered by the sultan Mehmed ii; thus all their Jews came under Ottoman rule. In 1462 he conquered Walachia.
*Beyazidii (1481–1512) settled many of the Spanish and Portuguese refugees in Istanbul. The communities of Turkey assisted the refugees to settle down: "Then the communities of Turkey performed innumerable and unlimited great deeds of charity, giving money as if it were stones, to redeem captives and restore Jews to their environment" (Capsali, ibid.). According to Jewish sources, Beyazid wanted to enrich his Empire by giving economic rights to the refugees, but at the same time he closed new synagogues and forced Jews to convert to Islam. In 1499 the sultan captured Lepanto and Patras. The overall total of Jewish families who arrived in the Ottoman Empire soon after 1492 is estimated at 12,000, which represents approximately 60,000 persons. Some estimates suggest a figure of 50,000 for the whole Jewish population of the Empire at the end of the first quarter of the 16th century, and others put the figure at 150,000. The Ottoman statistics were used for levying taxes, and the real figures could well have been higher than the official count. Most of the refugees settled in Istanbul, Salonika, Edirne, in towns in the Peloponnesus, Egypt, etc. They founded separate synagogues, also called congregations (kehillot) and named after the country or town from which they had departed. In the Ottoman documents the community or congregation is called cemaat or taife, and later, millet. Those who wandered to smaller towns, and in smaller numbers, founded one general Spanish congregation (Kehilah, Kahal Kadosh). Spanish congregations were also established in *Kastoria, Bursa, *Manissa (Magnesia), Gallipoli, *Tokat, *Amasya, *Ephesus, Siderokastron (Serres), *Patras, *Naupaktos (Lepanto), *Arta, *Trikkala, *Larissa, *Valona, *Monastir, *Skoplje, Ioannina, Serres, *Corfu, *Chios, *Cairo, *Safed, and other cities. A small number of refugees settled in *Jerusalem. Among the leaders of the refugees who settled in the empire soon after 1492, were Abraham *Saba, Abraham ibn Shoshan, Baruch*Almosnino, David ibn Vidal Benveniste, Judah Benveniste, Judah ibn *Bulat, Joseph Fasi, Meir ibn Verga, Isaac Don Don, Samuel Franco, Isaac *Levi (Bet Halevi), Moses ha-Levi ibn Alkabeẓ, Moses ben Isaac *Alashkar, Solomon Attia, Samuel ibn Sid, Samuel Ḥakīm-Ḥaqan ha-Levi, *David ibn Abi Zimra, Joseph Saragossi, and Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi.
The Spanish refugees were followed by immigrants from Portugal (most of whom were Spanish Jews) in several waves (1497, 1498, and 1506 until 1521). They brought with them wealth and prosperity, in contrast to those coming from Spain, most of whom came with almost nothing. Among the leaderswho came from Portugal were Ephraim Caro and his young son Joseph *Caro, David b. Solomon ibn *Yaḥya and his son *Tam Ibn Yaḥya, Jacob Abraham ibn Yaish, Joseph *Taitaẓak and his brother Samuel, Jacob ibn Ḥabib and his young son *Levi ibn Ḥabib, and Solomon *Taitaẓak. These Portuguese refugees founded separate Spanish and Portuguese congregations in Istanbul, Edirne, Salonika, Safed, and other towns. Among those who came were *Conversos (Crypto-Jews) and the children of Conversos who fled to Turkey and returned to their ancestral faith. The Iberian immigrants were motivated by strong religious feelings and had to cope with many religious and economic problems, including the halakhic meaning of betrothal and the betrothal gifts, the sivlonot, to decide about many questions of marital status and personal problems and tragic situations resulting from the expulsion, such as the loss of their children, the problems of yibbum, ḥaliẓah, and agunot. There were many expellees who lost their families and were anxious to rebuild their lives in the communities of the Ottoman Empire.
Selim i (1512–20), called "the Grim," began a new era in the great conquests of the Ottoman Empire. Instead of continuing conquests in Europe, he turned to the East, and because of this was called "the man of the eastern front." In his time the Ottoman Empire doubled its area by conquests in Asia. He built a Turkish fleet, established a cavalry corps and mercenary bands, in addition to the sipahi, the feudal cavalry army. His aim in doing this was to overpower the *Mamluks, whose kingdom extended over Egypt, Ereẓ Israel and Syria. The war between the Ottomans and the Mamluks commenced in 1516; the Ottomans were victorious due to their superior use of firearms, their good organization, their strict discipline and, to a certain extent, the treachery of some leading Mamluks. Before the end of 1516 Syria and Ereẓ Israel were conquered, thus beginning a new era in the empire's history, lasting 400 years.
Selim i seized control of Egypt in January 1517 and was acclaimed in Cairo as the ruler of two continents (Europe and Asia) and two seas (the Black and the Mediterranean), the destroyer of two armies (the Persian and the Mamluk) and the "servant" of two temples (Mecca and Medina). For Jews the conquest was a salvation, as their situation in the 14th and 15th centuries under Mamluk rule had deteriorated. After the Ottoman conquest of Egypt, the office of *nagid, which had existed under *Fatimid and Mamluk rule, was abrogated. The last nagid, Isaac ha-Kohen *Sholal, was removed from office and settled in Jerusalem. It seems that in Cairo under Ottoman rule a chief dayyan served and with him a secular leader, a wealthy person who also fulfilled political functions. It seems that the first to serve in that office in the 1520s was Abraham *Castro, the master of the mint in Egypt, who is called in an Ottoman document ra'is al-yahud (the head of the Jews). Until 1769 the Jewish masters of the mint in Egypt functioned as *sarrāf bashis, fulfilling de facto the office of the supreme leader of the Jews in Egypt. The Egyptian pashas also had Jewish physicians who were appointed to high positions in the government. The economic situation of Egyptian Jews, like that of the other inhabitants of Turkish lands, was good. Among the best-known wealthy persons in Egypt in the 16th century were Solomon *Alashkar, who maintained yeshivot in Egypt and Ereẓ Israel; Samuel ha-Kohen (Kahana); Abba Iscandari and his son the physician Abraham Iscandari; Joseph Bagliar, who maintained the yeshivot of Ereẓ Israel for a period of ten years; and in the 17th century Raphael b. Joseph, who was executed in 1669. After the Ottoman conquest refugees from Spain settled in Egypt (in Cairo, *Alexandria, Rosetta, etc). They found the old congregations of *Mustʿarabs (Moriscos), *Maghrebis (North Africans), Shāmīs (from Syria or *Damascus). Among the Spanish refugees who settled in Egypt, or lived there for a time, were Samuel b. Sid, Abraham b. Shoshan, Moses b. Isaac Alashkar, Samuel Ḥakīm-Ḥaqan ha-Levi, David ibn Abi Zimra, and Jacob *Berab. They founded yeshivot and the study of Torah developed. Well-known rabbis of the next generation included Bezalel Ashkenazi, Isaac *Luria (Ha-Ari), the pupils of David ibn Abi Zimra, Simeon Kastilaz, Jacob *Castro, Ḥayyim *Capusi, Abraham *Monzon. In *Syria, Spanish refugees settled in Damascus, Kfar *Jubār (near Damascus), and in *Aleppo. In all these localities there were Mustʿarab communities. The *Sephardim surpassed them in knowledge and culture, however, and sometimes were unable to live in peace with these veteran inhabitants. Prominent among the rabbis of Damascus were Moses *Najara, the chief rabbi, and his son Israel *Najara, the poet Jacob *Abulafia and his pupil Josiah *Pinto, Moses *Galante, Ḥayyim *Vital. Prominent among the rabbis of Aleppo were Samuel *Laniado, Moses Laniado, Abraham Laniado, Ḥayyim ha-Cohen, Mordecai ben Isaac ha-Cohen, Moses Dayyan, Mordecai Dayyan, Abraham Berabi Asher, Moses ben Solomon Ibn Alkabatz, R. Samuel ha-Cohen, Daniel Pinto, and others.
When *Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–66) ascended the throne, the rebellious governor of Syria and Ereẓ Israel was defeated by him and his head sent to Istanbul. Moreover, the Jerusalem community suffered from this rebellion. Later, the Turks learned the lesson of this rebellion and changed all the governors of these regions, replacing them with Ottomans. The local Mamluk troops were disbanded, and the land then became quiet. The civil and military administration was organized in accordance with the political system of Sultan Suleiman. He ordered the erection of the walls of *Jerusalem and he repaired the water conduits and the pools; as a result of these actions the security of the city was improved.
During his rule the Ottoman Empire attained its greatest power and extent. For more than 50 years Ereẓ Israel benefited from the peace and security which prevailed. Its population grew and its agricultural economy was expanded. This sultan introduced the *capitulations, i.e., pacts or contracts between the Ottoman sultans and the Christian states of Europe concerning the rights to be enjoyed by the subjects of each when dwelling in the country of the other. Many Jews who had immigrated from abroad benefited from these agreements, which had great influence on their legal standing. They acquired the status of protected persons and were granted extraterritorial rights and protection from attacks on property and life. *Venice was the first to come to such an arrangement in 1521 and was followed by François i, king of France, in 1535. After Suleiman's death, the capitulations were renewed during the time of his heir Selim ii (1566–74), and also in the time of Murad iii, Mehmed iii, and Ahmed i. The era of Suleiman is considered to be the most prosperous period of Ereẓ Israel, and its Jewish communities were extended. Dona Gracia Mendes became the multazima (lessee) of the city of Tiberias and its environs during the years 1560–66 and was permitted to build the walls of the city. Details about this agreement are written in the orders of Suleiman to the governor of Damascus and to other Ottoman officials. The chronicler Joseph ha-Cohen writes about the important role of Joseph Nasi, the adviser of Suleiman and the son-in-law of Gracia Mendes, in developing the city of Tiberias. According to Jewish sources Joseph Nasi wanted to turn the locality into a great Jewish center, both spiritually and economically, and he sent his steward, Joseph b. Ardit, who was a representative of the sultan, there. There is no proof that Nasi had the aspiration to establish in Tiberias a Jewish state under the patronage of the sultan, or to become a Jewish king in Ereẓ Israel or later in Cyprus. Gracia Mendes and Nasi did not visit Tiberias themselves. With the support of Gracia, *Nasi founded a yeshivah of scholars in Tiberias and supported its students. The wall of Tiberias was built, people were brought from Safed, and foundations for the development of the site were laid. On Joseph Nasi's death the enthusiasm evaporated. He was followed by a new benefactor, Don Solomon ibn Yaish, who was also a counselor of the sultan Murad iii (1574–95). The sultan gave Solomon a renewed concession for Tiberias, and sent his son Jacob ibn Yaish there. For want of organizational ability, however, he devoted himself to Torah study, but did not succeed in his task and the settlement in Tiberias failed to continue.
Toward the end of the 16th century, signs of decline manifested themselves in the Jewish settlement of Ereẓ Israel. Security deteriorated, especially after the period of Safed's eminence, which lasted three generations. The ruler of the town treated the Jews poorly and the sultan was unable to supervise his rulers. Sultan orders in 1576 demanded the expulsion of wealthy Jews from Safed to Cyprus, but it seems that the orders were not implemented. The Ottoman Jewish communities during this period, especially in Istanbul, began to send assistance to the Jewish population of Safed. The rabbis Yom Tov *Zahalon, Joseph of *Trani, Abraham *Shalom, Moses Alsheikh, and Bezalel Ashkenazi traveled to Istanbul, Syria, and Persia to collect financial aid for the Jews of Safed and Jerusalem, as well as to beg the viziers to ease the burden imposed on them by the local governors. Emissaries (*sheluḥei Ereẓ Israel) also departed for North Africa, Italy, and Germany. Tiberias was evacuated, and Safed's community lost its hegemony and experienced an economic and social crisis in the last quarter of the 16th century and during the 17th century. The center of the Jews of Ereẓ Israel passed to Jerusalem. In the 17th century many Sephardi, Italian, and Ashkenazi scholars settled in Jerusalem. The most famous Ashkenazi scholar was Rabbi Isaiah ha-Levi *Horowitz, who settled in Ereẓ Israel in 1620. Another rabbi, Jacob Hagiz from Morocco, established a yeshivah in Jerusalem called the Beit Ya'akov Viga Yeshivah. In 1522 Suleiman captured Rhodes, and then defeated the Hungarians in the battle of Mohacs in 1526, conquering *Hungary and its capital Buda (Budon), but the final conquest of the city was only in 1541. In 1526 its other inhabitants had fled, but the Jews remained. The leader of the Jewish community, who handed the keys of the city to the sultan, was Joseph b. Solomon Ashkenazi of the Alaman family. The sultan dealt charitably with him and also with his children, giving them a deed exempting them and their descendants from taxes. The Jews of Buda frequently defended the city from enemies and were faithful to the Ottoman sultans. It contained both Ashkenazi and Sephardi congregations. Suleiman transferred the majority of the Buda Jews and settled them in Sofia, Kavalla, Edirne, Salonika, Istanbul, and perhaps even in Safed. They were dispatched as sürgün in the category of craftsmen and tradesmen. But it seems that in the 16th century not all the Hungarian Jews in the Ottoman Jewish communities were sürgün. A Jewish community in Buda existed during the Ottoman rule over Buda until 1686.
The struggle of the Ottoman sultans to extend their domain west of Egypt lasted almost 60 years (1518–74), but their success was incomplete. The Turks were unable to seize control of *Morocco, which preserved its independence. They forced their sovereignty upon Tripolitania (see *Libya), *Tunisia, and *Algeria, three of the *Berber countries. Each of these developed a different administration and legal system that also differed from those in the Ottoman Empire in Asia, Egypt, and Europe. The rule of the Ottomans in these countries was very loose, and during the long period until the French occupation of Algeria and Tunisia in the 19th century local rulers reigned in these lands. With the consolidation of Ottoman rule, descendants of Spanish refugees and anusim, who had succeeded in escaping from Spain, began to settle in three Berber countries. The condition of Jews changed from country to country and was dependent upon the goodwill or whim of the local ruler. In Algeria the establishment of a new synagogue was dependent on giving bribes. In the 17th century, a new wave of descendants of the refugees arrived in these countries, who had first settled in *Leghorn (Italy). Rabbis who were descendants of Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ *Duran lived in Algiers, and in the second half of the 16th century members of the sixth generation of the family headed the congregation. Apparently, Abraham b. Jacob ibn Tāva was also a descendant of the Duran family. The Algiers scholars in the 18th century included Raphael Jedidiah, Solomon *Seror, Judah *Ayash, and Jacob ibn Naʿim. In Libya an improvement in the situation of the Jews took place when the Sublime Porte in Istanbul reestablished direct rule over it (1835–1911). This improvement was manifested primarily in the appointment of valis (pashas, governors) charged with administration of the country and their periodic replacement, as was customary in other provinces of the empire. The Ottoman valis, who did not succeed in getting to know the conditions of the country and its language, were to a great extent dependent upon the help of Jewish secretaries. The influence of foreign consuls also increased and, as a result, the status of the Jews improved, especially in the city of *Tripoli.
In 1534 Suleiman captured *Tabriz, the capital of Persia, through the efforts of the vizier Ibrahim Pasha. From there he sent the vizier to take Baghdad from the Persians. It fell on Dec. 31, 1534. The Jews of Baghdad, who had suffered under Persian rule, helped the Turks in this victory. Baghdad remained in Turkish hands for almost 90 years. In the 16th century it had a large Jewish population, including wealthy people and great scholars. There was another community in Ana, which had strong ties with the *Aleppo community and contained "Ma'raviyyim" and "Mizraḥiyyim" congregations. The economic situation of the two communities in Baghdad and in Ana was good. At the beginning of the 16th century there was a large yeshivah in *Mosul, headed by Asenat *Barazani, wife of the ḥakham Jacob b. Judah Mizraḥi. She was a daughter of Samuel Adani (Barazani). At the request of the local Jews, she sent her son Samuel to Baghdad, where he established a yeshivah. Murad iv (1623–40) captured Baghdad from the Persians. Among his 15,000 troops were 10,000 Jews – as a result of their great suffering in the period of Persian rule, the Jews helped the Turks conquer the city. After its capture, Murad rewarded the Jews accordingly. They considered the capture of the city a miracle from heaven and named the 16th of Tevet, 1638, as the day of the miracle. For a period of 280 years (until 1917), Baghdad remained in Turkish hands. The sultans appointed valis, and the condition of the Jews depended upon their favors. Baghdad had wealthy Jews, among them the banker Ezekiel *Gabbai, who was from a philanthropic and charitable family that supported Talmud torahs, yeshivot, the printing of books, etc. The sultan Mahmud ii (1808–39) appointed him chief banker and money changer (sarrāf bashi) and a member of his government. After Gabbai's death, the pasha of Baghdad severely persecuted the Jews, and as a result of his actions, many left the city and fled to neighboring countries, including Syria and Egypt. He was followed by two more oppressive rulers.
It was customary for the pasha to appoint a wealthy and respected Jew as his banker and also as nasi of his community. This functionary acted as an intermediary between the community and the government, and his influence extended beyond Babylon to Persia and Yemen. As in Baghdad he had complete authority over the communities in the other towns of the country. In 1890 the Jewish population in Baghdad numbered 30,000 people, which means that it was one of the largest Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire, after those of Salonika and Istanbul.
Yemen was conquered by the Turks in 1546. In the days of Suleiman i the Turks ruled over *Sanʿa and part of *Yemen: their sovereignty continued until 1628. There are only a few extant details on the situation of the Jews at the time of their rule, except for *Zechariah al-Ḍāhiri's introduction to his Sefer ha-Musar. The imam al-Muṭahhar drove the Turks from Sanʿa in 1569. After his victory he falsely accused the Jews of assisting the Turks in their conquest and expelled them to *Mowzaʾ. The Jews, who wished to redeem themselves from oppressive rule, longed for the Turks and assisted them in their conquests. The Turks, who nominally ruled Yemen, were however unable to dominate the country. They held part of Hodeida, but the road to Sanʿa and the district were under the influence of the local sheikhs. In 1872 the Turks conquered Yemen again. During the period of their rule – up to World War i – the Jews generally experienced a certain degree of well-being in the district towns.
After the peak military, political, and economic era of the sultans Selim i, Suleiman the Magnificent, and Selim ii, the gradual eclipse of the empire began during the rule of Murad iii and his son. The strict discipline introduced into the janissary army by Selim i was destroyed, and the military became a constant source of danger to the sultans because of frequent revolts and exaggerated demands for remuneration and bonuses. Breaches occurred in the feudal arrangements of the army of sipahis. The tax burden increased and the foundations of rule and order were undermined. In the courts of the sultans and the pashas, luxuries and extravagance spread. The cruel exploitation of the conquered regions caused revolts in many parts of the empire, which the rulers succeeded in crushing only with difficulty. Bribery was one of the most certain methods of arranging all matters at the court, as well as with its representatives in the provinces. Sheikhs and minor rulers enriched themselves on the ruin of the Ottoman Empire. When the sultan Murad iii learned that Sephardi girls were wearing choice garments and ornaments with precious stones, he issued a decree to exterminate all Jews throughout all the provinces of his empire. Through the influence of the sultan's mother, the decree was revoked, but an order was issued that Jews must wear, in place of the yellow turban, a peculiar and strange tall hat, pointed above and wide below, like those of the Spaniards. Jewish women were forbidden to walk in the streets of Turkish towns wearing silk gowns and elegant clothes. As a result of this decree, the rabbis issued an ordinance which added to the royal decree: "women and girls are not to go out wearing velvet garments and ornaments of gold and precious stones." The situation of Jews in Istanbul and throughout the empire deteriorated. Murad iv (1623–40), known for his cruelty and bloodshed, ordered the execution of Judah Kovo, the chief of the Salonika delegates who came to pay "the clothes tax" (paid annually), in 1636; there was no Jew powerful enough to influence the sultan to rescind the decree.
During the rule of Ibrahim i (1640–48) the Turks attacked the island of *Crete, which belonged to Venice, and conquered part of it (1646); the war for its complete capture was a prolonged one. The sultan's court was transferred from Istanbul to Edirne, and as a result of this transfer many Jews who had business dealings with the sultan also moved their residences there. Nevertheless, the political and economic situation of the Jews deteriorated during the 17th century.
The Turkish Empire gradually lost the areas it had conquered. In July 1703 the Janissary rebellion which dethroned Sultan Mustafa ii in Istanbul was followed by large-scale sacking of the Jewish quarter of Salonika by the Janissary garrison and the local Greek population. The Janissary troops had a long anti-Jewish policy from the 15th century onward, in spite of the fact that Jews had economic relations with the Janissaries. In the time of Ahmed iii (1703–30) a decree was issued (1728) that all the Jews living in the capital in the street of the fish market – near the mosque of the sultan's mother – must sell their houses and possessions to Muslims in order not to contaminate the street. In 1730 the Janissaries massacred Jews in Istanbul, Salonika, Izmir, Bursa, and cities in Macedonia. During the rule of ʿUthmān iii (1754–57), the Ottoman authorities oppressed the Jews and limited their rights. An ancient decree was renewed which stated that Jews could not build houses above the height of 18 feet (c. 5.4 m.), while Turks could build up to 24 feet (c. 7.2 m). In October 1757, Jews, Greeks and Muslims were the objects of exactions on the part of the military garrisons in most Ottoman cities and towns in Europe. The Janissaries invested their wealth in lands and tax farms, using Jewish agents who collected their taxes. In 1758, Mustafa iii issued a decree, renewing the decree of 1702 that Jews could not wear clothes and hats like those of Muslims. The weakness of the central government in the 18th century encouraged local strongmen to establish themselves as independent or semi-independent rulers, and some of them targeted the Jews for particular oppression. For example, in Egypt the rebellious Mamluk ruler Ali Bey al-Kabir (reigned 1760–73) oppressed the Jews with particular vehemence. He executed and seized the property of the wealthiest Jews, Joseph Levi, who administered the Alexandria customs house, and Isaac al-Yahudi, who held the tax farm on the customs house in Bulaq in 1768 and 1769. He systematically purged Egypt's financial administration of Jews, replacing them with Syrian Catholics, and he imposed on the Jewish merchants heavy fines. The Jewish population in the 17th and 18th centuries suffered a lot from the decline of the Ottoman cities, a result of the political situation and of anarchy, hunger, numerous epidemics, and fires. In about 1800 the Jewish population in the Ottoman Empire numbered around 100,000 people.
Sultan Mahmud ii (1808–39), in his desire to inaugurate reforms in the empire, fought the Janissaries, and the vizier Bayrakdar Mustafa Pasha spoke out harshly against the wealthy Jews of the capital who conspired with the Janissaries, among them the çelebiBekhor *Carmona, the brothers Adjiman, and Gabbai. These supported the Janissaries in order to defend themselves and their property; nevertheless, they were sentenced to death in 1826. The reforms continued at a quicker pace in the time of Abdul Mejid (1839–61), who was concerned with the modernization of the judiciary and removal of the restrictions on Christians. Reforms were introduced in internal government, in the collection of taxes and in the granting of some equal rights to non-Muslims. The Jews received the same rights and liberties as the other non-Muslim inhabitants (Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, etc.) as a result of the Ottoman proclamation – known as haṭṭi-i sherif of the Gül-Khane (The Rose Law or The Rescript of the Rose Chamber) – of Nov. 3, 1839; according to it, the sultan instituted the Tanzimat (reforms): He vouched for the security of the lives, property, and regularization of taxation for the subjects of the empire without distinction of religion; religious and personal freedom, as well as equality of rights and military service for non-Muslim citizens, were also guaranteed. The ceremony which took place in the above-mentioned Rose Chamber was also attended by the ḥakham bashi R. Moses Fresco and the delegates of the Jewish community of Istanbul. These rights were again reconfirmed in 1843 by the grand vizier Riza and in 1846 by the grand vizier Reshid. Some time in the mid-19th century, and perhaps as early as 1835, a new political term, millit-I erba'a ("The Four Communities"), entered the Ottoman political lexicon. It came to denote the officially recognized four religious communities: Muslims, Jews, Armenians, and Greeks, and to suggest that the empire was at the same time also a pluralistic society in which the minorities' special status was officially recognized. The Gül-Khane Edict of 1839 was renewed in 1856 by the proclamation of the Haṭṭ-i Hümayun (imperial rescript), which was a charter of tolerance the sultan granted to all protected subjects and whose first lines were written by the sultan himself. A solemn ceremony was attended by ministers, patriarchs, and the ḥakham bashi of the Jews of Turkey, R. Jacob Bekhar David. It was stipulated in this legislation that there was to be no distinction between sects, races, and religions; liberties were granted to all; non-Muslims were to be admitted to the government, civil, and military schools; the security of life and property were guaranteed; equality before the law was instituted; every citizen was eligible for public or military office; and religious freedom, equal taxation, and jurisdiction and representation in the municipal councils were guaranteed. The Jews of Turkey received the same rights as the other minorities. As formerly, they secured positions in Ottoman society and participated in the cultural and economic life. They did not, however, regain their past importance, and their positions were of a secondary nature. Jews began to hold such government functions as administrative directors, judges, physicians of ministers, military doctors, officers, consuls, etc. Every Jew was authorized to wear the national hat (fez). Rabbis were authorized to add a scarf of blue silk to their headdress, and the turban of the rabbis was of the same color as that of the Muslim imam. In 1847 the sultan Abdul Mejid visited the military medical school. When he observed that there were no Jewish students, he decided that their entry should be encouraged and ordered the director of the school to install a kasher kitchen under the supervision of a Jewish cook and supervisor; he exempted Jewish students from studies on the Sabbath and authorized the organization of Jewish prayers on the premises. When the sultan visited Salonika, the children of the Jewish schools, led by the ḥakham bashi R. Asher Kovo, welcomed him; he contributed 25,000 piasters to the Jewish schools and 26,000 piasters to the poor of the community. In spite of the sultan's proclamations, which should have increased the rights of the empire's Jews, certain internal events in the Jewish community in the capital caused a delay in confirming the regulations for the Jewish *millet. This delay was caused by the following internal struggle within the Istanbul Jewish community. The Gabbai, Adjiman, and Carmona families, the most prominent in the capital, maintained close relations with the Janissaries and they, as bankers and farmers of taxes, maintained their high position in the Jewish community. As mentioned above, the massacre of the Janissaries in 1826 was accompanied by the execution of the major figures of these families and a consequent decline in their importance. In the 1830s Abraham de *Camondo assumed the leadership, as he was from a family of noted scholars and wealthy businessmen. He was influential in court circles, and the confirmation of the first ḥakham bashi of Jerusalem in 1841 was in a large part due to his efforts. He also led the group which attempted to strengthen the community's economic position vis-à-vis the Armenians and the Greeks, who for many years past had held the upper hand due to their better general education, ready acceptance of European influence, and connections with the court. Aware, as a result of his business experience and travels, of the progress made in Europe, Camondo undertook the establishment and a large part of the financing of a modern school in the capital. In 1856 the Haṭṭ-i Hümayun further influenced these modernization trends and brought about the formation of a "committee of notables" comprised of wealthy and reform-minded persons under Camondo's leadership. The constitution of this committee in 1860, which included members of the Hamon, Adjiman, and Carmona families, was to some degree an irregular response to the appeal by the Haṭṭ-i Hümayun for non-Muslim communities to offer the sultan suggestions for their reorganization in accord with the times. Progressive and conservative circles in the community split over the matter, and the conflict was heightened after the modern school was established (French was taught there). An attempt was made to avoid elections to the ruling bodies by establishing a rabbinical grand court and a lay "committee of notables," which was attended by the ḥakham bashi, Jacob Avigdor. However, the rabbis Isaac Akrish and Solomon Kimhi led an anti-Camondo propaganda and claimed that the modern school encouraged children to become Christians. This sort of propaganda easily inflamed the common people. Camondo was subsequently excommunicated by Akrish and some scholars. The ḥakham bashi had Akrish imprisoned, but he was released on the order of the sultan Abdul-Aziz (1861–76) following demonstrations by those who wanted Jacob Avigdor to be dismissed. The grand vizier then convened a special rabbinical court on which the ḥakham bashi of Izmir and his colleagues from Edirne and Salonika sat. The court heard the opponents of ḥakham bashi Avigdor who wanted him removed and the notables who supported him. The court cleared Avigdor of all charges and threatened excommunication to those who repeated such charges, but Avigdor was unable to continue in his position and resigned the next year (1863); he continued to serve as rav ha-kolel for the next 11 years. Carmona and Camondo were also exonerated and their attackers were compelled to apologize. Camondo moved in 1866 to Europe and died in Paris in 1873, so new forces entered politics in the Jewish community of Istanbul.
The new ḥakham bashi was Yakkir Gueron, who had held the same position in Edirne. He was ordered to draft regulations immediately for the community (niẓām-name), but they were only confirmed, after close scrutiny and some changes, in 1865. The "Organizational Regulations of the Rabbinate" (ḥakham-khane niẓām-namesi) were divided into five parts, as follows: (1) the status of the ḥakham bashi as head of Jewry in the empire; his qualifications and election (clauses 1–4); (2) his powers and replacement in the event of resignation or removal from office (clauses 5–15); (3) the "general committee" (mejlis umūmī), its election and powers. It consists of 80 members and is presided over by the permanent deputy of the ḥakham bashi. Sixty secular members are elected by the inhabitants of Istanbul according to city districts, and they in turn elect 20 rabbinical members. These 80 members elect the seven rabbis forming the spiritual committee (majlis rūḥānī) and the nine members of the secular committee (majlis jismānī). These elections require the approval of the Sublime Porte. At the election of the ḥakham bashi for the entire empire, the general committee is temporarily reinforced by 40 members from eight districts where they officiated as provincial ḥakham bashis: Edirne, Bursa, Izmir, Salonika, Baghdad, Cairo, Alexandria, and Jerusalem (clauses 16–19). It is to be noted that clause 16 fails to prescribe the committee's term of office; only in 1910 was it fixed at ten years; (4) the powers of the spiritual committee. The seven rabbis are to concern themselves with religious and other matters referred to them by the ḥakham bashi. The committee is not to prevent the publication of books or spread of science and art unless prejudicial to the government, the community, or religion. The committee is to supervise the activities of the city-district rabbis (marei deatra), who act under its instructions. The committee is headed by a president, who is also the head of the rabbinical court; he is to have two deputies (clauses 20–38); (5) the powers of the secular committee regarding management of communal affairs and carrying into effect government orders. It has to apportion communal taxes and supervise the property of orphans and endowments (clauses 39–48).
No changes in the status of non-Muslim subjects of Muslim rulers took place until the middle of the 19th century. Restrictions and tax laws on changing the shape of existing synagogues or constructing new ones remained in effect (see Covenant of *Omar). The authorities also closely regulated the ghiyār – distinctive apparel and footwear. Certain individuals, physicians in particular, were granted dispensations such as tax exemptions – by imperial firmans – and were allowed to ride horses and dress normally. Those who were employed by European powers covered by capitulation agreements also enjoyed privileges and were exempt from special clothes. In their legal status within the empire the Jews were not essentially on a different footing from Christians, except for the fact that veteran Jewish inhabitants could not find support from the European powers which saw as their duty to protect Christianity in Muslim countries.
The *jizya (also *kharāj or jawālī) was generally collected from small income earners, the middle class, and the wealthy at a ratio of 1:2:4. Agents, interpreters, or other employees of European powers who worked at consulates or embassies were completely, or substantially, relieved from paying the poll tax, under capitulation agreements. The Ottoman reforms abolished the poll tax and ordinances in 1855 and in 1856 replaced it with a military service exemption tax for non-Muslims (bedel-i ʿaskeri). It was abolished in 1909, when non-Muslims were drafted into the army. No complaints were voiced about the existence of the poll tax, but there were numerous ones over the manner of its collection. In the Jewish communities many discussions were held between rich and poor Jews about the internal assessment of this tax and also about other taxes.
In spite of the fact that non-Muslims were limited in their use of buildings for religious worship to those constructed prior to the Arab conquest, they found ways to circumvent this restriction. Indeed, many hundreds of buildings for worship were constructed in cities founded under Islam, e.g., in *Kairouan, Baghdad, Cairo, and *Fez; R. Obadiah of *Bertinoro states in the last decade of the 15th century that a Jew was prohibited "from rebuilding his house and yard [in Jerusalem] without permission, even if they were falling down, and the permit was sometimes more costly than the rebuilding itself " (A. Yaari, Letters from Palestine, 130). This was the state of affairs in Jerusalem, which was then ruled by the Mamluks. The Ottoman sultan Mehmed ii, at about the same time, allowed the use and repair of old synagogues, even though he prohibited the construction of new ones. About a generation or two later, Jacob ibn Ḥabib described the situation in Turkey as follows: "We are not permitted to obtain permanent quarters for a synagogue, let alone build one: we are compelled to hide underground, and our prayers must not be heard because of the danger" (quoted by Joseph Caro, Beit Yosef, Tur Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 154). These regulations were used by zealous officials and fanatical muftis and qadis to frustrate the Jews in their efforts to worship, for example in Jerusalem, but in spite of this, many synagogues were built during Ottoman rule due to both tolerance and greed on the part of the authorities. In 1554 a complaint was lodged with the sultan concerning the large number of synagogues in Safed; it reported that in the town there were only seven mosques, while Jews, who in olden times had had three synagogues (kanīsa), then had 32 synagogues, built very high. The sultan ordered an investigation of the matter (U. Heyd. Ottoman Documents on Palestine, 1552–1615 (1960), 169). As the results of the inquiry and the action taken are unknown, the matter may possibly have been taken care of by a bribe. This state of affairs continued there until the middle of the 19th century, and every major or minor repair demanded the appropriate bribe for the official who had to rule on the necessity of the action. The condition of synagogues in Jerusalem was poor, and in 1586 the old synagogue was closed by the governor; change only came during the rule of Muḥammad ʿAlī. His son *Ibrāhīm Pasha allowed two important synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem to be both enlarged and repaired.
Since the situation of bribes continued to get worse, the Turkish authorities were unable to overlook such a cause of corruption, and in about 1841 a berāt of the ḥakham bashi was issued which stated that the reading of the Scroll of the Law (during services) in the house of the ḥakham and in other houses was in accord with Jewish religious practice; consequently it was allowed that veils be hung and candelabra be placed in houses where the services took place. Thus, synagogues and their property gained immunity and could not be confiscated or held in security for debts. Generally, Jews were careful in most other Muslim countries in building their places of worship so that they were not readily noticeable – and as they lived in special quarters – there were only a few mentions of trouble from the authorities. In addition, there was little likelihood that the feelings of Muslims would be hurt. Refugees in North Africa seem to have encountered little difficulty in building their synagogues. Nonetheless, D'Arvieux, who was the French consul in Algiers in 1674 and 1675, says that the Jews of that city had to pay large sums to the Ottoman authorities in order to construct additional places of worship. At times savage attacks were made upon synagogues by incited mobs of Muslims or troops. Various sources relate that Scrolls of the Law were desecrated, religious articles stolen, furniture burned and buildings destroyed. Nevertheless, these events were not connected with the regulations of the Covenant of Omar, as they were in fact violations of them.
Middle Eastern Jewish quarters are frequently mentioned in the writings of European travelers from the 16th century on, laying stress on the conditions of overcrowding and poor sanitation, dirty narrow streets, and indifferent state of health of the inhabitants. Nevertheless, it should be realized that these sources were often not sufficiently objective in their presentation. Even though the special dress of non-Muslims in the East (ghiyār) is described in detail by European tourists, Jewish sources were more concerned to determine deviations from the regulations and whether they existed due to tolerance on the part of the authorities or to a lax enforcement of the law. Difference in dress was the most common and at the same time striking phenomenon. In Algiers the refugees from Spain after 1391 wore the capos or caperon, as distinguished from the veteran inhabitants who wore the cap (shāshiyya). As there were no Christians in the region at the time and the Muslims wore no European clothes, the capos was also a sign of the Jewishness of the wearer. The chief rabbi of Istanbul prohibited the wearing of the caperon, which was the cloak of the Sephardi ḥakhamim, in the late 15th century. D'Arvieux gave the following description of the clothing of the Jew, in Algiers: "the residents wore a bournous over a black shirt of light-weight fabric and covered their heads with a black woolen shāshiyya; those from other Muslim countries wore a turban of different shape, ending in a tassel descending upon the shoulders; all wore sandals without stockings. Livornese (from Leghorn) and Alexandrian Jews wore hats and clothes like the Italians or Spaniards, whose customs they even preserved" (L. D'Arvieux, Mémoires du… envoyé extraordinaire (Paris, 1735), vol. 5, 288).
A number of orders (which are in the archives in Istanbul) were issued by the kadi of the capital between 1568 and 1837 to the official in charge (muḥtasib) of non-Muslims concerning the headgear and clothes of Jews and Christians; in one particular instance such an order, which was issued to the chief rabbi, is extant. In 1599 the sultan ordered the Jews to change the color of their headgear to red. In 1595 the sultan ordered the kadi of Istanbul not to hurt the Jews because of their dress and headwear. These particular orders stressed the headwear, that if it was replaced by the turban of the Turks, it was considered as evidence of a change of religion on the part of the wearer. Jews in the East generally had to wear dark apparel, and light or colored clothes were allowed only on the Sabbath and festivals, and then only within their own quarters. Particular stringency existed concerning the prohibition of the wearing of green (green headgear was a sign of descent from the Prophet *Muhammad) and purple. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the above-mentioned Ottoman decrees were not strictly enforced, as 18th-century sources mention that many Istanbul Jews wore green turbans and the same kind of shoes as the Muslims. There seems to have been some doubt on the part of the Jews as to the halakhic permissibility of this kind of dress, and a discussion of the problem is preserved in rabbinic literature. The ghiyār continued to be mentioned in official Ottoman sources until almost the middle of the 19th century. In 1702 and in the 1750s the sultans renewed the orders about clothing, and forbade Jews to put green on shoes and wear red headgear with red strings. They were ordered to wear black shoes and black clothes. In 1837 a decree stated that Jews and Christians permitted to wear the tarbush had to use special marks on it so that it could be distinguishable from that of Muslims. The berāt which was issued to the first ḥakham bashi of Jerusalem in 1841 states that his official emissaries are held to be exempt from the ghiyār so that they might travel without being molested. In addition, they were allowed to carry arms to defend themselves from attack. In the 17th and 18th centuries the sultans issued orders which forbade the Jews to sell wine to Muslims, and threatened those who did not obey. The upper middle class Jewish households in Ottoman cities had slaves bought in the slaves markets, and in the 16th century there were immigrants from Portugal who brought their own slaves into the Ottoman Empire. Most of the slaves in Jewish homes were Christians from Europe and pagans from Africa. The Ottoman authorities tried to limit the number of slaves held by Christians and Jews. Jews did not stop buying slaves but paid a tax for the right to own slaves. Jews kept slaves until the 19th century.
Until the *Damascus Affair of 1840 accusations of ritual murder were very rare in the Ottoman Empire. The majority of blood libels broke out as a result of the hostility of the Greek and Armenian populations toward the Jews. The first blood libel is mentioned in a firman (sultanic decree) issued in the time of Mehmed ii. Orders were given that henceforth such cases should be brought before the imperial divan in Istanbul. During the reign of Suleiman i such an accusation was again made, between December 1553 and June 1554, and the firman to hear such cases in the divan only was renewed. The order was renewed by Selim ii and Murad iii. It seems that Suleiman's decree was obtained by the sultan's chief physician, Moses Hamon after a blood libel in the Anatolian cities of *Amasia and *Tokat. The firman removed the prosecution of such cases from the jurisdiction of the local kadis and assigned them to the sultan's jurists. In 1592 two firmans were issued which dealt with a ritual murder accusation in Bursa. The accused Jews were tortured, and Murad iii ordered them to be exiled to Rhodes. It is not clear if they remained in Rhodes or were punished and sent to serve in the Ottoman naval galleys. In the beginning of the 17th century a blood libel broke out in Thebez (Thebatai) in Greece. The Jews had to pay to end the libel and asked the Jews of Chalkis to contribute money for that purpose. The ill-famed blood libel against *Damascus Jewry (1840) was followed by another on the island of *Rhodes. In order to protect the Jews from slanderous accusations, Moses *Montefiore, A. *Crémieux, and the well-known Orientalist S. *Munk traveled to Egypt to meet Muhammad Ali, who ruled Syria at that time. The blood libel was not quashed, but the Jewish prisoners were freed so that Muslim public opinion in Syria considered the accusations true. Montefiore went to meet the Sultan Abdul Aziz in Istanbul, and on October 28, 1840, after an audience with the sultan, obtained a firman which could be regarded as a bill of rights for the Jews. It mentions the deep emotions that the blood libels had stirred in Europe and recommends the issuing of a firman that would exonerate the Jews of all ritual murder accusations, and to translate the firman into European languages. All the recommendations of this document were indeed carried out. In 1844 a blood libel occurred in Egypt when the Jews of Cairo were accused of murdering a Christian. Only the firmness of Muhammad Ali prevented the outbreak of violence. Between 1840 and 1860 there occurred 13 blood libels in Damascus and Aleppo. In February 1856, three days after the Ottoman Reform Decree was made public, a blood libel reappeared in Istanbul in the Balat quarter. A mob consisting of Greeks, Armenians, and Turks started attacking Jews. French Jewish leaders who visited the city, including Alphonse de Rothschild, immediately alerted the Ottoman authorities, who put a stop to the disturbances. In 1864 and 1872 the Jews of Izmir were accused of kidnapping Christian children before Passover. There were similar conspiracies in Istanbul in 1868, 1870, and 1874. In 1872 there were blood libels in Edirne, Marmara, Ioannina, and La Canee. All these cases required the intervention of the ḥakham bashi R. Yakkir Gueron and ḥakham bashi R. Moses ha-Levi, as well as that of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle. The Alliance in Istanbul or its headquarters in Paris called upon the Ottoman government to investigate this affair and punish the rioters. A blood libel also occurred in 1880 in the island of Mytilene. In 1884 there was a blood libel in a village located near the Dardanelles, where about 40 Jewish families lived. When a non-Jewish boy servant was sent to fetch something and failed to return, it was rumored that the Jews had murdered him. The Jews were fortunate that the boy reappeared once the riots broke out. In 1887 the municipality of Salonika accused the Jews of ritual murder. The representative of the government condemned the libel and mentioned the firman according to which the propagators of such rumors would be prosecuted. In Beirut, Jews were molested by Christian youths but the Ottoman authorities punished the assailants. Other blood libels occurred in Aleppo (1891), Damascus (1892), *Manissa (1893), Kavalla, and *Gallipoli (1894). There were also blood libels in Jimlitoh near Bursa (1899), in Monastir (Bitola) (1900), and in Izmir (1901). All these were based on the disappearance of a child who was subsequently found. In general, Ottoman government officials defended the Jews, and the Jews also received help from Jewish organizations such as the Alliance Israélite Universelle, European ambassadors and consuls, and even Protestant missionaries. Many blood libels occurred also in Egypt during the 19th century. In Cairo blood libels occurred in the years 1844, 1890, and 1901–2.
In Alexandria an elderly Jew named Sasson was arrested in 1870. He was imprisoned for a month, during which period the press emphasized his Jewish identity in an attempt to have him accused of having sought to kidnap a child to strangle and to utilize his blood for the baking of the Passover matzoh. The fall of a Christian child (1880) from a balcony into the courtyard of a synagogue in Alexandria served as a pretext for the Greeks to accuse the Jews of ritual murder. The Greeks, with the assistance of Arabs who had joined them, attacked the Jews in spite of the fact that the doctors who had examined the child testified that he did not bear any wounds. In 1880 the Jews were accused of having raped a local girl. In 1881, again in Alexandria, it was rumored that they had employed the blood of a ten-year-old Greek child who had disappeared from his home. The Greek mob threatened to attack the Jewish quarter and burn it down. The British consul then called on the governor of Alexandria to intervene on behalf of the Jews. During the same year a nine-year-old child of Cretan origin disappeared there. The corpse of the child was retrieved from the sea and no wounds were found on it. In Mansura a blood libel occurred in 1877 and in Damanhur in 1871, 1873, 1877, and 1892. In Port Said a girl disappeared in 1882. She was found dead in the Arab quarter but rumors were immediately circulated that the Jews had assassinated her in order to use her blood for the preparation of matzoh. The Jews were the victims of many attacks and the French consul was influential in calming the passions. During the same year the Jews of Cairo were accused of having killed a girl. There were antisemitic accusations in the Arabic press, and newspapers of the Syrian Christians played a prominent role in this campaign of agitation; they claimed that the Jews lent money for interest and were thus usurers. The foreign consuls assisted the Jews by intervening with the Ottoman authorities. The libels in Egypt and throughout the empire were largely due to commercial rivalry between Greeks and Jews. Everywhere Greeks were the foremost agitators. The Jews were also hated by Christian Syrians, Christian Arabs, and Armenians both for religious reasons and competition. In Egypt there were also local circumstances: there was a period of extreme tension as a result of the deposing of the ruler of the country, Ismail, by the Ottoman sultan and the accession of his son Taufik. The inhabitants of Egypt were also embittered against foreigners. Many articles imbued with hatred and defamation of foreigners appeared in the local press; Jews became the scapegoats for the hostility of the masses. With the establishment of British rule in Egypt (July 1882) the Jews lived there in greater security. In spring 1862 a blood libel occurred in Benghazi. Four Jews, including British and French subjects, were accused by Christians that on their return from "Blessing the Trees" out of town during Passover, they had mockingly raised the image of Jesus covered with blood. Following mass agitation by the Christian and Muslim population, both the British and the French local consular agents collaborated against the Jews, although some of these were their own subjects. The intervention of the British consul in Tripoli put an end to this libel. The imprisoned Jews were released and the local consular agents were ordered to leave town. A blood libel broke out also in Ereẓ Israel during the lifetime of the rishon le-Ẓion, ḥakham bashiRaphael Meir *Panigel, in 1890, when two Jews of *Gaza were brought to Jerusalem and accused of ritual murder. These men had employed an Arab lad as a servant. The lad went to play with another Arab who owned a camel and as he toyed with a rifle, a bullet was fired from it and the camel owner was killed. The next-of-kin seized the lad and slaughtered him. The Jews then informed the tribunal of the details of the murder but some Muslims accused the Jews of the murder. They were arrested by the police, imprisoned in Jerusalem, and after interrogation were set free as they were foreign subjects. In 1892, Ereẓ Israel was stirred up by the publication of a work entitled "The Sounding of the Horn of Liberty by the Innocent," which was circulated in Egypt in Arabic and French and propagated anti-Jewish hatred. This book described how a Jewish rabbi was about to slaughter a Christian child to take his blood, which was to be employed for kneading the Passover matzoh. The pamphlet was also widely circulated in Palestine and came into the hands of many government officers and officials in Jerusalem. The ḥakham bashi R. Elijah M. Panigel, accompanied by a delegation, intervened with the pasha; the pasha ordered the immediate destruction of the pamphlet and prohibited reading it and spreading such rumors, as it was claimed that a child had also disappeared in Jaffa and his blood was to be employed for religious requirements. A Catholic publicly proclaimed that a famous rabbi who had converted had confirmed that Jews indeed employed Christian blood for the Passover ceremonies. The pasha immediately sent out orders to every town that this report was to be suppressed so as to prevent the outbreak of riots and disorders. The sultan then ordered his minister of education to extirpate this evil, as he was shocked that in his empire, a land of peace and tranquility, there were conspirators who incited Greek citizens against Jews who enjoyed his protection and published slanderous pamphlets whose contents were unfounded. All the pamphlets that were subsequently found were burned.
Jews converted to Islam and, to a much lesser extent, to Christianity throughout the duration of the Ottoman Empire. Beyazid ii compelled Jews to adopt Islam, but we do not know the precise number of these converts. His son, Selim i, gave them permission to return to Judaism, an irregular decision in a Muslim state. It seems that during the Ottoman period not more than 5% of the Jewish population converted to Islam, and only a few Jews converted to the Greek Orthodox and Catholic faiths. Some Jewish men converted to Islam for economic reasons or to enhance their professional status, while some women converted mainly to resolve social and personal problems or to marry non-Jews. In the 19th century the American Mission, the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst Jews, and the Church of Scotland Mission were active in the larger Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire, but only a few Jews converted. It seems that in the 19th century conversion to Islam and Christianity rose, apparently by about one percent. In that century, apart from one document that mentions fear of a mass conversion to Protestantism in the community of Izmir, around the year 1847, no other source indicates that there was any cause for concern. The converts came from all strata of society, but mainly from the lower classes. Some migrants were easy targets for conversion. Notwithstanding the increasing secularization of Jewish society in the second half of the 19th century, it would be fair to conclude that Jewish tradition and the traditional education most Jewish children received prevented the large-scale conversion of Jews. In the cases of forced conversion, the Ottoman policy was precise and further strengthened by the Tanzimat reforms. Local officials were ordered to prevent forced conversion, and forced converts were freed through government intervention.
The large Ottoman Empire, spread over three continents, with its maritime and land routes which connected it with many countries, provided extraordinary facilities for the activities of its Jewish inhabitants. All fields of economic activity, except the functions performed by members of the askeri class, were open to Jews. Jews could not be governors, military officials, and judges in the system of law and justice of the empire, but otherwise there was hardly any activity in which Jews did not participate. The sultans offered the old settlers, the refugees, and immigrants from Christian Europe all the facilities necessary to carry on commerce, foreign trade, industrial enterprises, and the development of firearms. Their knowledge of the foremost European languages – German, Italian, Spanish, and French – was an asset in commercial relations with Europe. Another important asset were the old established Jewish merchant firms in Muslim ports and capitals, like Alexandria, Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, and Basra. This Ottoman economic policy explains the growth of Salonika, Safed, Izmir, Tunis, Algiers, and other cities as centers of Jewish trade and industry. The communities in these towns served in international commerce as new centers for the import of finished foreign goods and for the export of raw products and manufactures. Jewish merchants settled in Izmir only from the last quarter of the 16th century. The community particularly increased in the 17th century and the city became an entrepôt for international trade. Many anusim and Jews from Anatolia and Salonika settled in the city. The Levant trade carried on by the Jews of the Ottoman Empire by sea and land reached its height in the 16th century. Many Levantine Jews of Iberian origin settled in Italian cities, especially in Venice, and had the patronage of the Ottoman Empire. In 1534 the Pope gave those Jews trading rights in the town of Ancona, trying to attract the trade between Italy and the Ottoman Empire from Venice to his realm. At the end of the war between Venice and the Ottoman Empire in 1540, the Venetians officially recognized the presence of the Levantine merchants in Venice for the first time. The Jewish merchants also followed their trade with Ancona. In 1555 the new Pope, Paul iv, annulled the privileges of the Portuguese Jews in Ancona, and 24 of them were burnt after being tortured for months. Gracia Mendes and Joseph Nasi made efforts to put a Jewish ban on the city of Ancona, but Levantine Jews continued to trade there. Similar rights were granted to them in Florence, Ferrara, and Urbino in the middle of the 16th century. In this century the Ottoman Turks relied very heavily in commerce, diplomacy, and many fiscal matters on the Jews – the only community which possessed the necessary aptitudes and yet was not suspected of having treasonable sympathies for Christian powers. The commercial routes were under Jewish control, and ships loaded with goods belonging to Jews passed through the ports of the Mediterranean. The Jews used to insure their goods against piracy and shipwreck. A peculiarity of Jewish commerce was family partnership. Rich merchants with widespread commercial connections used to extend their business affairs by opening branches managed by their closest relatives, brothers, brothers-in-law, etc., in large ports and towns, even in foreign countries. A classic example is the firm of *Bacri and *Bus nach in Algiers, who were the grain suppliers of France during the French Revolution. Also widespread were the occupation of agents (fattors); they received a fixed commission for their activities as buyers of raw materials or sellers of manufactured products. These agents used bills of exchange, "polizza di cambio." Many Jews were employed in international trade as clerks, interpreters, accountants, dealers, and criers. The Jews of the Ottoman Empire developed trading techniques which enabled them to expand their activities both geographically and financially, and gave them an advantage over Muslim and Christian merchants. The existence of Jewish communities almost in every place gave the Jewish merchants possibilities to remain for long in Jewish communities afar and get help from them in difficult times.
Many Ottoman Jews bought from the embassies berāts, i.e., certificates, originally intended to protect locally recruited interpreters and consular agents. Such practices were extended especially in Egypt. However, the majority of Jews in the empire were not rich. In fact, the majority of the employees in the textile industry were poor home workers. The suppliers of export goods and distributors of imported products (fancy goods and the like) were small traders and peddlers who set up trade relations on a barter principle with the farmers in villages or made payments in advance and received their products at low cost. In a few communities, such as Aleppo, Cairo and Alexandria there were Jews who leased or managed agricultural property in the town's vicinity while other Jews were directly involved in farming. There existed also in some remote provinces such as eastern Anatolia, northern Iraq, Yemen and North Africa Jewish peasants and peasant communities. In the Galilee region of Ereẓ Israel in the 16th century there existed peasant Jews in 12 villages, such as Peki'in, Kefar Kanna, and Kefar Yasif. Among the trades in which the Jews in Spain had engaged, weaving took first place. The refugees found excellent opportunities in the Ottoman Empire with its backward industry – and manufactured cloth, which previously had had to be brought from abroad. This explains the rapid growth of Salonika, the largest center of the Spanish refugees, and the even more astonishing rise of Safed, the largest and most developed town in Ereẓ Israel in the 16th century, with a concentration of the second-largest Jewish population in Asia. The development of both communities was based on the manufacture of textiles and ready-made garments, although the raw material – wool – had to be imported, sometimes from abroad, and the product – the cloth and the garments – exported. The wool used in Salonika was sometimes bought in Macedonia and in other districts of the Balkans. This kind of wool was also brought to Edirne, and then forwarded to ports in the Sea of Marmara. From there it was sent once a year in a special ship to Safed by way of *Sidon or *Tripoli (Syria).
Other communities in the empire had their textile factories. The textile industry was mainly a domestic one. Spinning was done by women at home; weaving, in larger workshops. Dyeing had been a traditional Jewish occupation from the earliest times, and the art was more developed than in Europe. The wool industry of Salonika produced thousands of bolts of cloth for the Ottoman army, the palace, and export. The decline of this industry in Salonika and Safed impoverished the two communities from the last quarter of the 16th century. The Jews of Bursa played a prominent role in the city's international trade in silk and spices. A considerable number of Jews throughout the Middle East were engaged in the leather trade. They bought raw hides and exported them to Europe or finished them into leather, and Jewish tanners were famous for their products. The production of wine was a specifically Jewish occupation. As Muslims were the main consumers of alcoholic beverages, prohibited to them by the *Koran, dealing in that commodity was dangerous and was prosecuted by governmental authorities. Thus, very often in rabbinic literature there are references to ordinances promulgated by the Jewish authorities against the selling of wine to gentiles (Muslims). Another old Jewish occupation was dealing in precious stones, gold, silver, jewelry, and the making of jewels. It was a risky business, so jewelers were either very rich or very poor. The production and sale of refined gold was strictly controlled by the Ottoman authorities to prevent the flow of precious metals abroad. The farming of the money mints of Istanbul was often in Jewish hands in the 15th and 16th centuries. In some areas of the empire, e.g., the Barbary States, Yemen, and Iraq, the handicraft of making jewels was a Jewish monopoly until the 19th century and even later. Some branches of food industry that were connected with ritual precepts, e.g., the production of cheese, were in Jewish hands. In many parts of the empire money changing and the farming of government taxes, tolls, and monopolies (iltizām) were occupations in which Jews predominated from the 15th century. This was sometimes dangerous, as it aroused popular hostility. These occupations, sometimes connected with the functions of administrators of the treasury (*ṣarrāf bashi) of the governor of the province and his banker, developed into important banking enterprises which controlled the growing industry in Ottoman cities. The first modern banks were opened in the 19th century. The pasha's banker during the 16th and 17th centuries in Egypt was known by the title Ḉelebi. He often combined the office of ṣarrāf bashi and several other official positions in the financial administration. Some Ḉelebis were executed. Jews in many cities were active as *sarrafs (money changers). They were expert in all Ottoman and European currencies, and often were accused of clipping the edges of the coins that passed through their hands or cheating on their weight. Jews lent money to gentiles, but this profession was not as common with Jews in the Ottoman cities as it was in the cities of Christian Europe, because of the possibility of borrowing money from Muslim vakfs at low interest.
Foreign Jewish merchants and their representatives were protected against ill treatment by Ottoman government officials through the stipulations of the capitulations agreements which awarded them the same protection as their Christian compatriots. During the period of Western strength and Ottoman decline, the capitulations were transformed into a system of extraterritorial privilege and immunity.
The populations of some towns in Ereẓ Israel–Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron, and Tiberias – were so poor that they had to rely on financial assistance (*Ḥalukkah) from other towns in the empire and foreign countries. The Jewish communities and congregations throughout the empire supported the poor, but the poorest members could not take part in the public life of their communities because they did not pay taxes.
There were Jews in the Ottoman Empire, especially during the 16th century, who were compelled by the Ottoman authorities to buy flocks of sheep in Anatolia or the Balkans and bring them to Istanbul. Jews from Salonika and other cities had to undertake this activity, and there were Jews that went bankrupt from dealing with flocks. Jews in the empire worked at many crafts, such as tailors, carpenters, pharmacists, bakers, fishermen, mirror makers, glassmakers, printers, bookbinders, actors, dancers, musicians, and other crafts. Shops of Jews were situated either in Jewish neighborhoods or in markets among shops owned by Muslims and Christians. This situation existed in Istanbul, Aleppo, Izmir, Bursa, Jerusalem, and other cities. In Salonika, Jews worked also as porters and fishermen.
In Istanbul Jewish fishermen also sold wines. Many Jews, especially in Egypt and Aleppo during the 16th and 17th centuries, were active in farming port customs and custom houses, while others were multazims. From the last decade of the 16th century the Ottoman government changed the tax system, and tax farming was transferred to Muslims. Jews were now gradually reduced to secondary positions, as agents or managers of tax farms. This situation continued in the 17th century onward in cities such as Aleppo and Izmir. In spite of their diminished role, Jews continued in the 18th century to occupy an important position in the Ottoman economy and administration. There were Jews who served as contractors and purveyors for the military. In Egypt the rebellious Mamluk ruler Ali Bey al-Kabīr (ruled 1760–73) imposed heavy fines on the Jewish merchants, which destroyed them financially. It is obvious that many changes occurred in the economic and social structure of Ottoman Jewry in the space of 500 years or more. The rivalry of the powerful Greek and Armenian communities in the capital and the decline of the whole empire and its gradual dismemberment into national states in the Balkans and protectorates in Africa influenced the economic position of the Jews. The weakened economic structure of the empire and the empty government treasury, which was sometimes close to bankruptcy – felt all the more because of the corrupt bureaucracy – imposed heavy burdens on the weak taxpayers. From the 17th century the economic decline of the empire and the involvement of European traders in the international trade in dominions of the Ottoman Empire and their commerce with Western Europe reduced the economic opportunities of the Ottoman Jews. The competition between Jewish and Christian merchants who were supported by European ambassadors and consuls caused many Jews to be forced out of positions as principals in large-scale trade to secondary occupations as agents, brokers, and interpreters. In spite of the Jewish economic decline, in the 18th century Jewish traders living in Ottoman cities continued to trade with Livorno, Holland, England, and Leipzig. Hundreds of Jewish brokers in important commercial cities like Istanbul, Izmir, Aleppo, and Salonika received incomes from British, French, and Dutch merchants. Friction between Jews and non-Jews increased in the 19th century, and one of its results was an increase in blood libels (see above). In spite of the decrease of Jews in the trade of the 19th century, they owned large trading houses and firms in Salonika, Istanbul, Izmir, Aleppo, Egypt, and elsewhere, e.g., in Salonika the firms of the francos Alatini, Modiano, Fernandez, and Mizrahi, which traded not only in Macedonia but all over the empire.
Another factor which had a great influence on the economic life in the 18th and 19th centuries was the above-mentioned capitulations. The francos who lived particularly in the main cities of the empire became the local Jewish elite as a result of their privileges and political and economic rights. The reʿāya, the Ottoman nationals, were in a worse position in matters connected with daily life than the ḥimāya, the foreign citizens, or the local owners of berāts, as they were deprived of the protection of the European powers. At the end of the 18th century, the Ottomans tried to compete with the foreign consuls by selling berāts to the reʿāya, both Jews and Christians. These berāts conferred the privilege to trade with Europe, together with important legal, fiscal, and commercial privileges and tax exemptions. They enabled non-Muslim reʿāya to compete with foreign merchants. The Jews played no significant role in these transactions because of the general decline in their position. In the 19th century the positions of preeminence in international trade, with few exceptions, remained in the hands of the Greeks. These times also witnessed the general decay of Ottoman industry and its "Jewish" branches. A flood of cheap manufactured goods flowed into the Turkish market. The imported textiles competed successfully with local wool, cotton, and silk manufactures. In the beginning of the 20th century, the nationalism of the Young Turk movement, and later the rise of the Republic of *Turkey brought about socioeconomic developments which changed the entire economic structure of Ottoman-Turkish Jewry.
The first chief rabbi in Istanbul was Moses *Capsali (1420–50) from the Romaniot population in Byzantium, and there are some traditions about him. According to the 17th century chronicler *Sambari (but no other source) Capsali sat in the sultan's divan at the side of the grand mufti and the patriarch. Sambari says that the sultan loved Capsali as his own soul, and describes Capsali as a very modest person. He notes that he was also responsible for collecting taxes from the Jews and delivering them to the sultan's treasury. Sambari's description contains many details that do not confirm what we know about the status of the Jews, especially in regard to the sultanic divan. According to the chronicler Elijah Capsali, who wrote his book Seder Eliyahu Zuta in 1523, was from Crete; Moses Capsali was the leading rabbi of the Istanbul community and dayyan of the Jewish community even before the Ottoman conquest. Mehmed ii honored Capsali with royal garments, the privilege of riding a horse, and an escort of Ottoman dignitaries at home. Capsali became a welcome personage in the sultan's court. He went around the communities in Istanbul and collected charity to help the Spanish expellees. He had a sultanic decree which enabled him to confiscate property and have people arrested. He also acted against the young Jewish men who fraternized with the Janissaries. According to the mid-17th century chronicler David Conforte, all the other rabbis in Istanbul were subordinate to Capsali owing to the formal status the sultan had granted him. It seems that Capsali was officially appointed to the office of "the leader rabbi" of the Istanbul community by the Ottoman authorities. After the arrival of the Spanish expellees in the last decade of the 15th century the government abandoned the practice of appointing one religious-judicial leader for all the Jews in Istanbul, and in the last years of his rabbinate the fiscal power was transferred from Capsali to the *kâhya and later to other functionaries. It is clear that Capsali found it difficult to impose his authority over the Spanish congregations in the capital because he forced them to follow Istanbul rules and traditions. He was involved in a few disputes with other rabbis. In the 1490s the leaders of some Romaniot congregations sought to ban anyone who taught anything, even Greek philosophy, to the *Karaites. Only after their decision on the ban did they call for Capsali to make it official. He refused and denied the ban, but the ban was forcibly declared later in Capsali's presence. Those who were jealous of him wrote slanderous letters to Joseph *Colon in Italy and stirred up opposition to him. After Capsali's death, the rabbi Elijah *Mizraḥi, a famous Romaniot scholar and the head of the most important academy in Istanbul in that period, and also an expert in ethical and natural sciences, became the leader rabbi of the Romaniots in Istanbul. He was asked by the majority of the congregations in the capital in 1518 to ban the kâhya She'altiel and later to annul the ban. Rabbi Mizracḥi was also active before the Ottoman authorities when irregular taxes were demanded from the Jews of Istanbul. It appears that he received a formal confirmation of his authority from the Ottoman authorities, but there is no proof that he presided over the Spanish congregations, even though he was admired by them. He helped them and wrote decisions for them. Capsali tried to impose his authority over the Sephardim, but Mizracḥi decided that they could not be forced to act against the ruling of their rabbis. After Mizracḥi's death in 1526, the Romaniots had their own rabbis. The Sephardi congregations in the capital did not have a single rabbinical authority over all of the Sephardi rabbis. Owing to the existence of various ethnic groups, the Jews in the empire did not have a ḥakham bashi until 1835, in contrast to the existence of a Greek patriarch and an Armenian patriarch who were appointed by the sultans and represented the Greek and the Armenian nations in the empire during the entire Ottoman period.
It seems that the function of kâhya was not introduced until the final years of Capsali or after his death. The Ottoman rulers decided to rely on the kâhya and to deal with him in all financial and secular matters related to the Jews of Istanbul, including tax collection. This kâhya *Shealtiel (Salto) was a Spanish Jew, and in 1518, after many complaints of bribery and illegal arbitrary taxes had been lodged against him by the Jews, the community banned him and his sons from holding the position of kâhya or performing any other function involving contact with the Ottoman authorities. He was returned to office on April 29, 1520, by the leaders of the congregations and R. Elijah Mizraḥi. After the death of She'altiel no successor replaced him. During the Ottoman period there existed in Istanbul and other communities other kâhyas dealing with taxes and other matters before the authorities.
The great scholar R. Joseph Ibn Lev describes the divisions and differences between the congregations of the empire after the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese refugees as follows: "Even in Salonika, where everyone speaks the native language, when the refugees came each language group founded its own congregation and no one switches from one congregation to the other. Each congregation supports the poor speaking its language, each is inscribed separately in the king's register, and each seems to be a town unto itself " (Responsa, ii n. 72). All those coming from a town or a definite region founded a special congregation (kahal) for themselves, spoke their own language, and paid taxes separately in accordance with their registration in the governmental registers. In the 1560s R. Moses Almosnino described the Jewish community of Salonika as a "republic." Each congregation had a secular administration run by elected parnasim and treasurers, whose primary responsibilities were to supervise the collection of taxes and see to all internal political, administrative, and financial matters. Sometimes the lay leaders in some communities were also granted judicial authority. This executive council was composed of six to 12 members, elected for one to three years at the most. The elite of the congregations – the wealthy and the nobility – aided the lay leaders in the running of public affairs, and it was from this class that the lay leaders were elected. Generally the poor in the communities lacked representation. Every congregation had a religious administration consisting of the ḥakham (rabbi) of the the kahal (congregation) or kehillah (community), who served principally as the dayyan of his congregation. Sometimes he also headed it, like Rabbi Joseph *Caro in Safed. Frequently he was called marbiẓ Torah, dayyan, or rosh ve-kaẓin; and he taught and performed various religious functions. In the Musta'rab communities, the head of the community was called dayyan. Sometimes the rabbi held all of these positions, sometimes they were divided up. Other officials were the treasurer (gizbar), gabbai of the synagogue, and tax assessors (ma'arikhim). Each congregation also had officials serving as readers and cattle slaughterers; they were paid salaries from the communal funds Each congregation had institutions such as a synagogue, talmud torah, yeshivah, and bet din, as well as charitable societies such as Bikur Kholim – visiting the sick, and extending help to the poor, a burial society (Hevrat Kbarim, Ḥesed shel Emet), ransom society (pidyon shevuyim), and others. If the members of the congregation were few, then two or three joined together to found educational institutions such as a talmud torah. The well-known Great Talmud Torah of Salonika was used jointly by the children of all the congregations in town.
The congregations and the communities based their economic, cultural, and religious life upon haskamot and takkanot (ordinances, regulations) instituted by their rabbis, scholars, and communal leaders, together with appointed members, e.g., regulations not to transfer membership from one congregation to another; agreements relating to many fields of private and public life, such as the appointment of lay and spiritual leaders and their duties; an agreement that no one may be married without the presence of ten adult male Jews, one of whom shall be the ḥakham, and that should anyone marry in any other way the marriage is to be considered void. The best known of the agreed takkanot is that relating to the renting of houses: If anyone rented a house or shop from a gentile, then no other Jew could enter that house or shop as long as it was rented to the other Jew, and even if the Jew vacated the rented house or shop, no other Jew was allowed to enter it until the passage of three years from the day it was vacated. These are called Takkanot ha-Ḥazakah. There were different regulations about the inheritance of women. Individuals opposing the regulations were placed under a ban and excommunicated. Frequently in medium-sized and large communities the religious leaders met and decided on new regulations as results of new and burdensome realities. Sometimes these regulations dealt with the division of taxes among the congregations. There were many objections to these regulations, and the rabbis dealt with the question of how to enforce them, especially when wealthy persons objected. The Jewish courts of law, battei din, had the authority to deal with civil and religious matters, but many Jews also turned to the bet din in cases concerning money matters (dinei mamonot). The Jewish courts of the empire had to turn to the state authorities to enforce their decisions, for on occasion an offender did not follow their ruling. In the larger communities there also existed higher Jewish courts of law. Berurei Averot (Memunei Averot) committees existed in a few communities, such as Istanbul, Salonika, Sofia, Bursa, Magnesia, and Safed during the 16th and 17th centuries. Their members dealt independently with religious and moral offenders through the agency of the local bet din. In Izmir there was a berurei ha-kenasot council which dealt with such problems. In spite of the regulations of many communities forbidding Jews to turn to Muslim courts of law, it was acceptable among the Jews to appeal to these courts. Sometimes the communal leaders and the local dayyanim appealed to the Muslim courts of law to enforce their decisions. In the 17th and 18th centuries, in some of the large communities, such as Salonika, Izmir, and Edirne, the congregations chose a local chief rabbi, and sometimes the office of chief rabbinate was shared between two or even three rabbis. In Izmir from the 17th century until the middle of the 19th century there functioned a dayyan for dinei mamonot and a dayyan for Issur ve-Heter problems.
After the arrival of the expellees to the Ottoman Empire, friction and disputes arose between the congregations, especially between the Romaniots and Spanish and Portuguese refugees. The Spanish refugees regarded themselves as more learned, cultured, and of good descent and wanted to dominate the communities, while the Romaniots and their famous scholars regarded themselves as more important, since they were the permanent and earlier settlers and had admitted the former. An additional cause of friction was the differences in their customs, one of the many being the matter of sivlonot (presents sent by a man to his betrothed). In the Romaniot customs this is seen as indicating that kiddushin may have taken place; this is not so, however, according to the Sephardi custom (see *Betrothal). On the death of Rabbi Elijah Mizrahi a conflict occurred between Sephardim and Romaniots about the Jewish custom of chanting elegies on the eve of the Hebrew new moon. The Sephardim has done this even when a new moon fell on a Saturday, and the Romaniots responded that mourning on Saturday was strictly forbidden. The Romaniots published in 1510 the Romaniot maḥzor and in 1557 a Pentateuch was published with translations into Spanish and Greek, in Hebrew characters. In the beginning of the 16th century the Romaniots and the Sephardim disputed the Ashkenzi and Romaniot custom of giving the rabbis ordination ("semikhah"). There was also a disagreement between the Romaniot and the Iberian Jews over the question of whether it was permitted to eat a ritually slaughtered animal in which there was a sirkha or adhesion of the lobes of the lung. During the 16th and 17th centuries many congregations fought against individuals or groups that joined other congregations, or established new ones, and regulations forbidding this act were issued by many congregations and communities. In Istanbul the policy of the congregations in the 16th century permitted the individuals to join other congregations, but not before tax payment time. In many Ottoman Jewish communities instability was a widespread phenomenon. Even the Romaniot community of Ioannina split into two in the second half of the 16th century, and each congregation established two different burial societies. There were many struggles between congregations in Greek and Turkish communities, such as Salonika, Izmir, Cairo, Arta, Ioannina, Patras, Navpaktos (Lepanto), Bursa, and Safed. There were conflicts between congregations over new, wealthy members. Many disputes resulted from the form of tax collection. In the majority of the communities in the 16th–19th centuries the Sephardim were dominant and dictated communal life. On the other hand, there were communities such as Arta and Ioannina where the Romaniots were dominant. Generally the Italian and Sicilian congregations cooperated with the Spanish ones, and in the middle of the 16th century the Spanish prayer book was accepted by a majority of the communities. The Musta'rab congregations in Ereẓ Israel, Syria, and Egypt were autonomous throughout the Ottoman period. During all the Ottoman period there was strife between the rich, middle class, and the poor in the communities and the congregations. Most of these were the result of the unwillingness of the poor and the middle-class members to pay taxes to the Ottoman authorities or to the Jewish community in the amount requested by the community leaders. Such disagreements increased during the 19th century and caused tension in communities such as Istanbul, Izmir, Salonika, Damascus, and others. These tensions often erupted into disputes and quarrels. For instance, in Izmir in 1840–42, 1847, and the 1860s the leadership of the community was in the hands of the rich, many of whom were francos. The poor hoped that the communal taxes would be reduced, but on the contrary, the indirect tax paid on the meat "gabela" was increased. The document "Shav'at 'Aniyim" ("Cry of the Poor"), written by the poor in 1847, and other documents tell the story of these disagreements, and show that all efforts of spiritual leaders, including the local ḥakham bashi, Ḥayyim Palagi, to improve the situation of the poor failed. These struggles led to the temporary removal of Rabbi Palagi and a turning of poor people to the missionaries. It was characteristic of the Ottoman authorities and most of the religious communal hierarchy to support the rich, and the oppression of the poor in the community continued for many years. Similar controversies broke out in Salonika in 1872 and in Istanbul during 1880–84. The Ottoman reforms influenced the internal life of the communities and especially diminished the authority of the traditional spiritual leaders. From the 1860s more rabbis joined the poor, and local leadership was transferred to the hands of modern leaders, most of whom did not have personal economic interests involved in leading the community. The flourishing of the Jewish press also influenced this process.
The Armenian and Greek Orthodox communities (millets) in the capital had patriarchs – acknowledged and confirmed by the Ottoman authorities – who supervised all the congregations. Only the Jewish millet had no confirmed rabbis. A total of 347 years had passed since the death of the chief rabbi of Istanbul Moses Capsali. In January 1835 the sultan Mahmud ii (1808–39) confirmed R. Abraham ha-Levi as ḥakham bashi in Istanbul, a gesture made at the request of the Jewish subjects of the sultan in Istanbul. They had no Christian European powers behind them and were jealous of the honor of official confirmation accorded by the government to the Greek and Armenian patriarchs. This was in fact a turning point in the policy of the Ottoman authorities, which hitherto had not interfered in the internal affairs of the Jewish community and for centuries past had given no official status to its representatives. It was also an Ottoman interest to promote the principle and image of a pluralistic Ottoman society, so that it became a matter of state interest to advance the position of the Jewish community and grant it greater prominence. The new position meant that the ḥakham bashi was now regarded as the civil and religious head of the Jewish community, as well as its official representative to the authorities. The original copies or authentic texts of the berāt hümayun (imperial confirmation of appointments; occurring from 1835 onward), which were also granted to chief rabbis in Edirne, Salonika, Izmir, Bursa, Jerusalem, and Damascus, show that the significance and consequences of this policy went beyond mere confirmation of appointments. It contained an official recognition of the Jewish millet. As mentioned above, Abraham ha-Levi became ḥakham bashi of Istanbul in 1836. He appeared at the sultan's court in official garb, accompanied by ten of the community notables and thousands of other Jews, swore loyalty to the sultan and the monarchy, and paid his tax. The sultan handed him the berāt of his appointment. This ḥakham bashi, however, was not suitable for office, and after one and a half years R. Samuel Ḥayyim was appointed in his stead. The latter was an erudite rabbi who headed a yeshivah in Balat (a suburb of Istanbul). At the end of a year of service, he was relieved of office by the government because he was an Austrian national. He remained, however, as a chief dayyan. Moses Prisco (1839–41) was elected in his place, being called "the old rabbi" because of his advanced age. Ḥakham bashis were also appointed in the provinces of the empire: in Ereẓ Israel, Cairo, Alexandria, Baghdad, Yemen, Libya, Sarajevo, and elsewhere. In fact, the rav ha-kolel continued to be regarded by the Jews of Istanbul as their religious and spiritual leader, while the office of the ḥakham bashi was seen as an external imposition and as far as the community was concerned it was only ceremonial and representative. In time, this office gained great prestige and importance and came to be held by renowned scholars, such as Jacob Avigdor (1860–63) and Yakir Geron (1863–72) in Istanbul and by 1864, the office of ḥakham bashi appears to have completely supplanted in Istanbul the older office of rav ha-kolel. In other cities the office of ḥakham bashi was held by famous decisors, such as Ḥayyim Palagi from Izmir. Between the years 1863 and 1908/9 the title of the chief rabbi was kaymakam ḥakham bashi, and from 1909 the last ḥakham bashi in the Ottoman Empire, Ḥayyim Nahoum, again held the title ḥakham bashi.
With the growing influx of refugees and immigrants, the Ottoman Empire became a center of Torah study. The yeshivot of Salonika, Istanbul, Safed, and Jerusalem took the places of the splendid and well-known yeshivot of Castilia. Istanbul, called by scholars "a large city of scholars and scribes," maintained Torah institutions and magnificent yeshivot, such as the yeshivah of Elijah Mizraḥi, where both sacred and secular studies were pursued; the yeshivah of Joseph Ibn Lev, in which great talmudic scholars studied and which was supported financially by Doña Gracia Mendes; the yeshivah of Elijah ha-Levi, the pupil of Elijah Mizraḥi, who headed his teacher's yeshivah; and in the beginning of the 17th century the yeshivot headed by Rabbi Joseph Mitrani (of Trani; "Maharit"), supported by the wealthy philanthropist Abraham ibn Yaish and his sons and by the wealthy Jacob Ancawa (Elnekave). Pupils of Joseph Trani served as rabbis in towns of the empire. Yeshivot also existed in Izmir, Bursa, Angora, Nikopol, Tirya, and those in Adrianople after the expulsion from Spain included the magnificent yeshivah of Joseph Fasi. Salonika became a center of Jewish learning. The poet Samuel *Usque called it "a metropolis of Israel, city of righteousness, loyal town, mother of the Jewish nation like Jerusalem in its time." Talmud torahs and yeshivot flourished there whose names were famous throughout the Jewish world and brought scholars together from all parts of the empire, such as the yeshivah of Jacob ibn Ḥabib and his son Levi b. Ḥabib and those of Joseph Taitaẓak, Samuel de Medina, Joseph Ibn Lev (before he went to Istanbul), Isaac *Adarbi, and others. Similarly well known was the Great Talmud Torah of Salonika, which contained many hundreds of pupils whom it also clothed and fed. The heads of the aforementioned yeshivot and their scholars left a ramified responsa literature which served as a foundation for the studies of *posekim and dayyanim, as well as an important, and sometimes the sole, source for the history of their times. With the expulsion from Spain, and even before it, Safed became a great center for immigration of Spanish refugees. The town grew and its economic development brought spiritual growth in its wake. Safed attracted scholars from many countries. It developed into a great center of Torah, Kabbalah, ethics (musar), and piyyut, becoming an important spiritual center in Ereẓ Israel, as well as for the Diaspora. Important and well-known Yeshivot were founded there, among them the Yeshivah of Jacob Berab; Berab taught a generation of outstanding pupils, among whom were four ordained pupils (see *Semikhah) who also headed well-known yeshivot: Joseph Caro, the author of the Shulḥan Arukh, Moses Mitrani ( of Trani; "Mabit"), Abraham *Shalom, and Israel di *Curiel. Other famous yeshivot were headed by Moses Galante, Elisha Galiko, Yom Tov Zahalon, Samuel de Uzeda, and Solomon Sages. Not only local students but also scholars who came from other regions of the empire studied in their yeshivot. The yeshivot obtained their economic support from the wealthy and from charities in all parts of the empire. (For further information see *Safed.) In Jerusalem there existed before the Ottoman conquest two yeshivot founded by the *nagid Isaac ha-Cohen Sulal and, after the expulsion, in 1521 one yeshivah was headed by R. David Ibn Shushan who was helped by the kabbalist Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi, and the other yeshivah by R. Israel Ashkenazi. Other yeshivot in Jerusalem during the 16th century were headed by R. Levi Ibn Habib, R. Joseph Korkos, and R. Bezalel Ashkenazi. The Sephardi yeshivot taught according to the learning system of "iyyun" which was developed in Spain's yeshivot.
Aside from these, yeshivot and places of study in which esoteric lore, *Kabbalah, and the Zohar were the main subjects of study were established in Safed during this period. The students prostrated themselves at the graves of the pious in the fields of Safed and its vicinity. Among its outstanding scholars were Solomon ha-Levi Alkabeẓ, Moses *Cordovero, the heads of the pre-Lurianic Kabbalah and the well-known Isaac Luria Ashkenazi (Ha-Ari), the founder of the Lurianic Kabbalah and teacher of many disciples, among them Ḥayyim *Vital. There were also kabbalists and heads of yeshivot in Safed from North Africa, such as Joseph Magrabi (ha-Ma'aravi), Joseph b. Tabul, Masyud Azulai, Solomon ha-Ma'aravi (Abunaha), and others. The yeshivah of Moses ibn Machir was located at *Ein Zeitim, near Safed. Jerusalem's development after the Ottoman conquest in 1516 was slow compared to that of Safed. The economic situation was unstable, but the heads of the yeshivot and the rabbis of the town strove to prevent the town from being deserted. After the conquest, the spiritual hegemony passed from the Mustaʿrabs to the Sephardim. Doña Gracia Mendes founded a yeshivah of scholars in Tiberias, most of whom came from Safed. They were maintained by her appropriations and were thus able to devote all their time to Torah study. In addition to her contributions, there was a society in Istanbul for the benefit of the yeshivah. At the end of the 16th century, when Tiberias was abandoned, this yeshivah was also closed.
A major development in the standing of the yeshivot and the study of Torah occurred in Egypt. The Spanish refugees who settled there developed the Torah institutions which had long served the dwellers in Egypt itself, now attracting to them pupils from other places. Among the well-known yeshivot were those of David ibn Abi Zimra (Radbaz), Isaac Berab, Bezalel Ashkenazi, Jacob Castro, and Abraham Monzon. In the 16th and 17th centuries numerous and renowned sages concentrated in the Ottoman Jewish communities. The broad intellectual class in the 16th century, as described in many sources, was an alert and lively one, and its needs dictated to the rabbis the style, form, and frequently the content of their literary work. This activity produced dozens of halakhic books, especially responsa literature, and primarily works of an exegetic and homiletic nature. Prominent sages such as the rabbis Meir Arama (d. c. 1545), Joseph Taitaẓak, Solomon le-Bet ha-Levi, Moses Almosnino, and many others prepared numerous anthologies and collections of commentaries. While the literature of the 16th century had a propensity for dealing with philosophical issues, by the end of the century and during the 17th a more central role was claimed by talmudic midrash and legend and their interpretation. The leading codifier of Jewish law was Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488–1575), whose magnum opus, Beit Yosef, a codification of all Jewish law, organized as a commentary on the Arba'ah Turim, was published in 1535 and the digest of this work, the Shulhḥan Arukh, was printed for the first time in Venice in 1564–65. The scholars in the 16th century outside Ereẓ Israel devoted themselves mainly to philosophy and the sciences. Kabbalah was limited to a small group in communities such as those of Istanbul, Salonika, Edirne, Bursa, and others. This trend changed in the 17th and 18th centuries as a result of the popularization of the Zohar in the Jewish communities and the profound influence of the kabbalists and kabbalistic minhagim among the communities of the empire. Between 1750 and 1900 intellectual life existed primarily in the great communities of the empire. In a majority of the small communities only low-ranking rabbis, "kelei kodesh," served as ritual slaughterers and cantors, and frequently also as teachers (melamdim). In this period 275 scholars in Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans wrote 450 books, the majority in Izmir, Istanbul, and Salonika, and others in Edirne, Rhodes, Bursa, and other communities in Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans. Dozens of books were also written in Egypt, Ereẓ Israel, and Syria. During this period the number of the yeshivot were rapidly reduced and most were in the homes of well-to-do Jews. Most of those yeshivot were small and their students devoted themselves only to Torah learning, and did not learn philosophy and the sciences.
The study of the Lurianic Kabbalah spread during the first half of the 17th century throughout the Ottoman Empire, and among its heterodox outgrowths was the *Shabbatean movement. The persecutions and pogroms in the *Ukraine and *Poland, on the one hand, and a decline in the study of *halakhah accompanied by the spread of the study of esoteric lore and Kabbalah, on the other, led to the rise of messianic hopes, which were given a strong stimulus with the appearance of *Shabbetai Ẓevi. At the time it was believed that the advent of the messiah and the coming of the redemption would take place in 1666. After his meeting with *Nathan of Gaza in 1665, on his way back to Jerusalem after fulfilling the office of a Jerusalem emissary, Shabbetai Ẓevi proclaimed himself the messiah who would redeem his people on 5 Sivan 5426 (June 18, 1666) and announced his intention to depose the sultan. He traveled from Jerusalem to other communities such as Aleppo and Izmir, and on December 30, 1665, sailed to Istanbul, taking special advantage of the fact that the royal court had then been transferred to Edirne. Nathan became Shabbetai Ẓevi's foremost pupil and adherent and aroused messianic expectations in Jewish communities throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Many Jews made preparations to dispose of their property, rent ships, and travel to the Holy Land. Shabbetai Ẓevi himself was excommunicated in Jerusalem in 1665. In Izmir he appeared with his secretary, Samuel *Primo, and was supported by the majority of the community leaders and Jewish residents. His appearance in Istanbul and his royal behavior aroused the anger of the sultan. Shabbetai Zevi was brought before the council (divan) of the Grand Vizier Ahmed Köprülü, who decided to imprison him in Gallipoli, in a comfortable prison, including visitors. In September 1666, Shabbetai was transferred to Edirne, where he was brought again before the divan and, in order to save his life, converted to Islam with a group of his followers who imitated him. The descendants of those apostates numbered hundreds of families and formed a separate sect, called *Doenmeh (Turk. "apostate"). Members of the sect lived in Edirne, Istanbul, Salonika, and Izmir. They continued to believe in Shabbetai Ẓevi as the messiah. The appearance of Shabbetai Ẓevi and his companions humiliated the Jews of the empire, whose status had in any case declined in comparison with that of previous times. The movement gave rise to apostasy, disappointment, and despair, undermining the important economic positions held by the Jews. The remaining Shabbateans did not cease their activities. The Shabbatean emissary Abraham Miguel *Cardozo went to Istanbul in order to influence its rabbis to adhere to Shabbateanism. In Izmir, Nehemiah *Hayon and his friends were excommunicated. Jacob *Frank, a pseudo-messiah, a late adherent of the Shabbatean movement and founder of the Frankist movement, traveled from Poland to Volhynia and then to Turkey, where he lived in Izmir and Salonika, becoming friendly with the Doenmeh. Not finding Salonika favorable, he returned, however, to Poland. The Shabbateans and their adherents also penetrated into Egypt, Persia, Iraq, *Kurdistan, and North Africa. Various customs were introduced in these places under the influence of this movement, and they added to the prayers in Kurdistan the following words: "As instituted by our messiah, exalted be his majesty." The Shabbetai Ẓevi affair affected the status of rabbinic authority, and both rabbis and lay leaders were impelled to strengthen and consolidate the community's central institutions.
The Jewish males carried out extensive religious and social activities in the synagogues. Many well-to-do and middle-class Jews were active in the charity institutions of the community. The Jews spent most of their social life among their Jewish friends, participating in wedding, bar-mitzvah ceremonies, funerals, and memorial gatherings. It was not common to have social relationships with Muslims and Christians; such relations were generally limited to business contacts.
Family life in the communities were influenced by the realities of Ottoman urban life, especially crowded living conditions, poor public sanitation, endemic diseases, and traditional Jewish family norms. In the 16th century the breakup of the Spanish Jewish family, stemming from the expulsion, had a traumatic influence on family life. The main goal of family life among all Jewish groups was to rebuild strong families and to produce many live children and descendants. Every group like the Romaniots, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Musta'rabim had special family manners and customs, but the normal behavior of all groups followed the halakhah in all Jewish communities. The families were patriarchal at all levels of society. In spite of the fact that some women did earn a livelihood from various professions and crafts, interest-bearing loans or real estate, the majority stayed at home. Even those women who were economically active had the outlook of women in general and found their personal satisfaction in the sphere of the home. At the same time women were cognizant of their ability to protect their rights and to limit any infringement of them. The accepted woman's destiny, which was endorsed by male society, was to find total fulfillment in home and family life. In no community until the 19th century was higher education a part of a woman's life. She freed her husband to go about his business, principally to earn a livelihood. Most women invested their personal funds with close relatives, usually a husband, son, or brother. They seldom left their houses, and when they did, veiled faces and garments covering them from head to toe was the order of the day. Women from all Jewish groups were raised to expect arranged marriage at an early age, generally when 13–16 years old. Even divorcees and widows, especially young ones, hoped to remarry and invested much effort to achieve this. The men also married very young, at around 16–18. There were also cases of child marriage among girls, especially orphans. Polygamy was usual among the Musta'rabim; this phenomenon existed to a small extent in Spanish and Italian society as well. In spite of the legal agreement that the Sephardi husband not take a second wife during the life of his first, the Jewish courts frequently permitted the man to do so, particularly in cases where the couple was childless after 10 years of marriage. In the majority of these cases the Sephardi woman preferred divorce. There were also cases of polygamy among the Romaniots. The Musta'rabic woman was also less afraid of yibbum, whereas her Sephardi counterpart generally preferred ḥaliẓah. It was a common phenomenon in communities for a woman to marry her sister's widower. In neither community did divorce carry a stigma; many women demanded divorce on their own initiative.
A woman depended on her family to protect her rights at marriage, and most women knew how to guard their rights and possessions. The families took charge of the young couples, and usually the new couple lived in the first years after marriage with the husband's family. The Jewish courts of law dealt with many cases of abandoned women (agunot). Generally the agunah was lacking all basic necessities, and the Jewish courts of law made efforts to release the woman from this miserable status, in order to enable her to remarry. The ketubbah of every woman had a few special clauses depending on ethnic origin, such as forbidding polygamy in the Spanish ketubbah, inheritance regulations, such as the Toledo ones in the Spanish ketubbah, the inheritance regulations in the Romaniot ketubbah and the regulations in Ashkenazi marriage contracts. The Musta'rabim also wrote their own inheritance regulations. Jewish society coped with many problems of parenthood and child bearing, because of the prevalence of divorce, widowhood, and the phenomenon of men and women marrying a second or third time. Generally an average-sized Jewish family numbered three children. There was a high rate of miscarriages and stillborn babies. Marriages of cousins were very common. The first marriage was arranged by the family, and most men after divorce or widowhood found new mates. Women also chose to marry again. Sometimes Jews turned in family matters to the Muslim courts of law, especially in order to force divorce, or in matters of inheritance. Jewish boys and girls were usually given traditional and the more common names of heads of households that were found among the Jews of Sephardi and Portuguese origin. Other names were of Romaniot, Italian, Arabic, and Turkish origin. The process of the Europeanization among the Ottoman Jews during the second half of the 19th century had a direct effect on the secularization of Jewish society, so that many French and other European names entered the local nomenclature. Nevertheless, most of the Jewish babies were still given traditional names. Most of the men's names were Hebrew, and approximately 30 percent of the women's names were Hebrew. Jewish society insisted on high standards of personal and public morals and kept the traditional halakhah and minhagim. A majority of the communities' members behaved according to these obligations. Even so, there were cases of moral transgression, and the communal regulations point out cases of Jews who loved music, festivities, luxury, gambling, and an extravagant life. There were cases of men and women who had intimate relations with Christians and Muslims. The Jews in the cities of the empire had a tendency of their own choice to group together in Jewish quarters, but there were also Jews who dwelt with non-Jews. Generally, Jewish quarters were very crowded. The majority of houses were built of wood and brick, and every century there broke out fires in which hundreds of Jewish houses and their possessions were burned. The well-to-do Jews lived in large houses in the Jewish quarter, and sometimes built palaces among those of the Muslims and Christians, but a majority of the Jewish residents lived in densely populated residential areas. Many buildings had three floors or more. Most houses had an open courtyard in the center and a cellar for storing wine, cheese, wheat, and other foodstuffs. Very poor families lived in only one room.
Some books in Judeo-Spanish (or Ladino) written in Hebrew script were published in the cities of the empire soon after the arrival of the expellees. One of the books was the translation of the Pentateuch in Istanbul in 1547 at the press of Eliezer Gershon Soncino. Other famous Ladino works published in Istanbul were an account of the city of Istanbul by Rabbi Moses Almosnino, Regimiento de la Vida, which was published in 1564. In spite of the scarcity of such works during the 16th and 17th centuries, a revival of Ladino literature occurred in the 18th century, although a serious decline occurred in the cultural condition of the Jews in the empire. The situation had so deteriorated that a majority could not read the sacred literature. As a consequence books began to be published in the Spanish vernacular spoken by the Jews who came from Spain, the *Ladino. For a long period it was the only language spoken by them, because they never mastered Turkish. Religious literature was printed in Hebrew, however, and the presses in Salonika, Istanbul, and Izmir were renowned for the Hebrew books they published.
The spiritual leaders waged a fierce struggle for the preservation of Judaism. This effort was expressed in the popular anthology Me-'Am Lo'ez ("From a Foreign Nation") by R. Jacob b. Meir *Culi (1689–1732), the most eminent Ladino author. Original books on ethics in Ladino, or translations of books from Hebrew to Ladino, became a favorite genre during the 18th and 19th centuries. Published works in Ladino deal with mahzorim, siddurim, kinot, kabbalistic works, midrashim, ethical works, biblical commentaries written by Sephardi commentators, and a poem for Purim.
Among the published works were Abraham de Toledo's popular Judeo-Spanish poem "La Coplas de Joseph ha-Ẓaddik" (1732), which had some 400 quatrains with its own peculiar melody; "Meshivat Nefesh" (1743) – a translation and commentary by Shabbetai Vitas of the poems of Solomon ibn *Gabirol, and numerous works and translations of historical, scientific, and religious studies, including Sulkhan Arukh, and the compositions of the great poet Rabbi Moshe Faro (d. 1776) Suzikar Peshrevi and Shadarban. During various periods between the middle of the 18th century and the end of the 19th century, pamphlets of folk songs, poems on historical subjects connected with Jewish festivals and on secular subjects, works on Jewish and general history, as well as Shevilei Olam ("Paths of the World"), a compilation of wisdom and knowledge, were published. History textbooks were translated from Hebrew into Ladino, the translators preserving the original Hebrew titles. Novels and stories, such as Ahavat Ẓiyyon by *Mapu, and works by M. Mendelssohn and others were also translated from Hebrew.
The education of the Jewish population in the Balkan countries and in the Turkish-speaking provinces of the empire (Anatolia) was rooted in newspapers, literary periodicals, and original and translated works published in Ladino. According to the bibliography of Moses Gaon and Avner Levi, over 300 newspapers and magazines were published in that language during a period of 100 years. The publishing of literature and periodicals in Ladino was mainly concentrated in Salonika, Istanbul, and Izmir, the last of which was the cradle of Ladino literature. The first attempts to publish Ladino newspapers in Izmir were made during the middle of the 18th century, but these were short-lived. The first weekly to be published in Izmir in 1842 was called La Buena Esperanza, edited by Raphael Uziel, but it ceased to appear after a few issues. In 1846 a second attempt was made by the same editor; this time his publication lasted half a year. In 1874 a new weekly under the same title began to appear and its publication continued for 40 years. Its editor was Aaron Joseph Hazzan. In 1889 a newspaper named La Nouvelliste, which remained in existence 30 years, was founded. Another weekly, El-Messeret, which exhibited a Turkish nationalistic tendency, began to appear in 1897 in Ladino and Turkish. The continuation of Me-'Am Lo'ez by Isaac Magriso (from the end of Exodus) and a translation of Esther appeared in Izmir (1864). In Istanbul from the 19th century most books, pamphlets, and literary magazines were published in Ladino. The most important publisher was Benjamin Raphael b. Joseph, who between 1889 and 1928 produced at least 30 books. Among the many periodicals that appeared in Istanbul the oldest were Journal Israélite (1841–60), by Ezekiel Gabbai; La Luz de Israel ("The Light of Israel"), by Leon Ḥayyim Castro, published from 1853; El Tiempo, whose first editor (1871) was Isaac R. *Camondo and last (from 1889), David *Fresco, the greatest of the Ladino writers. The Al-Sharkiyah ("The Eastern") appeared from 1869 in four languages: Ladino, Turkish, Greek, and Bulgarian (all in Rashi script). The following newspapers and weeklies should also be mentioned: El Nacional (1871), El-Telegrafo (1872), and El Amigo de la Familia (1881).
The pioneer of the Ladino press in Salonika was Judah Nehamah (1826–1899), who published in 1865 the first scientific monthly in Ladino, El Lunar ("The Month"). It contained articles on history, philosophy, astronomy, law, commerce, and art. It published biographies of Jewish personalities and a translation of a history of the universe (as a serial). La Epoca (from 1875) was a periodical devoted to political, commercial, and literary subjects. In 1910 it became a daily and the elite of the Jewish authors in Salonika contributed to it. The newspapers Selanik appeared (1869) as an official organ of the Ottoman government in four languages (but in Hebrew characters): Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, and Ladino. It was issued by the order of Midhat Pasha, called the father of the Revolution of the Young Turks. He was appointed governor of Salonika in 1873. Among the periodicals which appeared in other towns, one that is important as a source for Jewish history is the Yosef Da'at ("The Progress") edited by Abraham Danon in Edirne (1888). Many other periodicals and newsletters in Ladino, Greek, Turkish, French, and Italian, which began to appear at the end of the 19th century and later, belong to contemporary history. In 1899 Avram Leyon and Avram Ibrahim Naon edited in Istanbul a new journal, Ceride-i Lisan, in Turkish with the purpose of making Turkish a living language among the Jews; however it met with only limited success. In Sofia, El Amigo del Puevlo was published in Ladino from 1890 to 1899. Baruch Mitrani published the monthly Hebrew-Ladino Be-Mishol ha-Keramim in the 1890s. La Boz de Israel was put out in Bulgarian and Ladino by Yehoshua Kalev after 1896. El Progreso appeared twice weekly, starting in 1897. La Verdad was published by Abraham Tajir from 1898 to 1910. Ladino journals were published also in Jerusalem and Egypt.
Jewish physicians and state councilors were active in the sultan's court throughout the Ottoman period, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries. Among the important ones was Jacob Pasha (Hekim Yakub, the physician to the sultan Murad ii and his son Mehmed ii). He was granted tax exemptions for himself and his descendants in perpetuity. Jacob converted to Islam at an advanced age and was appointed vizier before his death in the early 1480s. At the same time (c. 1481) the Portuguese physicians Ephraim ben Nissim Ibn Sanchi and his son Abraham also served at the court. During the 16th century the most significant physicians at the court were the members of the *Hamon family, Joseph and his son Moses of Granada (who served the sultans *Beyazid ii, *Selim i, and *Suleiman i, the Magnificent) and the grandson and great grandson, Joseph and Isaac Hamon. Joseph *Hamon accompanied Selim i in 1516 to Egypt and Ereẓ Israel during his conquests. Moshe* Hamon brought benefits to Jews in the empire such as his activity to prevent blood libels (see above).
There were also prominent Jewish businessmen and bankers who held focal positions in the financial centers of the empire – the treasury and lease of taxes. During the reign of Suleiman i, Don Joseph Nasi was influential at court. Nasi was a principal spokesman in foreign affairs and exerted himself on behalf of Jews. He was involved in the efforts to free the anusim imprisoned in *Ancona, the Papal state, and to organize a Jewish economic ban on the city. Selim ii made him ruler of the island of Naxos and of the other Cyclade islands, and elevated him to the rank of duke. Nasi built a luxurious palace for his family at Belvedere, on the shores of the Bosporus. He helped the poor and supported the Portuguese anusim who settled at the time in the Ottoman Empire. He also assisted his mother-in-law, Gracia Mendes, in her philanthropic activities. Don Solomon ibn Yaish, a Crypto-Jew who reached Turkey in 1585, was also close to the sultanate and received the rank of duke of the isle of Mytilene. He helped the poor of Safed and Turkey, and assisted the *Jabez family, printers in Istanbul. R. Moses Almosnino enumerates a list of court Jews in Istanbul who helped him obtain the Writ of Freedem (mu'afname) from the sultan for the Jewish community of Salonika: Joseph Nasi, Judah Di Sigura, Abraham Salma, Meir Ibn Sanji, and Joseph Hamon. Other royal physicians at Suleiman's court included Don Gedaliah *Ibn Yaḥya, Abraham ha-Levi Migas and Moses Bataril. Generally, these court Jews were very wealthy and tried to help their brethren in Istanbul and in other Ottoman Jewish communities by using their political connections. From 1564 Solomon Ashkenazi served as the personal physician of the sultan and was sent by Sultan Selim ii to arrange the peace treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Venice in 1573; thanks to his activity, the order of Venice to expel its Jewish residents was rescinded. The female physician Boula Eksati, wife of the Solomon *Ashkenazi, was an expert in pox diseases and healed Sultan Ahmed i (1603–17). Solomon Ashkenazi was the close adviser of the vizier Mehmed Sokolli during the reign of Selim ii, and maintained his position during the reign of the sultan Murad iii. Three known Jewish women holding the title *kiera (kira) achieved great influence at the courts of the sultans in the 16th century: Strongila (Fatima), Esther *Handal, and Esperanza *Malchi.
Another active Jewish diplomat at the court was Don Solomon Ibn Ya'ish, who had previously been called Alvaro Mendes (1520–1603). He settled in Istanbul in 1580 and served the sultans Murad iii (1574–95) and Mehmed iii (1595–1603). He became duke of the island of Mytelene (Midilli). With agents throughout Europe, he gained substantial wealth for himself and acquired valuable information about international developments for the Sublime Porte. One of his diplomatic achievements was establishing close diplomatic relations between the Ottoman Empire and England. Another famous person serving at the court of Murad iii was the physician Moses Benveniste, who dealt also with diplomacy until he was exiled to Rhodes in 1584. At the end of the 16th century David Passi also served at the court. It seems that he converted and was appointed grand vizier under the name Halil Pasha. At the beginning of the 17th century the palace medical staff had consisted of 41 Jewish physicians, but by the mid-17th the Jewish medical staff was reduced to only four Jews. Still, Jews served at court until the second half of the 18th century and even in the beginning of the 19th. Sultan Ibrahim i (1630–48) sent his Jewish diplomat Samuell Markus to Madrid. Moses ibn Judah Bikhri and his son Judah, born in Amsterdam, were envoys of Turkey in the time of Sultan Mehmed iv (1648–87). The Italian Israel Conegliano (Conian; c. 1650–c. 1717) settled in Istanbul in 1675 and became the physician of Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha, but was also consulted by Sultan Mehmed iv (1648–87). Despite the economic and political decline of the Jews in the 18th century, the sultans continued to employ persons from the Jewish community as physicians and advisers. The physician Tobias b. Moses *Cohn was the physician of the vizier Mehmet Rami, the grand vizier of Mustafa ii (1695–1703), as well as of Ahmed iii (1703–30).Tobias retired in 1714; Naphtali b. Mansur was the close adviser of Baltaji Ahmed Pasha. A physician named Benveniste attended the vizier Sivas Pasha; he had great influence upon the policies of the realm. Daniel de *Fonseca, of Portuguese origin (c. 1668–c. 1740), settled in Istanbul in 1702 and served as a physician and diplomat to the French Embassy, and in 1714 became the physician of Ahmed iii until 1730. Other Jewish court physicians during the reigns of Mahmud i (1730–54) and Osman iii (1754–57) were Isaac Ḉelebi, Joseph Rofeh, David Halevi Ashkenazi, and Judah Handali. Eliezer Iskandari was physician to Sinan Pasha, the Egyptian viceroy and one of the grand viziers in the time of the sultan Murad iv (1623–40) and of his son Mehmed iv (1648–87). He was also adviser on Jewish affairs. Judah Baruch served as sarraf bashi to Sultan Mahmud i (1730–54), using his position to dissuade Maria Theresa from her plan to deport all the Jews of Austria.
Meir *Adjiman was appointed banker of the Sublime Porte by Selim iii (1789–1807) and had great influence in the government. Adjiman was murdered by the Janissaries and the office was given to his two nephews Baruch and Jacob *Adjiman who were active on behalf of their fellow-Jews. These two were killed by the sultans Selim iii and Mustafa iv. The son of one of them, Isaiah *Adjiman, was appointed in their place, but he too was put to death by Mahmud ii. The high-ranking Ḉelebi Siman Tov Shaki was one of those who came and went in the royal court. He and Solomon Camondo, of the well-known family, purchased the concession for the sale of gum from the government. Ezekiel Gabbai was the royal banker and manager of the sultan's affairs (sarrāf bashi). His grandson, Ezekiel Gabbai, also served in the highest offices during the reign of the sultans Abdul-Aziz and Abdul-Hamid. He brought great benefits to his coreligionists and was the head of the community of Istanbul. There were wealthy and influential Jews not only in the capital city but also in the offices of chancellor of the pasha's exchequer, master of the mint, and the offices of bankers in other countries of the empire. As already stated, a large number of prominent physicians, specialists in different branches of medicine, served at the courts of the sultans, the viziers, and the valis. This important office furnished them with a high personal status and also with the ability to exercise influence at the royal court on behalf of Jews throughout the empire. The Jewish physicians wore different clothes from other Jews, and instead of the yellow hat wore a tall pointed scarlet one. Some of them were freed from burdensome taxes. Many Jewish translators served the Ottoman authorities and European ambassadors and consuls, while others served European agencies as diplomats, such as Taragano family members who served Britain as translators and as vice consuls in Çanakkale. Some members of the Piccioto family also served during the 18th and 19th centuries as consuls of certain European states in Aleppo.
During the reign of the sultan Abdul-Hamid ii (1876–1909) the attitude of the Sublime Porte toward the Jews was positive and there were four Jewish representatives in the first short-lived (1877–78) parliament, the mejlis mabʿuthān, in which minority groups also participated. However, the authoritarian regime of the sultan led him to disregard the constitution which he had proclaimed, so that it never became truly effective. Abdul-Hamid attempted to buttress his power by imposing a strongly centralized rule. Free intellectual and national impulses in his empire were hampered. The *Ḥibbat Zion movement, the *Bilu aliyah, and Zionist aspirations met with not only local opposition from the Arabs in Ereẓ Israel, but even more with opposition from the Ottoman government in Istanbul. The attempts of Theodor *Herzl to change the attitude of Abdul-Hamid and his viziers were of no avail. Aliyah to Ereẓ Israel was severely restricted and could only be maintained due to the corruption of the bureaucracy. In spite of this, many schools in the Ottoman Jewish communities were established by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, which spread secular culture among the students. The majority of the 403 teachers who were trained in Paris between 1868 and 1925 were born in the Ottoman Empire. Seventy percent of the female teachers were Ottoman residents. Many retired teachers who had served the Alliance for decades became notables, journalists, heads of communities, and politicians. Most mass education in the majority of the communities continued to take place in the Alliance schools or in Alliance-run or -influenced talmudei torah until the end of World War i. Many Jews adopted the French language as their medium of cultural and intellectual life. During the latter half of the 19th century some maskilim acted in the communities, such as Rabbi Abraham Danon from Edirne, who composed and published a number of works in Hebrew. In 1879 he founded the society for the Friends of Enlightenment (Dorshei Haskalah). The society sought to bring to Ottoman Jewry the Enlightenment movement from Western Europe. Among the new maskilim in the communities were Salomon Rozanes from Bulgaria, Abraham Galanté from Turkey, and Joseph Nehama from Salonika.
Some members of the Doenmeh sect took an active part in the formation of the ideology of the Ottoman Society of Union and Progress, which was the mother of the constitutional revolution against Abdul-Hamid and his government (1908). It is known that some prominent Jews were also members of the society, e.g., R. Ḥayyim *Bejerano (c. 1846–1931). However, the story that the revolution of 1908 was a "Jewish-Masonic plot" received wide circulation. Originating among various clerics and nationalists, the false tale about the Jewish origin of the revolution was taken up by some British circles and during World War i seized upon by Allied propaganda as a means of discrediting their Turkish enemies. As the Young Turks had been very successful in their propaganda among non-Ottoman Muslims, it seemed a good idea to demonstrate that they themselves were neither Turks nor Muslims. A characteristic statement is found in a book by an English author published in 1917: "… David belongs to the Jewish sect of Dunmehs. Carasso is a Sephardini Jew from Salonika…." Professor Bernard *Lewis says that no doubt Turkish-speaking Ottoman Muslims of Balkan and other origins played a part in the movement. "There seems, however, to be no evidence at all, in the voluminous Turkish literature on the Young Turks, that Jews ever played a part of any significance in their councils, either before, during or after the Revolution.… The Salonika lawyer Carasso … was a minor figure. Javid … was a doenmeh … and not a real Jew; he seems in any case to have been the only member of his community to reach front rank …" (B. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 207–8). In any case, later developments in the Republic of Turkey indicate that the attitude of the Young Turks toward the Jews as a nation was not influenced by the part supposedly played by Jews in the origins of the society.
At the end of the 19th century, Ottoman Jewry constituted the fifth largest Jewish community in the world, after those of Russia, Austria-Hungary, the United-States, and Germany. It numbered in 1895, according to the Ottoman census, 184,139 persons, and increased to 256,003 in 1906, before the loss of territories in Macedonia and Thrace in consequence of the Balkan Wars in 1912–13. The great majority of the Jewish population was poor and little educated. They were a single group, but there were controversies between traditionalists and modernists in the communities. Most of the rabbis and scholars made efforts to accept modern trends and to solve social and family problems affected by modernism and secularism. Such a trend can be seen in the responsa literature of the period and in lectures by well-known rabbis. In 1892 the Sephardim celebrated 400 years of settlement in the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turk Revolution and the Constitutional Period that followed the Hamidan absolutism in 1908 and 1909 guaranteed associative rights to Ottoman subjects despite some restrictions. This caused an awakening of the Jewish communities which reorganized their associations and created new ones. These associations included also sports and several Zionist organizations whose activities until World War i focused in particular on the revival of the Hebrew language. Within the community of Istanbul the Zionists tried to act against the ḥakham bashi and the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Zionist associations occupied a middle ground between tradition and modernity. During the last two decades of the empire, the handful of Jews who were involved in general state politics, usually at the side of Turkish nationalists, acted on a strictly individual basis. Most of the Jews in the empire, excluding the Jewish community in Ereẓ Israel, remained largely indifferent to any direct political involvement.
Jews served actively in the Ottoman army during the Balkan Wars and during World War i, and they also strove to demonstrate their loyalty to the government by getting young non-Ottoman Jewish volunteers to enlist in the military in order to demonstrate the community's determination to join the war effort. Jewish bankers in and out of the empire and Jewish charitable organizations provided money for wartime expenditure. Following the Ottoman entry into the war on the side of Germany and Austria on November 11, 1914, Jewish subjects of enemy countries were required to close their stores and shops and leave the empire, with some 2,000 colonists from Ereẓ Israel going overland from Jaffa and Tel Aviv to northern Ereẓ Israel and Damascus, while 11,277 went by ship to Alexandria. The Ottoman government allowed Jews to remain as long as they adopted Ottoman citizenship. The government also allowed Jewish foreign educational and charitable institutions operating to continue as long as they were managed by Ottoman Jews. In 1915–16 the Jewish population of Ereẓ Israel suffered starvation, the plague, and other diseases, such as typhus, and cholera. American Jews, via the American ambassador to the Porte, Henry *Morgenthau, and German Jewish organizations sent food and money to the Jewish residents of Ereẓ Israel during these years. Jews throughout the empire suffered, along with other elements of the population from various developments during the war, including deportation of Jewish populations from the war zones of Eastern Anatolia, Thrace, *Gallipoli, and later Ereẓ Israel, But since most Jews lived outside the war zones and were helped by food shipments from American Jews, few Jews died in comparison with other groups of the population.
[Yaacov Geller and
Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg /
Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]
For generations, Ottoman Jews nurtured deep feelings about the idea of the Return to Zion, which were manifested in Jewish tradition and religious beliefs. By contrast, their attitude toward political Zionism was conditioned by the policy of the Ottoman government. Ottoman Jewry was noted for its loyalty and was in no position to dissent. Thus throughout his negotiations with the Turkish government, Herzl could not expect the assistance of any Ottoman Jew. In fact Moses Halevi, the chief rabbi in Constantinople, warned the chief rabbi in Jerusalem, Jacob Saul Elyashar, not to become involved with a movement to which the sultan objected. Elyashar, determined not to incur the government's displeasure, avoided meeting Herzl.
It was not until after the Young Turk Revolution of July 24, 1908, that the climate of opinion became more favorable. Early in September both Ahmed Riza, a prominent Young Turk leader (later president of the Chamber) and editor of Meḥveret, and Tewfik Pasha, the foreign minister, made exceptionally friendly statements about Zionism and were willing to lift former restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine. Ḥayyim Nahoum, the chief rabbi of Turkey, confirmed to Victor Jacobson, head of the Zionist Agency in Constantinople, that the new régime viewed Jewish settlement in Palestine with favor, although they would not allow Palestine to become politically autonomous. Jacobson, on his part, took great pains to dispel the notion that Zionism entertained separatist aspirations or ran counter to Ottoman interests. His efforts, as well as those of *Jabotinsky, who assisted him, bore fruit, since there was much latent sentiment for the idea of settlement in the Holy Land; the Jewish community of Salonika in particular proved a tower of strength.
There were approximately 80,000 Jews in Salonika, out of a total population of 173,000. Jacob Meir, their chief rabbi (later Sephardi chief rabbi of Palestine), was very sympathetic to Zionism; so was Saadiah Levi, the editor of L'Epoca, the local Jewish paper, and Joseph Na'or, the respected mayor of Salonika. But the greatest asset was Emmanuel Carasso, a prominent figure in the Young Turk movement and a deputy for Salonika in the Ottoman parliament. He thought that the leadership of the Committee of Union and Progress (cup) was not as hostile to Zionism as was generally assumed, although Zionist aims should be made more palatable to it. Of equal importance was the conversion to Zionism of Nissim Matzliah and Nissim Russo, both of whom were deputies to the Ottoman parliament. They were members of the small group that founded the cup and despite their youth were very influential. Matzliah was secretary of the cup and later also of the parliament.
Like Carasso, Russo and Matzliah saw no incompatibility between patriotism and interest in Palestine. They were eager to convince Turkish politicians that opposition to Zionism was based on a misconception. In a meeting which took place on December 31, 1908, in the presence of Jacobson and Jabotinsky, they declared that they had decided to join the Zionist Organization and found an Ottoman branch, provided it would disclaim any separatist political aims. They suggested that the cup should first be won over and, through it, the parliament and consequently also the government. Hilmi Pasha was singled out in particular. As the most influential statesman in the parliament and minister of the interior, he was the "man of the future." Russo was his former secretary and hoped to sway him. Jointly with Matzliah he considered submitting a memorandum to the cup and the Ministry of the Interior and, in order to keep the public in Istanbul better informed, they thought it absolutely essential that the Zionists publish a paper.
Behor Effendi, who in 1908 was elected senator (the only Jew to attain that eminence), became appreciably friendlier. This was also true of Faradji, who thought that the development of an intellectual center in Palestine was of crucial importance to world Jewry; the absence of antisemitism in Turkey made the idea realizable. This coincided with the proposal made by Carasso early in February 1909 to found an Ottoman Immigration Company for Palestine and Turkey in general.
Russo and Matzliah soon approached a number of prominent cup leaders, such as Ahmed Riza, Enver Bey, and Talaat Bey, and found them quite sympathetic; the most explicit statement was made by Nâzim Bey, a leading member of the Unionist Central Committee. He would have liked to see six to eight million Jews in Turkey; they were the "most reliable element." He approved of Carasso's plan and was willing to join the board of the proposed Immigration Company, but with regard to Palestine he would allow no more than two to four million Jews to come; settlement in excess of this number would constitute "a danger."
Russo and Matzliah had hardly taken stock of the situation when the Young Turks staged their second coup in April 1909, which brought in its wake a radical change in direction. Promises of equality for all Ottoman subjects without distinction of religion and race became invalid and slogans like Freedom and Liberty were discarded. Ottomanism gave way to Turkism, and the dream of a free association of people in a multinational and multi-denominational empire vanished forever. Turkey became a centralized state, and for the non-Turkish nationalities this was a crippling blow.
Attitudes toward Zionism also hardened. In consequence Ottoman-Jewish leaders became reserved, and even Carasso, Matzliah, and Russo remained aloof. David Fresco, the editor of El Tiempo, the Judeo-Spanish periodical, with whom Jacobson had planned in 1908 to co-edit a paper, turned against the Zionists and in a series of articles – from December 1910 to February 1911 – accused them of disloyalty to Turkey.
In 1912–14, Turkish policy toward Jewish settlement in Palestine changed markedly and pari passu Ottoman Jewry adopted a friendlier tone. But it was not until 1918 that they were able to come out openly in favor of Zionism.
Publication of the Balfour Declaration, coupled with the conquest of Jerusalem by the British, made restoration of Palestine to Turkey unlikely. To Talaat Pasha, the grand vizier, the only option that remained open was diplomacy. On January 5, 1918, he met German-Jewish leaders in Berlin and agreed to resuscitate the defunct Ottoman-Israelite Union for Immigration and Settlement in Palestine. Thereafter, he delegated to Emmanuel Carasso, his confidant, the task of negotiating with the German-Jewish leaders on the creation of the Jewish Center in Palestine under Ottoman sovereignty. Carasso considered the plan advantageous to Turkey. It also had a strong personal appeal for him; he had no difficulty in reconciling his duty as a Turkish patriot with that of a nationalist Jew.
Talaat invited the German-Jewish delegation (vjod), which included the Zionists, to come to Constantinople in order to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion. Once again, Carasso had to work out the details. Accordingly, the Settlement Company was to be given the right to acquire land, administer concessions, regulate Jewish immigration and settlement, and grant local autonomy to individual settlements, so that in due course, the Jews would become a majority in the country. In Carasso's opinion – and so he had told the grand vizier – the fear that the Jews would ultimately go their own way had little substance. Should Turkey remain weak she would lose Palestine to the Arabs anyhow, whereas Jewish help in making Turkey a viable state was worthy of consideration. Once Turco-Jewish cooperation was established, a relationship of trust was likely to develop, and separatist tendencies would die out.
Nahoum also acted as one of the chief intermediaries between the Turkish government and a German-Jewish delegation. The negotiations proved abortive but indicative of the new spirit that prevailed among Ottoman Jews was Nahoum's statement, made a few years after the war, though under changed conditions:
Jewish aspirations in Turkey center on the restoration of Palestine. This back-to–the-land movement was the most important factor in the awakening of the desire for the repopulation of Palestine; it was proved that the regeneration of Palestine was possible. The Balfour Declaration became the basis for the settlement of the Jewish question, and today the Jews of Turkey do not fail to cooperate with all their might with the rest of the Jews in the intellectual, economic, and commercial restoration of Palestine/Israel.
[Isaiah Friedman (2nd ed.)]
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"Ottoman Empire." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire
"Ottoman Empire." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved June 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire
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Type of Government
The Ottoman empire was an Islamic sultanate—a hereditary monarchy—that lasted six hundred years and at the height of its power spanned three continents. Founded in 1300 and officially dissolved in 1922, it was led by powerful Islamic princes, or sultans, and imperial court ministers, who combined the practices of previous Islamic, Byzantine, and Central Asian empires within its highly developed political, economic, and social institutions.
The nomadic people known as Turks emigrated from Central Asia to Anatolia—a vast region between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea that is now modern-day Turkey—in the eleventh century, fleeing the advances of the Mongol Empire to the east. The Seljuk Turks abandoned their nomadic ways soon after reaching Anatolia, eventually founding their own sultanate near the border with Byzantium. The Seljuks adapted well to their new sedentary lifestyle, administering an Islamic empire in Anatolia, parts of Persia, Armenia, Syria, and Mesopotamia.
By the thirteenth century, however, the Seljuks were in decline, their sultanate reduced to a vassal state of the Mongols. Around the year 1300, several tribes of nomadic Turks joined together behind an elected chieftain, Osman I (1258–c. 1326), who began the conquest of neighboring territories from his home in Bithynia. Osman’s conquests were the beginning of the empire that would bear his name.
From 1300 to 1481, Osman I and his successors expanded the empire through war, alliance, and outright purchase of lands until the Ottomans controlled nearly all of Anatolia. An alliance established in 1346 with remaining factions of the Byzantine Empire gave the Ottomans a foothold on the European continent at Gallipoli, from where the empire eventually built a strong enough navy to challenge the naval powers of the Mediterranean.
The Ottoman Empire integrated ethnic and religious populations throughout southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and much of North Africa. Its governmental and social structure, as well as its military organization, combined long-established practices of previous regional empires. Classical Islamic empires, such as the Abbasids, based administrative, religious, legal, and educational systems on the practice of Islam and on Sharia, or Islamic law. The empire’s military organization and tactics echoed those of earlier nomadic Central Asian empires. Ottoman court hierarchy, as well as methods of local governance in its European provinces, was influenced by Byzantine, Serbian, and Bulgarian imperial practices.
The sultan, who stood at the head of the empire, held a hereditary position as absolute monarch for most of the empire’s history. Following the Turkic tradition, upon the sultan’s death, all the sultan’s male relatives had a legitimate—and some would say equal—claim to the throne. The sultan’s wishes as to his successor were largely considered irrelevant, and there was no process—as there was in other Islamic empires for leaders called caliphs—by which an heir could be identified by religious law.
This situation often resulted in violent and bloody struggles surrounding any transfer of power. It was accepted that a new sultan would kill his brothers and their male children upon assuming power, to ensure the empire’s stability. After the mass slaughter when Mehmed III (1566–1603) assumed the throne in 1595—nineteen male relatives, many of them infants, were killed—this tradition began to be seen as barbaric, within and without the empire. Subsequent sultans often found it sufficient to imprison, rather than kill, their male relatives.
Ottoman governance granted the sultan absolute rule and the right to possess and use all potential sources of wealth within the empire. He exercised ultimate military, legal, and religious authority. The sultan was the chief lawmaker of the state, with absolute power to write secular laws as long as they did not conflict with the principles or details of Sharia. The sultan worked with the ulema , expert theologians and jurists to interpret the Sharia. The ulema consisted of qadis , or judges, who were in charge of interpreting the law, as well as trying and adjudicating cases, and muftis , who served as legal consultants and gave rulings on points of law.
Imperial reforms in the mid-fifteenth century established a central advisory council, the Divan-i-Hümanyun , consisting of a grand vizier, judge advocate, minister of finance, and secretary of state. All council members were appointed by the sultan and served only at his pleasure.
Governance of the empire was not highly centralized—for many aspects of administration, local or provincial governments were left to their own devices. Among the most important forms of local government and organization were the self-governing religious communities called millets , in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians each retained their own religious laws and customs and took responsibility for matters not handled by the imperial government, such as marriage, divorce, birth, death, health, education, and local justice. Although they practiced local self-government, residents of millets continued to live under the general protection of the sultan.
One of the empire’s most important social and economic institutions was the mukâta’a . The term referred to lands and estates distributed from conquered territories and sometimes given in lieu of salary to Ottoman administrators. Mukâta’a generally took one of three forms. Timars were conquered lands divided and distributed to military officers who assumed peacetime administrative responsibilities in return for the right to all profits produced by the timar. An emanet was a less common form of trusteeship in which a landholder was paid a salary in return for administrative duties, but all profits from the land were returned to the state. Finally, an iltizam , or “tax farm,” was the empire’s most common form of mukâta’a. A combination of timar and emanet, its proprietor turned over a portion of revenue to the state while keeping the remainder as a form of compensation for administrative work.
Late in Ottoman history, the empire became a constitutional monarchy—with a representative bicameral parliament and a ministerial bureaucracy—under a constitution first put into effect in 1876. However, under that constitution the sultan still retained all of his powers, had the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers at will, and had no accountability to any body. In February 1878, after less than fifteen months, Sultan Abdülhamid II (1842–1918) suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. It would take thirty years for the Ottoman Freedom Society to restore the 1876 constitution in what would be known as the Young Turk Revolution. Amendments in 1908 to the restored constitution deprived the sultan of most of his executive authority.
Political Parties and Factions
The Ottoman Empire’s devşirme system—taxation of non-Muslims in the form of male children taken as slaves—began in the Balkans, where young Christian men were converted to Islam and taken into a lifetime of imperial service. The devşirme system provided recruits for the Janissary corps, an elite infantry that guarded the person of the sultan. They adapted quickly to the use of firearms, and, although they were technically the sultan’s slaves, they were paid high wages for their loyalty. Later they were trained for influential palace duties, and many finally entered the civil service.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) led a movement for the liberalization of Ottoman society and re-establishment of the parliamentary system. Known as the Young Turks, this group was successful in restoring parliamentary rule in 1908. The CUP, whose ideology was based on Turkish nationalism, had great difficulty with the Ottoman Empire’s multi-ethnic nature and proved to be a repressive regime. A coup of the Ottoman government by top CUP officials in January 1913 put the party in complete control of the empire, leading to the empire’s disastrous participation in World War I and the genocide of up to one million Armenians. After World War I the CUP was destroyed and its leaders were considered war criminals.
The empire nearly met a premature end under the rule of Bayezid I (c. 1360–1403), the first Ottoman leader to be recognized with the title of sultan. Bayezid was a skilled soldier, but he was outwitted and captured by the Mongol warlord Timur (1336–1405) at the battle of Ankara in 1402. His capture and subsequent demise threw the Ottomans into a state of chaos that lasted more than a decade as Mehmed I (d. 1421) and his three brothers divided the empire and fought for dominance. With help from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus (1350–1425), Mehmed re-unified the empire and was able to declare himself sultan in 1413.
In 1453 Mehmed II (1432–1481) and Ottoman armies took full control of the city of Constantinople, renamed Istanbul under their rule. The sultan proceeded to make the city the cosmopolitan capital of the empire, populated by representatives of all the empire’s various peoples and religions. Their intermingling was to set a powerful example for the peaceful ethnic and religious integration of the rest of the empire.
Mehmed II consolidated the empire’s authority and began the process of codifying its political, administrative, religious, and legal institutions. He promulgated a series of secular laws, called kanun , which were later organized into law codes, or kanunnames , and completed during the mid-sixteenth century.
Beginning in 1520, the reign of Süleyman I (c. 1494–1566)—known to Europeans as “the Magnificent,” and to Ottomans as “the Lawgiver”—marks the Golden Age of Ottoman power. Süleyman replaced the harsh sultanate of his father and predecessor, Selim I (1467–1520), with an era of reform, including religious and educational development, while continuing the empire’s policy of aggressive expansion. Selim had added Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Algeria to the empire, and Süleyman went on to conquer Hungary, Tripoli in North Africa, and Mesopotamia through to the Persian Gulf.
Süleyman was the first Ottoman sultan to also hold the title of caliph, or lord of all Muslims. His expansion and rule, however, were followed by a period of decline and military losses. The defeat of the Ottoman navy by a coalition of Venetian, Spanish, and papal forces at Lepanto on the western coast of Greece in 1571 is viewed by historians as the beginning of Ottoman decline.
From 1839 through 1876, a period known as the Tanzimat , the empire attempted to arrest its decline through reform and more liberal policies. This led to the creation of the first Ottoman constitution in 1876, during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II, who suspended the constitution shortly thereafter and returned the empire to autocratic rule. The 1908 Revolt of Young Turks against Abdülhamid re-enacted the constitutional reforms begun in 1876 and extended them: the supremacy of the sultan was replaced by that of the parliament.
The empire came to an end with the overthrow of Mehmed VI Vahideddin (1861–1926) in 1922. After its rise to power in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the empire had remained isolated from European movements such as the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment, causing Europeans to lose sight of the empire’s advanced administrative and governmental structures, its religious tolerance and ethnic diversity, and its considerable cultural and scientific achievements.
After World War I European powers took possession of Ottoman finances, and various treaties partitioned former Ottoman territories in the Middle East into European “spheres of influence,” beginning the process of enclosing them within the borders of modern nation states. French influence began in Syria and moved east to Mosul in present-day Iraq. British influence began on the island of Cyprus and in Egypt and reached across Mesopotamia to Baghdad. Russia was promised Istanbul and the Straits of Bosporus, which later came under international control.
In 1923 an Ottoman general, Mustafa Kemal (1881–1938), who became known as Atatürk, established the present-day republic of Turkey in the original homeland of the Ottomans.
Faroqhi, Suraiya. The Ottoman Empire and the World around It . London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2004.
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: A History of the Ottoman Empire . New York: Basic Books, 2007.
Lewis, Bernard. Istanbul and the Civilization of the Ottoman Empire . Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.
"Ottoman Empire." Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire-1
"Ottoman Empire." Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments. . Retrieved June 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire-1
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For more than 600 years, the Ottoman Empire ruled large parts of southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and east Africa. Founded in the late 1200s, the empire achieved its greatest size and strength during the Renaissance, when it extended well into eastern Europe. Its efforts to expand farther brought it into conflict with the Holy Roman Empire* of the Habsburg dynasty and with other European powers.
Historical Overview. By the late 1400s the Ottoman Turks* had created a vast empire. In 1453 their ruler Mehmed II (1432–1481) used overwhelming force to conquer Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire*. Within 30 years the Ottoman Empire had taken over several states in eastern Europe, including Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. It also dominated the states of Montenegro and Albania, but they remained independent. Venice surrendered some of its outlying land to the empire in 1479. Under SÜleyman I (ca. 1495–1566), the Ottomans hoped to advance even farther into Europe. But in their attempt to do so, they encountered the Holy Roman Empire ruled by Charles V.
The two empires first confronted one another in Hungary, where the Turks destroyed the armies of Hungarian king Louis II in 1526. The Ottomans then laid siege* to Vienna in 1529. To end the siege and free the city, the Habsburg rulers had to recognize Ottoman rule over most of Hungary and parts of Romania. Ottoman conquest of other areas of eastern Europe and lands bordering the Black Sea followed.
The conflict between the Ottoman and Habsburg empires extended to the Mediterranean Sea, where the Turkish navy fought against the forces of Spain and Venice. These battles ended in the destruction of the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto (1571). Many scholars regard this defeat as the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman State and Society. Ottoman rule brought a long period of peace to the lands controlled by the empire. Although Ottoman rulers held almost absolute power, they governed efficiently and allowed the practice of different religions.
The Ottoman sultan* acted as military chief, lawgiver, and religious leader. As the commander of the armed forces, the sultan led his armies in jihad, or holy war, against unbelievers. As lawgiver, he served as the head of legal and religious hierarchies* that controlled almost every aspect of human conduct. The sultan exercised these extensive powers through a system of government established by Mehmed II in the late 1400s.
The basic law of the Ottoman Empire—the Kanoun Namé—established the state structure and regulated the social order. A central council assisted the sultan. He appointed all the council members, including the grand vizier, who was the chief minister of state and leader of armies in the field. High-ranking administrators called pashas ran the large cities. These officials served only at the sultan's pleasure.
The Ottomans divided society into two main categories. The first distinguished Muslims from non-Muslims, while the second identified those connected with the state and its institutions—known as "professional Ottomans"—from the rest of the population. Most "professional Ottomans" came from a system of slavery in which Christian male children had to convert to Islam. These slaves served in the military, worked at the palace, or performed other tasks. Many became trusted government officials.
Under Ottoman rule religious groups could practice their faith freely. At a time when Jews suffered persecution throughout Europe, the Ottoman Empire welcomed them for their skills and for their contacts with the outside world.
Ottoman Impact on Europe. The Ottoman Empire's conquest of Constantinople and its control of the eastern Mediterranean undermined the dominant position of Venice and Genoa in regional trade. Merchants from these Italian cities were forced to look elsewhere for markets. The Ottoman expansion also increased Western fears of the Muslims and may have contributed to the Holy Roman Empire's decision in 1555 to recognize the legal rights of Protestants. Needing the support of Protestants in fighting the Turks, the Habsburgs took steps to come to terms with the followers of Martin Luther.
Many Europeans ignored the Ottoman Empire's advanced methods of government, its tolerance of ethnic and religious diversity, and its scientific and cultural achievements. Instead, they condemned the Ottoman conquests as brutal and viewed the Turks as a threat to Christian civilization. Others, such as Luther and Desiderius Erasmus, saw the Turks as a sign of God's anger toward Europe and urged repentance and reform. However, as the Renaissance progressed, the threat of the Ottoman Turks became of less concern to Europe.
- * Holy Roman Empire
political body in central Europe composed of several states; existed until 1806
- * Ottoman Turks
Turkish followers of Islam who founded the Ottoman Empire in the 1300s; the empire eventually included large areas of eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa
- * Byzantine Empire
Eastern Christian Empire based in Constantinople (a.d. 476–1453)
- * siege
prolonged effort to force a surrender by surrounding a fortress or town with armed troops, cutting the area off from aid
- * sultan
ruler of a Muslim state
- * hierarchy
organization of a group into higher and lower levels
"Ottoman Empire." Renaissance: An Encyclopedia for Students. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire-0
"Ottoman Empire." Renaissance: An Encyclopedia for Students. . Retrieved June 14, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire-0
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OTTOMAN EMPIREthe reforms of selim iii and the serbian uprisings
balkan enlightenment and the greek war for independence
the reforms of mahmud ii and the tanzimat
the bulgarian national movement and the millet system
the eastern crisis (1875–1878) and ottoman constitutionalism
the rise of albanian and turkish nationalism
from the young turk revolution to world war i
The last century and a half of the existence of the Ottoman Empire (1299–1922) has been subsumed under different rubrics and accorded different essences. Some see it as the expression of the Eastern Question—that is, the involvement of the European Powers in the problems of the disintegrating Ottoman state, which became the dominant concern of international relations in the nineteenth century. In this approach, the Ottoman Empire is allotted a rather passive role as, in the worst case, a Great Powers' pawn and, in the best case, a reluctantly accepted partner in the system of the international balance of power. While political and diplomatic works dominate in the treatment of the Eastern Question, it is also part and parcel of the economic and colonial expansion of the Great Powers (Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Germany). Works exploring these aspects, often within world systems theory, center-periphery relations, and colonial and postcolonial studies, emphasize the growing economic dependence of the Ottoman Empire—financial, commercial, and industrial—on the industrialized European West. Within the rubric, however, relatively little attention is accorded to internal developments.
For others, this period is characterized chiefly by the response of the Ottoman elites to the internal and external crises of the Ottoman polity. The focus is on the modernizing attempts at reform, the efforts to centralize the empire and curb the centrifugal tendencies of powerful provincial landlords (ayans), and adapt the state institutions to the new challenges coming from the west. Often this interpretation takes the shape of a linear teleological progression from the earliest hesitant Europeanizing endeavors in the eighteenth century, through the broad reform program and especially the constitutional movement of the nineteenth century, to the Young Turk Revolution (1908), and finally to the radical reforms of Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938) after 1923. This approach focuses mostly on the imperial center: the centralizing attempts of the sultans, the formation of a modern state bureaucracy, the elaboration of new institutions. It usually gives Balkan nationalisms and other minority movements short shrift, explaining them as mechanical exports of a western ideology or a combination between a handful of separatists buttressed by Great Power manipulation and incitement.
Another approach focuses on nationalism as the dominant ideology and practice that transformed the map of Europe and resulted in the disintegration of all European empires. As an ideology whose central goal and successful outcome was the creation of a series of independent nation-states, Balkan and Arab nationalisms are an organic element of Ottoman history. This approach is preferred in the historiographies of the secession states with their almost exclusive focus on the emergence, maturation, and victory of national-liberation struggles, a grand narrative in which the reform movement figures only as background, and the tribulations of the Eastern Question as side-effects that favored or hampered the ongoing progression of the national movements. Skewed as this approach may be, it is no less legitimate than the other two, which tend to underestimate the internal roots and power of nationalism and its effect on the reform movement.
Only by taking account of the complex dialectical interaction of all three processes can a balanced portrait of Ottoman developments in the long nineteenth century begin to appear. Several times during this period the three processes are intertwined in such a way that they produced a dramatic cumulative effect. This article attempts to link all three, and show how profoundly inter-related they all are. Still, it focuses primarily on the course and interplay between the westernizing reform movement and nationalism. The international aspect, which was instrumental for and intimately linked with the other two, will be duly invoked, but it is treated in more detail in a separate entry on the Eastern Question.
A caveat is in order about the geographical coverage of the article. The emphasis falls on developments in the European possessions of the empire (the Balkans), not only because this is an encyclopedia of Europe. With the exception of the Egyptian crises, events in the Near or Middle East became central and involved the European powers directly only at the beginning of the twentieth century, especially with the rise of Arab nationalism and the final disintegration of the empire during the First World War, the expansion of the British and French colonial empires, and the introduction of the mandate system. Otherwise, the Eastern Question of the nineteenth century was synonymous with the process of secession of the Balkan nations from the Ottoman Empire. The very name Eastern Question was born at the time of the Greek war for independence in the 1820s.
The Balkans had always been the demographic and economic center of the empire. In the middle of the nineteenth century, they comprised half of the Ottoman population (totaling around twenty-five million), and their population density was twice that of Anatolia, six times that of Iraq and Syria, and ten times that of the Arabian peninsula. Even on the eve of the Young Turk revolution, when the Ottomans were left with very few European possessions, the Balkan population still made up a good quarter of the total. In the nineteenth century, the Balkans continued to be the empire's agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing center, where the first factories and railroads made their appearance.
The end of the eighteenth century saw the first confluence between the three processes. The Ottoman retreat from Central Europe after the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) dramatically deepened after the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774), the loss of the Crimea in southern Ukraine to Russia in 1783, and thus Ottoman monopoly over the Black Sea. This reintroduced the necessity for reforms, which had been put on hold for the several peaceful decades (1739–1768). Pre-eighteenth-century reforms aimed at resuscitating the institutions of the Golden Age of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The first serious rethinking of the empire's position in an international context, and a readiness to emulate foreign ways, came at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The military factor was decisive in shaping an awareness of the western challenge, and eighteenth-century reforms affected mostly the military sphere, although this period saw also the introduction of the printing press and borrowings in elite culture and fashion. The inspiration for reforms came mostly from French sources and models. At the same time, the innovations produced a strong reaction of vested conservative interests.
During the reign of Sultan Selim III (r. 1789–1807), eighteenth-century reforms reached their culmination and most sustained effort. For the first time, regular and permanent Ottoman embassies in the major European capitals were established (1792). The Russian annexation of the Crimea (1783), which gave Russia an outlet to the Black Sea, and another war with Austria and Russia (1787) provided the impetus for military reform. Selim opened military schools and set up a new infantry, the famous nizam-i cedid (new order), with European-style uniforms, imported rifles, and French instructors. By 1807 it numbered twenty-five thousand and was successful against Napoleon at the battle of Acre (1799). The janissary corps, the ominous infantry that had been the backbone of Ottoman success in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries but which, by the eighteenth century, had become militarily obsolete and a major financial burden, viewed the nizam-i cedid as such a threat, however, that Selim was forced to disband it. He was still deposed in 1807 and killed in 1808.
Selim's reforms coincided with the outbreak of the first national rebellion in the Balkans. The First Serbian Uprising (1804), which started as a spontaneous revolt against the misrule of the dahis (local janissaries opposed to Selim III), was led by the charismatic Karadjordje Petrović (1760s?–1817). The insurrection received ardent support from Serb merchants living in the Habsburg empire and attracted volunteers among the different Orthodox Balkan communities. In 1805, the Sublime Porte (or Porte, the name given to the Ottoman government) proclaimed jihad (holy war) against the Serbian insurgents. The Serbian revolt is a good illustration of the complex entanglement of Balkan events in international affairs. It coincided not only with a Russo-Turkish war (1806–1812), but also with the intricate political relationships in the Napoleonic era. Trying to benefit from Great Power rivalries, Karageorge maneuvered between Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. His decision to take on Russia was instrumental in transforming the initial demands for autonomy to full independence. Serbia had over-thrown Ottoman control by 1807, but the deteriorating relations with Napoleon forced the Russians to conclude a peace treaty with the Ottomans, and the Porte launched a huge counter-offensive in 1813. The uprising was put down with such cruelty and vengeance that the population soon rose in a second revolt, under the leadership of Miloš Obrenović (1780–1860). While he deftly exploited the international situation after Napoleon's defeat, Miloš was careful not to pressure the Porte with unrealistic demands. His tactics paid off well: in 1830 Serbia was recognized as an autonomous hereditary principality. The subsequent decades saw the very slow transformation of the traditional system of local self-governing communities into a centralized bureaucratic state. In the economic sphere, the poor and egalitarian frontier society of Serbia began making modest strides in modernization only in the last decades of the nineteenth century, after it received full independence by the Treaty of Berlin (1878).
The Serbian revolt of 1804, unlike its Greek counterpart of 1821, has often been dismissed as a spontaneous rising in a backward agrarian region without
a long-term national program and careful organizational preparation. Confining the Serbian revolt exclusively to the framework of the Belgrade district, however, consciously misses the point that both the Balkan Enlightenment as well as the national idea had made important strides among the Serbian elites of the adjacent Habsburg provinces who were in immediate and organic contact with their co-nationals in the Ottoman realm. What deserves stressing, however, is the combination between strong social discontent and fermenting national consciousness, even when the two were not always represented by the same social strata.
The eighteenth century saw the emergence and consolidation of an indigenous Balkan entrepreneurial merchant class. This group was made up almost exclusively of non-Muslims, for whom the military and the state bureaucracy were closed, and who were preferred partners in the expanding European trade. The "conquering Balkan Orthodox merchant" who came to dominate the imperial trade included the most diverse ethnic elements—Serbs, Vlachs, Bulgarians—but Greeks dominated, so much so that by the second half of the eighteenth century (and until the first decades of the nineteenth) Greek had become the lingua franca of Balkan commerce and, to a great extent, of education and cultural production in general. The growing wealth of this entrepreneurial class, accompanied by increased self-esteem, made the arbitrariness and lack of security of property and life in the Ottoman Empire particularly intolerable. These merchants—well traveled, cognizant of foreign habits and manners, speaking and reading several languages—engaged or fostered others to engage in literary and educational pursuits. They provided the material support for schools, libraries, and numerous publications, and supported the secularization of school curricula. Thus (barring exceptions), one can speak of the commercial basis of the Balkan Enlightenment, as well as its strong diasporic character. In terms of expression, there was a growing interest in history, an influence coming from both the Enlightenment obsession with the classical past as well as from romanticism. Historicism, a common feature of the Balkan Enlightenment, became also one of the building blocks of the separate Balkan nationalisms.
The event that attracted the greatest contemporary attention and gave birth to the notion of the Eastern Question was the Greek War for Independence (1821–1828). Ideologically and politically, it was prepared by the whole current of ideas and events of the previous half-century: the spread of the Enlightenment and the ideas of the French revolution; the example of the Serbian uprising; the rise and strength of philhellenism in Europe. Of particular importance was the ideology of figures like Rigas Velestinlis (also known as Rigas Pheraios, 1757–1798) and Adamántios Koraïs (1748–1833). The "Society of Friends," founded in 1814 in Odessa, the center of a powerful Greek commercial diasporic community, organized the revolt. It was shaped on Masonic principles, and worked to achieve a broad Balkan Christian network with the aim of creating a Christian pan-Balkan state.
The Greek uprising came at a most inopportune moment of the international conjuncture. The principles of the Holy Alliance, announced at the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815), were strictly observed by the Great Powers and, despite pro-Christian sympathies, all denounced the Greeks as illegitimate rebels against a legal monarch. At the same time, hundreds of philhellenic volunteers from all over Europe flocked to Greece, joining the rebellious armies that at first gained considerable victories. Quite remarkable was the steady number of volunteers from other Balkan ethnic groups who fought actively on the side of the Greeks: the Bulgarians alone numbered over fourteen thousand.
In subsequent years, however, the Greek insurgents displayed an enormous degree of factionalism, and Mahmud II (1785–1839) managed to enlist the military support of Egypt. This would have provided the fatal blow against the insurgents, were it not for the intervention of Russia, Britain, and France. Following Russia's victorious war against the Ottomans (1828–1829), the London Protocol of 1830 sanctioned the formal secession of the first independent nation-state carved out of the Ottoman Empire. Created as a poor rump state, with roughly a quarter of the ethnic Greeks, in the next decades independent Greece developed as a protectorate of Russia, Britain, and France, making slow economic and social progress, and dominated by powerful irredentist feelings focused on recovering the territories inhabited by Greeks and still under foreign Ottoman rule. Its national doctrine, based on the assumption of the unbroken community of modern Greece with its classical and medieval past, and the redemption of territories inhabited by Greeks, aimed at the resurrection of the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital. It reaped slow but steady success toward the end of the century, reached its culmination during the Balkan wars, and found its fiasco with the Asia Minor invasion in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922).
Well into the Greek war of independence, the Ottoman Empire experienced what came to be known as the Auspicious Event: the destruction of the janissary corps by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826. Mahmud II had barely survived the conservative coup of 1808 and, while sharing his cousin Selim III's reformist views, he patiently waited for eighteen years, in the meantime building alliances and securing loyalties. The janissary corps had long lost its military significance, and its refusal to fight or poor performance against the Russians (1806–1812) and the Greek rebels in the 1820s alienated their support to the point where Mahmud II succeeded in annihilating them once and for all. The road was open for more sustained changes and, as usual, military reform was at the center. A new army along European lines was constructed, this time with Prussian instructors; a territorial militia emulating the Prussian was set up. Increased attention was devoted to education, both for military and civilian purposes. The changes in the central administration saw the gradual formation of ministries of the western type. A new stratum of bureaucrats was recruited and trained in western ways and languages (primarily French). A new postal system was set up; the first Ottoman newspaper appeared; European clothes were introduced. Mahmud II's reform reached also into the legal and agricultural systems. Most importantly, Mahmud II succeeded largely in his greatest goal: to centralize the empire by curbing the local power of the ayans, guilds, religious leaders, and tribes.
The big challenge came from Egypt. After Napoleon's failed invasion (1798–1799), Mehmet Ali (r. 1805–1848), an Ottoman officer of Albanian descent, became Egypt's virtual ruler. In 1824 he came to the rescue of Mahmud II against the Greeks, who were saved from destruction only by the intervention of the three Great Powers: Russia, France, and Great Britain. Muhammad Ali had implemented Europeanizing reforms with French help and built a strong army. Having most of the Arab provinces under his control, twice during his reign he challenged Mahmud II's power (1832–1833 and 1838–1839). Only Great Power involvement, seeking to keep the status quo, stripped Mehmet Ali of his gains. In the following decades Egypt moved further away from Ottoman control: a nominal possession after British occupation in 1882, Egypt was finally lost in 1914, to become a British colony.
At the height of the second Egyptian crisis, Mahmud II died and was succeeded by Abdülmecid I (r. 1839–1861). Determined to continue his father's work, alarmed by the military situation, and seeking to impress the western powers, the new sultan staked on the reformists within the bureaucracy, first and foremost Mustafa Reşid Pasha (1800–1858), and later his followers Ali Pasha (1815–1871) and Fuad Pasha (1815–1858). A proclamation of principles, the Hatt-i Şerif of Gülhane (1839), was promulgated, guaranteeing security of life, honor, and property, regular taxation and army recruits, and, most importantly, equality of all religions before the law. The latter was a radical breach with the ancient Islamic tradition, and proved extremely controversial. While it gave impetus to the non-Muslim communities, it strengthened the conservative Islamic opposition. The subsequent period, known as the Tanzimat (Reorganization, 1839–1871), continued and deepened the transformation begun in the previous years. It expanded significantly the area of state activity from its usual focus on the military and finance, into education, public works, law, administration, diplomacy, and, less successfully, the economy. It also marked the ascendancy of the bureaucracy and its emancipation from the sultan's control. During the Crimean War (1853–1856), at a time when Ottoman military weakness was exposed again, and in an attempt to mollify the Great Powers, the Porte reaffirmed its commitment to reform with the proclamation the Hatt-i Humayun (1856), which reiterated and developed the stance of the 1839 edict.
The Tanzimat has left a legacy of controversial assessment. Some saw it as too drastic, others as palliative and insufficient. Often, unfairly, it was accused of lack of genuine commitment, of using reforms simply to placate the Great Powers. Part of this came from the chronological coincidence between moments of international or domestic crises and reform spurs. This should be read rather as a tribute to the tactics of the reformists, who had to overcome strong opposition, and usually were able to gain the upper hand at such moments. Ultimately, it demonstrates the intimate interrelationship between all above-mentioned processes. By the 1860s, a new generation of reform-minded bureaucrats, with new perceptions of government, progress, and nation, had appeared. Impatient with the growing (especially financial) dependence on European powers, and with the autocratic tendencies of the later Tanzimat reformers, this new generation of reformers advocated democratic, constitutional ideas. They also harbored the utopia of creating a common Ottoman consciousness, something that disregarded the already advanced processes of nationalism. Known under the name of Young Ottomans, these reformers engaged passionately in literary activities, often in European exile. Their movement coincided with the intensification of another national cause in the Balkans, the Bulgarian.
Nationalisms in the Balkans are coterminous with the gradual disintegration of two imperial formations: on the one hand, the Ottoman state; on the other hand, the Orthodox community, institutionally encompassed in the Rum millet (the Roman or Greek nation, that is, the Orthodox Christians conquered by Islam). It is the Bulgarian case that paradigmatically illustrates this double process. The millet system (i.e., the division of the population into self-governing confessional bodies beyond the Muslim community) by the middle of the nineteenth century encompassed the Jews, the Armenians or Monophysites, the Catholics, the Protestants, and the largest of them all, the Greek-Orthodox (Rum) community. As a largely Orthodox people, the Bulgarians belonged to the Rum millet. Although there had been patriotic stirrings from the second half of the eighteenth century, a sustained movement for educational and religious emancipation began in the 1820s. Until the Bulgarians began to organize their own secondary school system, the existing Greek establishments fulfilled the need for secular education among their own commercial elites. Between 1830 and 1870, a network of close to two thousand Bulgarian schools appeared, offering free education and entirely supported by the local communities. Guilds and town councils financed schools and other cultural institutions, and provided scholarships for training of teachers and students abroad. This was accompanied by the feverish publishing of textbooks, reference books, translations, and original literary works, as well as the launching of a lively periodic press. There is no doubt that this cultural revival, as well as the underlying economic progress, was directly stimulated by the favorable conditions introduced by the Tanzimat reforms.
During the 1860s and 1870s, the church struggle came to a head. It did not spring from any kind of doctrinal issues, but was essentially a political movement for a separate church. It was triggered by protests in the 1820s against the venality of the Greek clergy, in support of appointing Bulgarian high priests, and in support of the use of Bulgarian in sermons, but there were no demands for a separate church until the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1860 the Bulgarians in Constantinople virtually declared their ecclesiastical independence, and in the next decade they seceded unilaterally from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This secession was not immediately recognized. The Greek Patriarchate objected strongly to losing a sizeable number of its flock after it had effectively lost the Greeks of independent Greece. The Russians, on whom Bulgarian hopes had been pinned, were averse to seeing a blow to Orthodox unity. Finally, the Porte enjoyed the opportunity to manipulate a seething dispute between two of its important communities. The conflict was finally resolved in 1870 with a sultan's firman (decree), which officially recognized the Bulgarian church and established a separate Bulgarian millet. This was an unprecedented move, effectively changing the rationale of the millet system, which had been conceived as the system of institutionalizing and managing religious, not ethnolinguistic groups. The Bulgarian church was instituted as an exarchate, and was promptly excommunicated by the Greek Patriarch. Of the seventy-four Orthodox dioceses, twenty-five immediately joined the exarchate, eight were divided, and, most importantly, the rest could be transferred to either jurisdiction with a vote of the flock. This started a passionate struggle exacerbating the already much deteriorated relations between Greeks and Bulgarians. In all fairness, it can be concluded that the rise of Bulgarian nationalism entailed first the process of differentiation within the Orthodox commonwealth.
One of the reasons the Porte finally supported Bulgarian church independence in 1870 after having disregarded their numerous petitions for years, if not for decades, was that in the meantime the Bulgarian political movement, which had gained momentum in the 1860s, was becoming swiftly radicalized. With the activities of Georgi Rakovski (1821–1867), Liuben Karavelov (1834–1879), Vasil Levski (1837–1873), and Khristo Botev (1848–1876), the independence movement received serious impetus and began the preparations for a national revolution.
In the mid-1870s, the Eastern Question acquired particular relevance and reached a new stage. Not only did it create or reaffirm de facto independent Balkan states, but it also marked a new level of Great Power involvement. In 1875, the situation turned explosive when the Christian peasants in Bosnia-Herzegovina rebelled against their Muslim
lords. While the uprising was characterized by the explosion of a social question, it was also informed to some extent by religious opposition and awareness of pan-Serb and pan-Slav national programs. It was soon followed by a more mature political revolt in Bulgaria, prepared by revolutionaries with the express purpose of Bulgarian independence. While the April Uprising of 1876 proved abortive and was crushed mercilessly, its bloody demise caused a wave of public opinion in Europe favorable to the Bulgarian cause.
It is in these circumstances that one can observe the playing out of the third symbiotic process, the Ottoman constitutional movement. In December 1876, a conference of ambassadors met in Constantinople to discuss the Eastern Crisis and propose remedies, mostly by creating autonomous districts. In a move to counter the dictate of the Great Powers, the Porte responded by promulgating the first Ottoman constitution. It was obviously motivated by Great Power pressure to placate the national movements, but also by the
modernizing faction, which in the constant struggles within the Ottoman elites had been pushed to the side and now used this event as an opportune moment to act. The constitution was largely the work of Midhat Pasha (1822–1883), a prominent reformer who had been governor in Bulgaria and Iraq, intermittently occupying other high positions, and who became the leader of the Young Ottoman movement. The Ottoman constitution of 1876 was limited and the first parliament short-lived. Abdul-Hamid II (r. 1876–1909) dissolved it in a year, but it became the rallying cry and program of generations of reformers to come.
The display of reform as a deterrent to European pressure also played its role. Sensing Britain's reluctance to press the Porte further, Abdul-Hamid II took an intransigent position toward the proposals of the ambassador's conference, which precipitated Russia's declaration of war (1877–1878). Russian troops eventually reached the outskirts of Constantinople and imposed the Treaty of San Stefano (March 1878). It gave full independence to Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania, which had unified the autonomous principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1859. Its chief and most controversial provision was the creation of a large Bulgarian state, following the frontiers of the Bulgarian exarchate, and therefore perceived by the Bulgarians as the true and just recreation of their nation-state. This proved unacceptable to the other Great Powers, who feared that it would unduly strengthen Russia's strategic advance toward Constantinople and the straits. As a consequence, the Congress of Berlin (June–July 1878), while reaffirming Serbian, Montenegrin, and Romanian independence, divided Bulgaria in three parts, and incited future Bulgarian irredentist feelings aimed at redeeming the territories under foreign rule. The first stage of this struggle was completed when the autonomous Bulgarian Principality was unified with Eastern Rumelia (1885). Macedonia, on the other hand, remained the open wound of the Bulgarian national program. The Treaty of Berlin also endorsed the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Habsburgs, the culmination of a trend from the end of the seventeenth century when the Ottomans, having reached Vienna, began their gradual retreat and the Habsburgs expanded eastward at their expense. The treaty also authorized the occupation of Cyprus by the British, marking the direct involvement of this power in the spoils of the empire.
The Eastern Crisis of the 1870s represents a milestone in Balkan and European history. For Europe, it marked the disintegration of the Three Emperors League of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, and the intensification of Austrian-Russian rivalry in the Balkans that had developed in the aftermath of the Crimean War. It marked the beginnings of a reversal in British policy, which heretofore had been the staunchest supporter of Ottoman integrity, and the beginnings of a German predominance in the empire. It also set the tone for the intensification of Balkan national conflicts, which culminated in the Balkan Wars.
The three decades of Abdul-Hamid II's autocratic rule, the empire's growing economic dependence on Europe, and the continuing secessionism of its minorities triggered strong opposition among young army officers and educated Turks, especially students in the military and medical schools. In 1889, a clandestine organization, the future Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), was formed. Also known as the Young Turks, its members were by no means ideologically unified: there was a strong cleavage between Turkish nationalism (led by Ahmed Riza [1858–1930]) and Ottoman liberalism (led by Prince Sabaheddin [1877–1948]), as well as between the Paris exiles and the locally based secret revolutionary cells. This cleavage explains, on the one hand, the strong support that the CUP received at first among some minority groups—Jews, Armenians, Albanians, Kurds, Greeks, and other Christians—and their subsequent alienation when faced with the Turkifying drive of the Young Turks. They were all unified, however, in their drive to restore the constitution.
The last two decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the rise of two Muslim nationalisms: Turkish and Albanian. Coalescing somewhat later than the Christian nationalisms of the empire, they were undoubtedly reactive and preservationist and, at the same time, emulated the national movements of the Christian minorities in many ways. By the turn of the century, three ideological trends in public life served as poles of cohesion among Muslim Turks: traditional Islam, Ottomanism, and, increasingly, Turkish nationalism, whose major exponent was the sociologist Mehmet Ziya Gökalp (c. 1875–1924), a member of the CUP. While also focused on the preservation of the empire's territorial integrity, Turkish nationalism was premised on an ethnolinguistic identity, promulgating the hegemony of the Turkish element within the empire and stressing the links to other Central Asian Turkish-speaking peoples (unlike Ottomanism, which strived to create a type of Ottoman citizenship regardless of ethnic and linguistic distinctions).
Albanian nationalism was the only Balkan nationalism without a secessionist program, because its predominantly Muslim population saw its best protection under the umbrella of the retreating Sublime Porte. The Albanian cultural revival began in the 1860s among its Italian diaspora, inspired by the ideas of the Italian movement for unification, the Risorgimento. Politically, the Albanian Prizren League (1878) opposed any attempt to annex Albanian-populated territories by the newly independent Balkan Christian states and aimed at achieving cultural autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. At first tolerated and even encouraged by the Ottomans, the League made great strides in establishing a network of schools and publishing numerous books and newspapers. By 1886, however, the Porte cracked down and the use of Albanian was banned, triggering a wave of emigration. In the following decades, the activities of the Albanian diaspora intensified. At the same time, part of the remaining Albanian elites became outposts of extreme conservatism, supporting the counterrevolution against the westernizing efforts of the Young Turks, whereas others were radicalized over the Young Turks' nationalist policies.
It was around the Balkan wars that events in Albania came to a head. With the immediate danger of partition stemming from the plans of the victorious Balkan alliance, the Albanians in 1912 were forced to give up their traditional strategy of autonomy and opt for independence. More importantly, international circumstances were favorable: Albanian independence was strongly advocated by both Italy and Austria-Hungary, to prevent Serbian expansion to the Adriatic. With the Treaty of London (1913), Albania was recognized as an independent nation-state under a six-power guarantee.
The decade leading to the Great War was punctuated by the Young Turk Revolution (1908) and the Balkan wars (1912–1913). The unresolved minority question in Macedonia, the activities of Greek and Bulgarian guerrillas, and especially the drastic repression of the Ilinden revolt (1903) precipitated Great Power pressure to resolve the Macedonian crisis. CUP officers argued that only a return to constitutional government could offset European intervention. By 1906 revolutionary cells had spread among serving officers in field formations, prominent among them Mustafa Kemal, the future Atatürk. These patriotic Muslim Turks were calling for the efficient defense of the empire, which could be achieved only by toppling the incompetent government. Japan's triumph over Russia (1908) was seen not only as a victory of an Oriental power against a European one, but also as the defeat of an autocrat by a constitutional regime. In July 1908, a genuine revolutionary situation forced Abdul-Hamid II to restore the constitution, and after the unsuccessful attempt at counterrevolution in 1909, he was deposed in favor of Mehmet V (r. 1909–1918). By that time, the nationalist faction among the Young Turks had taken the upper hand. It embraced repressive and centralizing policies and imposed a program of Turkification not only upon the non-Muslims, but tried to force the Turkish language upon Arabs, Albanians, and other non-Turkish Muslims. From 1913, after it had crushed all internal opposition, the Young Turks ruled through the Triumvirate of Cemal, Enver, and Talat.
The Young Turks could not stop the disintegration of the empire. In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria proclaimed full independence, and Crete, although unsuccessfully, declared union with Greece. In 1911 Tripolitania was lost to Italy. Most devastating were the Balkan wars (1912–1913), both politically and demographically, resulting in the emigration of considerable Muslim masses into Anatolia. In 1912 Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Montenegro created a common front with the purpose of expelling the Ottoman Empire from its last European possessions. In this they largely succeeded, and all of Ottoman Europe, with the exception of Constantinople and its immediate hinterland, was lost. Only the Second Balkan War between the allies over their spoils allowed the Ottomans to retrieve Eastern Thrace, and the final borders coincide with the early twenty-first century's Turkish frontiers in Europe. The road to World War I and the final demise of the empire in the Middle East was set.
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"Ottoman Empire." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ottoman-empire-0
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