History of Macedonia 1354-1833

A. Vacalopoulos


III. The repercussions of the Battle of Ankara (1403) on affairs in Northern Greece


5. The Turkish administration of Macedonia (from the end of the 14th century)



Since the time of the first settlement of Turkish colonists at the close of the 14th century, the territory of Macedonia had been divided up into hasses (public lands belonging to the Sultan, his children, and the highest members of the élite), and into ziamets (large fiefs) and timars (smatl fiefs), which belonged to the sipahis (cavalry soldiers, see fig. 32). The lion's share of Central Macedonia naturally fell to the Turkish



Fig. 32. Sipahis

Fig. 32. Sipahis.

(A. Pallis, In the Days of the Janissaries, London 1951)



war-lord, Evrenos Bey. The extent of his estates in Thessalonica and throughout Macedonia can be gauged from the books of the Turkish land-register of Thessalonica, now to be found in the Historical Archive of Macedonia.


Macedonia was comprised of the beylerbeylik of Rumeli, presided over by the beylerbey with his seat at Adrianople to begin with, but later at Philippopolis and Sofia [1]. Chalcocondyles reports that after the Fall



1. N. Todorov, The demographic situation of the Balkan Peninsula during the 15th and 16th cents (in Bulgarian), «Annals of the School of Philosophy of the University of Sofia» LIII, 2 (1 959) 196.





of Constantinopie, there were two supreme commanders (i.e. beylerbeys): the one for the East and the other for the West, on the lines of the Byzantine system of administration. The territory which fell under the jurisdiction of the beylerbey of the west (or Europe) was divided into thirty-six sanjaks (literally 'standards'). The pashas of the larger cities like Thessalonica and Skopje (which enjoyed a certain measure of independence) would in times of war accompany the sanjak-beys of Europe on campaign [1]. The Turkish pasha of Thessalonica may be said to have taken the place of the city's former Byzantine governor.


Under Murad II, we come across Christians of Greek and Slav descent among the Turkish timariots in Macedonia — at Kastoria, Nevrokop, Sérres and Veles. Α number of their descendants were converted to Islam, as for instance Mousa, the son of Petko; Bayezid, the son of Augustus; and Umur, the son of Theodore [2]. These were former pronoiars (holders of military fiefs) of Byzantine Macedonia who, fearing the force of Turkish oppression, had offered no resistance to the conqueror, but had resorted instead to a policy of treachery or settlement with the Turks whereby they would offer their submission on condition that their fiefs continued to be recognised [3]. The Christian sipahis (hırıstiyan sipahiler) and timariots (hırıstiyan timar erleri), and the voynuks, etc. of the Balkan Peninsula [4] were exempt from certain taxes [5]. They were obliged, however, to accompany the Sultan on his campaigns, for all the hatred they must have felt towards him for his harsh rule. Speaking about this class of soldiery as a whole, composed as it was of the various Christian races of the Balkan Peninsula — Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Vlachs, Dalmatians — Brocquière wrote in 1432: "I have no doubt that if these men saw the Christians, especially the French, advancing in force against the Sultan, they would turn their backs on him and render him much harm" [6]. John Torzelo put the number of Christian sipahis and their



1. Chalcodondyles, Darkò edit., vol. 2, pp. 197-198. For a list of the sanjaks in the first decades of the 16th cent. see Todorov, ibid., p. 197.


2. H. Inalcık, Stefan Duşan᾽ dan osmanlı imparatorluğunda XV asırda Rumeli᾽de hırıstiyan sipahiler ve menşeleri, «Fuad Köprülü Armağanı», (Istanbul 1953) 218.


3. See also Β. Α. Gvetkova, Fresh evidence about the Christian sipahis of the Balkan Peninsula during the period of Turkish occupation (in Russian), «Viz. Vrem.» 23 (1958) 184-197.


4. See Inalcık, Stefan Duşan᾽ dan, «Fuad Köprülü Armağanı», pp. 213-214.


5. See Inalcık, Ibid., pp. 228-229, 246-247.


6. Bertrandon de la Brocquière, Voyage, pp. 579, 610.





men as high as 50.000 [1]. They constituted a class of Christian soldiery whose existence depended entirely upon the tolerance of Turkish rule. At the slightest suspicion or hint of rebellion they could lose their lands. They thus found themselves bound by their immediate economic interests to the new political régime. The recognition and employment of the Christian timariots as auxiliary forces greatly facilitated the spread and consolidation of Turkish conquest; [2] for otherwise a large proportion of the Turkish forces would have been obliged to remain inactive in the numerous fortresses throughout the empire [3].


In the surviving Turkish census-registers of the middle of the 15th century, many of the Macedonian villages are recorded along with their timariots [4]. Among these are included the names of several Greek and Slav military landowners (pronoiars) who had been allowed to hold on to their estates, because they had not offered any opposition to the Turks and had tolerated their sovereignty. Further, there is mention of a certain Hasan Maniases as being the timariot of the village of Yanésevo (Metallikó) in the district of Avret Hisar (Gynaikókastro) during the reign of Mehmed II. The surname Maniases indicates that the man must have been a former Byzantine pronoiar who had become a Moslem. While the surrounding villages and the Kilkís district were inhabited mainly by Moslems, in the village in question Christian families outnumbered the Moslem by more than ten to one; [5] and this undoubtedly explains why Hasan Maniases was allowed to retain his timar. In the village of Eriklíou, moreover (not in the district of Véroia, as the editor of the documents supposes, but of Langadá) there is mention of a timariot by the name of Sahin, the priest's son, whose timar was taken away in 1449, because, it appears, he did not make any contribution towards the protection of the neighbourhood and the imposition of law and order [6]. Again, in another district, probably Doïráni, we hear of a Slav timariot named



1. Bertrandon de la Brocquières, Voyage, Schefer edit., p. 265.


2. Compare the similar situation in Albania: H. Inalcık, Timariotes chrétiens en Albanie au XV siècle d'après un registre de timars ottomans, «Mitteilungen des osterreichischen Staats - Archivs» 4 (1951) 122, 123, 124, 128.


3. H. Inalcık, Ottoman Methods of Conquest, «Studia Islamica» 2 (1954) 107, 114.


4. Regarding the timars of the districts of Thessalonica, Avret Hisar and Dráma, see Turkish Sources, vol. 13, pp. 388-479. See photocopies of them in the 2nd vol., Sofia 1966, pp. 321-390.


5. Turkish Sources, vol. 13, p. 393.


6. Turkish Sources, vol. 13, p. 395. See the book review of B. Demetriades in «Balkan Studies» 81 (1967) 211.





Stanislav, whose timar was taken off him in 1451 to be given to the Turk, Abdel Aziz [1]. Another timariot, Nikola, is described as a Serb who has joint-ownership of a timar with Kostas the son of Kâfir Hamja, probably a renegrade Greek [2]. It is interesting to note that the son appears here under his Christian name, which leads one to surmise that he had not embraced Islam despite the conversion of his father (although the latter still bears the appellation 'kâfir', i.e. infidel).


It was not long before these Christian timariots, or their immediate descendants, went over to Islam. The former bondsmen-tenants (δουλοπάροικοι) of Byzantine times became in turn the well-known serfs (κολλίγοι) of Turkish times, who on their small farms (known thereafter as 'chiftliks') and using their own animals and implements, continued to cultivate the land and observe the customary obligations towards their landlords. But these peasants had to endure harsh and contemptuous treatment from the Moslems.


In the 17th century, the timariots (now composed entirely of Moslems), and the Yürüks from the neighbourhood of Thessalonica were obliged to provide a levy of 6.000 chosen men, armed and ready for war, when military campaigns were under way. There was, in addition a force of eşkincis [3], i.e. men on active service, as distinct from those who stayed behind on garrison duty in the castles [4]. The timariots and the sipahis constituted the very core of military and social organization in the Ottoman empire during the first centuries of its existence. From the 16th century, however, that edifice — for various reasons — showed signs of cracking, and this was to have serious repercussions on the plight of the Christian raya [5].



1. Turkish Sources, vol. 13, p. 397; see also p. 407 regarding another Slav timariot.


2. Turkish Sources, vol. 13, pp. 423-425.


3. Moschopoulos, Ἡ Ἑλλάς κατὰ τοῦ Ἐβλίὰ Τσελεμπῆ, ΕΕΒΣ 16 (1940) 326.


4. See the article Eshkindji in the new edit. of the Encyclopaedia of Islam.


5. Vacalopoulos, Ἱστορία, 2, pp. 14 ff.


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