Byzantium: its internal history and relations with the Muslim World

Speros Vryonis Jr.


Byzantium and the Muslim World


XII. Seljuk Gulams and Ottoman Devshirmes

(In: Der Islam, XLI (Berlin, 1965)) 


1. Gulams in Seljuk Anatolia
2. Recruitment and Organization of Seljuk Gulams
3. Gulams in the History of Thirteenth Century Anatolia
4. The Period of the Anatolian Emirates
5. The Ottoman Devshirme in Anatolia
6. Attitudes and Reaction of the Christian Populations to the Devshirme


The famous Janissary corps and the process by which it was to a certain extent supplied, the devshirme, continue to be subjects of research and comment on the part of Balkan and Ottoman historians. This is obvious in the number of articles and works which have dealt with these subjects in recent times. [1] Thus, the salient features of the system are the subject of more or less accurate knowledge amongst scholars in these fields. Nevertheless many of the more detailed aspects of the devshirme-Janissary system are only more vaguely known. Particularly striking in this respect is the failure of many scholars to utilize the Ottoman documents concerning the subject in the work of the modern Turkish historian, İ. H. Uzunçarşılı, Osmanlı Devleti Teşkilâtından Kapukulu Ocakları, 2 vols. (Ankara, 1943—1944). Other volumes, published since the appearance of Uzunçarşılı’s study, add bits of information on the subject at various points. Such are the publications by

·       L. Fekete, Die Siyaqatschrift in der türkischen Finanzverwaltung (Budapest, 1955);

·       K. Basdrabelles, Ἱστορικὰ Ἀρχεῖα Μακεδονίας. B', Ἀρχεῖον Βεροίας-Ναούσης (1598—1886), (Thessalonike, 1954);

·       G. Zoras, Χρονικὸν περὶ τῶν Τούρκων Σουλτάνων (Athens, 1958);

·       Η. Duda, Die Seltschukengeschichte des Ibn Bibi (Copenhagen, 1959).


The remarks which follow will draw on sources such as have been mentioned above and will bear on three topics : (1) Precedents for the Ottoman Janissary corps and palace system in Seljuk Anatolia, (2) Geographical areas and peoples amongst which the Ottomans levied the devshirme, (3) Reactions of Christians to the Ottoman devshirme.



1. References to this literature on Janissaries and the devshinne can be found in the following; J. Palmer, “The Origin of the Janissaries," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxxv (1953), 448—481.


Relevant sections of H. A. R. Gibb and H. Bowen, Islamic Society and the West, I, 1 (Oxford, 1950); A. Lybyer, The Government of the Ottoman Empire in the Time of Suleiman the Magnificent (Cambridge, 1913), relevant sections;

·       Bakalopoulos, “Προβλήματα τῆς ἱστορίας τοῦ παιδομζώματος," Ἑλληνικά, xiii (1954), 273—293,

·       Ρ. Wittek, “Devshirme and Shari'a," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, xvii (1955), 271—278;

·       S. Vryonis, “Isidore Glabas and the Turkish Devshirme,“ Speculum, xxxi (1950), 433 443.





1. Gulams in Seljuk Anatolia


Tho subject of gulams in Seljuk Anatolia is related first to the phenomenon of the Ottoman ajem oğlans in that it was the immediate historical precedent which inspired the Ottomans in the creation of the Janissaries and slaves of the saray, and secondly in that it shows that such gulams were raised, for the most part, in Anatolia by the Seljuks. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the Ottomans also levied the devshirme in Anatolia as well as in the Balkans.


The Seljuks of Rum were faced with many of the problems and environmental factors which confronted the other major dynasties of the Islamic Middle East, the Abbasids, Ghaznevids, Mamelukes, and others. They ruled over multi-sectarian, polyglot, and multi-racial areas, often as foreigners or new-comers themselves. This variegated environment and the problems which it presented to ruling groups were reflected to a degree in various aspects of the governmental structure. One of the more spectacular of such features was the extensive use of slaves in the governmental and military apparatus, as well as in the use of ethnic military groups. How far back such tradition in the Middle East extends it is difficult to say. Islamic potentates began to rely upon foreign slave troops as early as the ninth century, if not earlier, when the Abbasid caliphs used Turkish slave troops to counterbalance the unruliness of the Khurassanian troops who had played such an important role in bringing the Abbasid dynasty to power. The attempt of the Abbasid caliphs to free themselves of one of the groups which had helped bring them to power is a classic illustration of Ibn Khaldun’s proposition that the successful founder of dynastic rule must free himself of such a group if the dynasty is to endure. The use of gulams particularly recommended itself in such situations. That which recommended the system was that the gulams were usually recruited at a young age from an alien cultural milieu or distant geographical region, and so when the young slaves were brought to the court they could be properly trained and moulded. The result was the gulam, who because of his transplanting to unfamiliar environs became, theoretically at least, more obedient to the sultan his master, than were the indigenous Muslim subjects, and who because of his spirited and rigorous training became a capable soldier and administrator. All this was summed up in the pithy aphorism of the poet: “An obedient servant is better than one hundred children; the latter desire their father’s demise, the former his long life.” [2] In the absence of concepts



2. C. E. Bosworth, “Ghaznevid Military Organization," Der Islam, xxxvi (1960), 40—41.





and emotions attendent upon modern nationalism, and in the general absence of linguistic, ethnic, and religious unity within the area ruled by these dynasts, the gulam system attained a rather considerable achievement, at least down to the thirteenth century when so many of the dynasties based on such systems collapsed like houses of cards before the Mongol storm. On the other hand it is true that the loyalty of the gulams varied, and in some cases lead to the removal of dynasties and even resulted in the rise of ‘slave’ dynasties, viz. Tulunids, Ikhşidids, Mamelukes, etc. For a long time the Turkmens on the north-eastern borders of the Islamic world were particularly favored as gulams because of their warlike qualities. But recourse was had to many other groups... Indians, Daylamites, Tajiks, Georgians, Armenians, Greeks, Russians, and Latins. Quite often they were acquired on the slave markets of Khurassan, of the Caucausus, or of Asia Minor; or else they were captured in military raids and conquests; [3] or raised as tribute; [4] or acquired by the ruler as gifts from his own notables and from other rulers. By and large the supply of slaves was sufficient to keep the system going for centuries.


The Seljuks of Rum, after they had conquered and settled in Anatolia, found themselves in a situation similar to that which has been described in the preceding paragraphs. Anatolia in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries was not yet thoroughly Islamized and Turkified. The presence of Christian Greeks, Armenians, Georgians, and Syrians, as abundantly testified to in both Muslim and Christian sources, meant that the Seljuks of Konya were yet another example of the Islamic dynasty ruling a multi-sectarian, polyglot state. [5] In addition the unruly Turkmen tribes, who had played a very important role in the conquest and settlement of Anatolia, were not an element which readily lent itself to authority and discipline. Given these circumstances and given also the traditional patterns of Islamic statecraft of that time, it is no surprise that side by side with the Seljuk forces based on the grants of iqta there arose the military and administrative corps of gulams. There can be no doubt that the use of gulams on an extensive scale in the military and administrative



3. Bosworth, loc. cit., passim, large numbers of gulams were recruited by the Ghaznevids from the immense numbers of war prisoners which they took.


4. Ibn Khaldun, Les prolégomènes d’Ibn Khaldoun, tr. M. de Slane (Paris, 1934), I, 365—366. The provinces of Khurassan and Ghilan each had to pay a tribute of 1,000 slaves in the reign of al-Mamoun.


5. Both Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta remarked on the large number of Christians in thirteenth and fourteenth century Anatolia.





Hyntoms of the Seljuks provides the immediate ancestor of the Janissary-page system of the Ottomans. [6] The major source for the existence and activities of the gulams in the Seljuk period is the colorful Seljukname of Ibn Bibi, written at the end of the thirteenth century. [7] Here we find enough information to get an overall picture of the gulam system and its functioning in the Seljuk state. The ethnic origins of some of the gulams are mentioned, as well as the means of recruitment. There are glimpses of their education, their organization in the palace service, and their activity in the elevated governmental and military posts. Though there is little information as to their numbers, one gets a very vivid picture of their involvement and importance in political intrigues. Thus they emerge from the pages of Ibn Bibi both as individual personalities and as a group with a more or less defined composite personality. The Muslim inscriptions, as well as the vakuf documents, offer valuable supplementary material.



2. Recruitment and Organization of Seljuk Gulams


The methods of recruitment for the system seem to have been the traditional ones. The principal source of youths seems to have been the ‘domain of war’, [8] for the Seljuks were engaged in almost constant warfare and raids against the Greeks of Trebizond and Nicaea on the north and west, [9] with the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia on the south, [10] with the peoples of the Caucausus regions, [11] and with the inhabitants of the Crimea. [12] The sultans evidently exercized their right to claim



6. The tradition of gulams in government and in the military in the Islamic Middle East is described in detail by İ. Uzunçarşili, Osmanh devleti teşkilatına medhal (Istanbul, 1941) (hereafter Medhal). It is only briefly mentioned in M. H. Yinanç, Anadolunun fethi (Istanbul, 1944), p. 149, for Seljuk Anatolia.


7. An abridgement of the Persian work was edited by M. Houtsma in Recueil de textes relatifs à l'histoire des Seldjoucides, iv (Leiden, 1902). The German translation of H. Duda, Die Seltschukengeschichte des Ibn Bibi (Copenhagen, 1959), is a translation of an epitome of the original work. Volume iii of Houtsma includes the Turkish translation and adaptation of the original by Yazıcıoğlu Ali.


8. Duda, op. cit., p. 00.


9. Duda, op. cit., p. 63, after the recapture of Antalya, the families of the Christians were taken off prisoners.


10. Duda, op. cit., p. 238, mentions the taking of many slaves here during a campaign of the sahib Şamsuddin.


11. Duda, op. cit., pp. 176—178, youths and prisoners were taken from Georgia and other places in the Caucausus.


12. Duda, op. cit., p. 139.





one-fifth of the spoils according to the law of ghanimat during these raids and expeditions. [13] But gulams were also acquired by gift, [14] possibly by purchase, through the voluntary apostasy of renegades, and through the taking of hostages from other states. The latter was the case during the reign of Alauddin Kaiqobad when, after the capture of Sougdaia in the Crimea, the sons of the notables were taken as hostages. [15] There was perhaps even a levy in the form of a tax, therefore similar to the Ottoman devshirme, by which a portion of the gulams was recruited from within the Seljuk domains proper. [16] Thus the ethnic origins of the Seljuk gulams were representative of quite a variety. Possibly the most prominent ethnic group amongst the gulams was that of the Christian Greeks. This was due, no doubt, to the fact that the Seljuk state had been founded in the heart of the Byzantine Empire, Anatolia, and also due to the continuous state of hostilities which enabled the Turks to take prisoners in the north, south, and west of Anatolia. Amongst the better known of the Greek gulams were the emir Celaluddin Karatay and his two brothers, Saifuddin Karasungur and Kamaluddin Rumtaş. [17] Others of the more prominent gulams who were of Greek origin include the malikul-umera Hass Oğuz Şamsuddin [18] and the naibul-hadra Aminuddin Mikail. [19] There is an incidental reference to the gift of five Greek gulams to the caliph. [20] But Armenians must also have been numerous as a result both of the number of Armenians living within the Seljuk realms and of the numerous prisoners taken in the raids against the Cilician



13. Duda, op. cit., p. 220. After the suppression of the Babai revolt, the wives, children, and possessions of the rebels were distributed to the troops after one-fifth was set aside for the state treasury. This would imply that Turkmens were also taken into the ranks of the gulams. Duda, op. cit., p. 46, the sultan claimed one-fifth of the booty taken after the conquest of Antalya in 1207.


14. Duda, op. cit., p. 320. The begs of the borders sent slaves as gifts to the sultan. Also pp. 114, 121.


15. Duda, op. cit., p. 139. This was also practiced by the Ottomans.


16. Duda, op. cit., p. 61. Uzunçarşılı, Medhal, pp. 115—116, states this in connection with the body of igdişan, a body recruited from the male offspring of mixed marriages in Anatolia. O. Turan, “L'Islamization en Turquie au moyen age,“ Studio, Islamica, x (1959), 147—150.


17. Duda, op. cit., p. 257. “Üç selçuk sultanına sadakatle hizmet eden Emir Celâleddin Karatay'm Konydaki muhtesis medresine ait arapça vakfiyeden çıkarılan hülâsa," Konya, ii, 127—128; iii, 189·—191. O. Turan, “Celâleddin Karatay vakıfları ve vakfiyeleri,“ Belleten, xii (1948), 17ff.


18. Duda, op. cit., p. 244.            19. Duda, op. cit., p. 345.            20. Duda, op. cit., p. 114.





kingdom. [21] Zahiruddaula who played such an important role in military affairs and who seems to have been in command of the sultan’s Frankish mercenaries was a Georgian renegade. [22] For the most part, however, the sources mention the origins of the gulams only rarely, usually in connection with those gulams who attained great distinction. [23]


The slave character of the palace service, as well as of the central administration, emerges clearly, if incompletely, from the pages of Ihn Bibi. The latter historian will often, though not always, inform the reader that a particular official was a gulam. We are informed that the majority of the great emirs in the service of the state arose from the ranks of the youths taken in war and who were subsequently trained for government service. [24] So there emerges from the pages of İbn Bibi a considerable number of gulams who rose to occupy most of the high posts in the state; atabey, [25] amir-i-ahur, [26] taştdar, [27] hazinedar, [28] amir-i-davat, [29] malikul-umera, [30] igdişbaşı, [31] şarabsalar, [32] amir-i-candar, [33] emirul-isfehsalar, [34] emirul-kebir, [35] çaşnigir, [36] amir-i-dad, [37] hawaicsalar, [38] naibul-hadra, [39] etc. These high ranking



21. Duda, op. cit., p. 238.            22. Duda, op. cit., p. 335.


23. The ethnic variety amongst the Seljuk gulams was paralleled by the nature of the non-slave armies of the sultan. Aside from the Turkish spahis and Turkmen contingents from Anatolia, there were bodies of Frank, Greek, Russian, Georgian, Armenian, Khwarezmian, Baalbaki, Kıpçak, and Kurdish troops.


24. Duda, op. cit., p. 328.


25. Tutor to the prince. Such were Mubarizuddin Ertokuş, (Duda, p. 142) and Celaluddin Karatay (Duda, p. 269).


26. In charge of the imperial stables. Zainuddin Bişara (Duda, pp. 52,54).


27. In charge of presiding over the sultan's ablutions. Celaluddin Karatay (Duda, pp. 330, 210).


28. Head of the treasury. Celaluddin Karatay (Duda, pp. 210, 254).


29. Secretary of the grand vizier. Celaluddin Karatay (Duda, p. 337).


30. Overall military commander. Şamsuddin Tavtaş (Duda, pp. 247, 341), Husamuddin Amir Çoban (Duda, pp. 60, 328), Saifuddin Amir Kızıl (Duda, pp. 60, 328), and Şamsuddin Hass Oğuz (Duda, p. 244).


31. Uzunçarşili, Medhal, pp. 115—116; Duda, op. cit., p. 61, No. b.


32. In charge of the royal pantry. Fahruddin Ajaz (Duda, p. 197).


33. Head of the sultan's bodyguard. Mubarizuddin Isa (Duda, p. 59).


34. Head of the spahis. Saifuddin Karasunkur (Konya, ii, 128).


35. Kamaluddin Rumtaş (Konya, ii, 128).


36. Inspector of the sultan's kitchen and table. Mubarizuddin Çavlı (Duda, pp. 52, 54—55). Altınbe, (A. Erdoğan, “Konya ile en eski bir selçuk vakfiyle," Konya, vi, 370—375; Duda, op. cit., p. 127; O. Turan, “Şemseddin Altun Aba vakfiyesi ve hayatı," Belleten, xi (1947), 197ff.).


37. In charge of justice. Saifuddin Kajabe (Duda, p. 338).


38. Head of the royal kitchen, Duda, op. cit., pp. 265—267.


39. The sultan's vice-roy in Konya. Aminuddin Mikail (Duda, p. 297).





gulams also appear as military governors in the major cities of the state. The appearance of gulams in such a high number of the important state positions gains in significance when we consider that this number comes only from one source, a source which is not specifically concerned with reporting such information, but reports it only incidentally.


Though few exact figures appear in the contemporary sources, gulams were extensively employed by the sultans and emirs in the thirteenth century. We are told that after the capture of the city of Chilat, a troop of 1000 royal gulams was left to settle the affairs of the city. [40] In another instance there is mention of 500 serhenk. [41] On the other hand the more important emirs also had a considerable number of gulams. [42] The emirs who revolted against Alauddin Kaikobad seem to have relied primarily on their own bodies of slave troops. In the ensuing struggle between the forces of the rebellious emirs on the one hand and the forces of the sultan and those of the emir Comnenos on the other, most of the participants on both sides were gulams. After the forces of Alauddin had emerged victorious, the sultan decreed the execution of the mature gulams of the emirs and took the younger ones for his own service. [43]


Though there is no contemporary systematic description of the palace arrangement in thirteenth century Konya, enough is intimated to show that the various services connected with the palace were run and staffed by gulams. There was a palace school, the gulamhane, near the palace of the vizier, [44] where the young gulams were turned over to the babas for their education. [45] At some point in their career the youths were then apportioned out to the various palace services, which services were usually run by the more mature members of the slave corps who had achieved distinction. Amongst such posts and services which are mentioned as headed and or staffed by gulams are the following: the royal stables, royal wardrobe and cleaning service,



40. Duda, op. cit., p. 180.


41. Uzunşarçili, Medhal, p. 93.


42. Ibn Bibi seems to indicate that in some ways the gulam organization of the emirs paralleled that of the sultans. Such is the implication of Dud a, op. cit., p. 88, which seems to refer to a school for gulams in the city of Siwas.


43. Duda, op. cit., pp. 117—122, 330. On the occasion of the execution of a prominent official, his gulams were sometimes also executed. Such was the case with the retainers of Şamsuddin Hass Oğuz, Duda, op. cit., pp. 241—244. Even his sister was forced to submit to the disgraceful conduct of his opponents.


44. Duda, op. cit., p. 242.            45. Duda, op. cit., p. 330.





the treasury, secret archives of the divan, the corps of igdiş, justice, the sultan’s table and pantry, the sultan’s bodyguard, the sultan’s viceroy in Konya, the royal kitchen, the office of translations, the office of the sahib tugrai, the harem, and possibly the body of court musicians. [46] It is likely that the same situation prevailed in other positions and palace services.


In addition the Seljuk sultans possessed a considerable body of slave troops, as was customary in the Islamic world of the medieval period. The distinctions amongst these groups of slave troops have not been exactly and finally established. [47] Amongst those which Ibn Bibi names are the mafarida, [48] the gulaman-i-hass, [49] and the mullazim-i-yataq. [50] This body of royal slave troops must have been of significant number, for as we previously noted Sultan Alauddin Kaikobad sent 1000 mafarida and gulaman-i-hass to occupy Chilat. [51] Those of the gulams who rose through the palace system, who distinguished themselves, were then appointed to important posts in the palace or else in the military and provincial administration. No doubt those of the gulams of the emirs who achieved distinction were similarly advanced.



3. Gulams in the History of Thirteenth Century Anatolia


The role and importance of the gulams emerge in a few isolated historical events, which events vary from grand plots to very minor incidents. Perhaps the most illustrative case of the role of the gulams was that of the abortive revolt of the emirs during the reign of Alauddin Kaikobad. The great emirs, the çaşnigir Saifuddin Ajbe, the amir-iahur Zainuddin Bişara, the amir-i-majlis Mubarizuddin Behramsah, and Bahauddin Kutlucca had attained such power that they overshadowed the sultan. Their wealth and the number of their retainers were extensive, and by way of illustration Ibn Bibi relates that whereas the çaşnigir distributed eighty sheep daily from his kitchen, that of the sultan could distribute only thirty. As the çaşnigir had taken over almost complete control of the state, the sultan was



46. Duda, op. cit., passim, Uzunçabşili, Medhal, passim.


47. Uzunçabşili, Medhal, pp. 109—110.


48. Duda, op. cit., pp. 88—89, 252, 176. See also F. Köpbülü, “Bizans müesseselerinin Osmanlı müesseseler ine tefsiri hakkında bazi mülâhazalar,“ Türk hukuk ve iktisat tarihi mecmuası, i (1931), 242 if.


49. Duda, op. cit., pp. 88—89, 118, 150, 176.


50. Duda, op. cit., pp. 176, 253; Uzunçabşili, Medhal, 109—110.


51. Duda, op. cit., p. 180.





determined to do away with him and his powerful cohorts. But the intentions of the sultan were revealed by a courtier to the emirs. The latter, during the course of a banquet and in a state of inebriation, decided to invite the sultan to a feast at the house of Saifuddin Ajbe, to seize and bind him, and then to remove him from the throne. But one of the gulams of the emirs, who was himself quite drunk during the course of the discussion, wandered out and in his intoxicated state revealed the plot of the emirs to one of the sultan’s loyal officials. So on the next day when Alauddin was invited to a banquet by the great emirs he simply put them of and eventually retired to his winter headquarters at the city of Antalya. Here he discussed the crisis with the emir Comnenus [52] and Ibn Hokkabaz. They decided that scores should be settled with the unsuspecting emirs when the sultan and his retinue would go to Kayseri. [53] Once arrived at the latter city the sultan and his advisors made their arrangements. It was announced that henceforth each emir would be permitted to enter the sultan’s castle accompanied by only a few attendents. On the agreed day, when the emirs were expected in the palace, Comnenos and his men would secretly patrol the garden walls, while the gulaman-i-hass, the sultan’s bodygards, under Mubarizuddin Isa, and his brother, would be held in reserve. After the entrance of the emirs and their gulams into the castle, the perdedaran would lock the gates so that none could escape. As the emirs entered the castle with their gulams on the appointed day, the latter were forced to wait in the outer chambers. Then, as each emir entered, separately, he was arrested by Mubarizuddin Isa, the amir-i-candar, and his brother. The first to be seized was the çaşnigir himself, who stoically remarked, “one must uproot the old trees and put in the new ones.” Then Zainuddin Bişara, Bahauddin Kutlucca, and Mubarizuddin Behramsah were in turn seized. After this, the gulams of the sultan and those of the amir-i-dad proceeded to the outer chamber where the unsuspecting gulams of the emirs were arrested. The castle gates were opened, and the naib proceeded to the



52. On this interesting figure see P. Witter, “L'Épitaphe d'un Comnene à Konia," Byzantion, x (1935), 505—515; “Encore l'épitaphe d'un Comnene à Konia," Byzantion, xii (1937), 207—211.


53. Duda, op. cit., p. 117. It is related that they had first thought of settling with the çaşnigir and his cohorts in Antalya. But Comnenos and Ibn Hokkabaz felt that it would be difficult to do so in Antalya as Mubarizuddin Ertokuş had been serleşker there for over twenty years. This would seem to indicate that Ertokuş, a gulam by origin, as one of the leading and entrenched members of the higher administration might have felt a certain loyalty to the other great emirs, and so he was not considered a good risk.





houses of the arrested omirs, registered their possessions as property of the state, and then sealed the rooms. The houses of the emirs’ relatives, families, and gulams were plundered. As a reward for their services, Comnenos, Mubarizuddin Isa, and his brother were made personal advisors of the sultan, and Comnenos was appointed çaşnigir in place of Saifuddin Ajbe.


On the next day, while the sultan was engaged in polo, he noticed three of the lesser emirs talking secretively. So he ordered the naib to drive them out with a polo stick and then exiled them from the kingdom. Alauddin, not satisfied with his work, ordered the execution of all the gulams of the arrested emirs. Some time later the emir Comnenos appeared before the sultan and spoke; “As I, your servant, betook myself from the sultan’s castle to my home today, there accompanied me a great crowd of followers, retainers, and warriors. But now only one gulam and one groomsman have remained with me.” On being asked the reason, he replied ; “The naib Saifuddin has received permission to destroy the gulams and attendants of the emirs. When my men heard this they were stricken and said, ‘If some day some offence should be charged against you which would be grounds for an execution, the same judgement would be passed on us.. . ”’ [54] So the sultan repented. The older gulams were freed after turning over to the sultan’s treasury all their possessions. The younger gulams were divided into two groups. One of these was turned over to Celaluddin Karatay, the taştdar, for service in the taşthane, and the remainder were enrolled in the sultan’s palace school, the gulamhane, where their education was to be completed at the hands of the babas. [55]


The pervasive character of the gulam element in this episode is most striking. Ibn Bibi specifically states that one of the four conspirators, the amir-i-ahur ZainuddinBişara was a hass, [56] as were also the atabey and serleşker of Antalya Mubarizuddin Ertokuş, Mubarizuddin Isa and his brother, and Celaluddin Karatay the taştdar. It is quite possible that some of the other conspirators as well were of gulam origin. The principal forces of the emirs, as well as of the sultan, Comnenos, and Mubarizuddin Isa and the amir-i-dad were made up of gulams. The reaction of the gulams of Comnenos to the decree of execution for the gulams of the defeated emirs is of great interest. As slaves, their primary duty was loyalty to their masters. And it is true that the characteristic aspect about which the slave system of government



54. Duda, op. cit., p. 121.            55. Duda, op. cit., p. 330.            56. Duda, op. cit., pp. 54—55.





in the Islamic world centered, was the loyalty of the slave to the master. Hence, the gulams reasoned, they ought not to be held responsible for the actions of their masters. As, however, Alauddin had decreed that the gulams should perish along with their guilty masters, the gulams of Comnenos simply abandoned their own master on the grounds that they might, at some future time, receive a similar fate. To associate the guilt of the master with his gulams and to extend the punishment to them at large would tend to undermine the system. Such action would cause the gulams to question their unreserved loyalty to a master. Also of interest is the fact that the emirs not only had extensive numbers of gulams, but evidently had schools in which they were trained, just as the sultan had. Those of the gulams of the emirs who were still young enough wrere simply enrolled in the palace school. [57]


Sufficient information on the careers of numerous gulams is available from the chroniclers, inscriptions, and vakuf documents so as to warrant a separate study. [58] Highly illustrative of the importance and influence of the gulams in administrative and military affairs is



57. The influence and importance of the gulams emerges in other anecdotes found in Ibn Bibi. One of the great emirs was the çaşnigir Saifuddin Türkeri, a gulam by origin. He attempted to influence the sultan by isolating him from the other great emirs, Celaluddin Karatay, Şamsuddin Altınbe, Şamsuddin Tavtaş, et al. He did this by introducing him to such evil habits as drinking, but above all by persuading him to bestow the highest honors and emirates on worthless gulams who were of Türkeri's choosing (Duda, pp. 262—263). All of the above mentioned emirs were of gulam origin, and Türkeri attempted to control the appointment of the gulams so that his influence at the court would be preponderant (Duda, pp. 265—266.)


Ruknuddin Kılıç Arslan, on accompanying his brother, the sultan Izzuddin, to Konya, found himself in the power of the latter and of his Greek uncle. So the hawaicsalar Kamaluddin devised a scheme by which he would be able to flee and go to Kayseri. Gulams from the hawaichane were apprised of the situation, and horses were to be stationed at a strategic point outside the city. Then in the best tradition of the Thousand and One Nights Ruknuddin was to be dressed in the tattered clothing of a gulam from the royal kitchen. A service platter would then be placed on the sultan's head to hide his identity and the group would proceed to the market place. So it came about that the sultan Buknuddin escaped from confinement at the hands of his brother. Duda, op. cit., pp. 265—266; Houtsma, IV, 279.


58. Amongst the Seljuk officials who were of gulam origin are the following. Şamsuddin Hass Oğuz, Zainuddin Bişara, Saifuddin Türkeri, Mubarizuddin Ertokuş, Fahruddin Sivastos, Aminuddin Mikail, Şamsuddin Altinbe, Saifuddin Torumtay, Celaluddin Karatay, Kamaluddin Rumtaş, Saifuddin Karasunkur, Mubarizuddin Çavlı, Mubarizuddin Isa and his brother, Faruh Atabey, Raşiduddin Ajaz, Saifuddin Kajabe, Şamsuddin Tavtaş.





the career of Celaluddin Karatay ibn Abdullah. His name occupies a prominent place in the pages of Ibn Bibi, but appears as well in the chronicle of Aksaray and in the Menakib al-Arifin of Eflaki. We are told that even though he was a page of Greek origin he was gifted with extraordinary talents. [59] He held, at various times throughout the reign of Alauddin Kaikobad and his successors, the important posts of naib (sultan’s vice-roy), amir-i-davat (secretary of the grand vizier), amir-i-tasthane (in charge of the sultan’s ablutions), and hizanedar-ihass (chief of the imperial treasury). [60] As one of the four pillars of the state [61] he played an important role in deciding upon the succession to the sultanate, appointment of viziers and other officials. [62] His title, atabey, indicates that he was a tutor to princes, [63] and his closeness to and familiarity with the sultans comes out in certain incidental details. [64] We hear much less about his two brothers, Saifuddin Karasunkur and Kamaluddin Rumtaş ibn Abdullah. [65] Only slightly less famous was the great emir Mubarizuddin Ertokuş ibn Abdullah. As in the case of Karatay, he was a gulam of the sultan. After the conquest of Antalya in 1207 Ertokuş was appointed serleşker of that important city. [66] As governor in this region he played an important role in the Seljuk conquests of the southern coastal region, being responsible for the conquests of Alaiya, [67], Maghva, Anduşig, and Anamor. [68] After Erzinjan was taken by the sultan, Ertokuş was transferred to that city where he functioned as atabey to the young prince who was to govern the city. [69] The last act which Ibn Bibi



59. P. Wittek, “Von der byzantinischen zur türkischen Toponymie,“ Byzantion, X (1935), 29—30, has argued that he must have been of a Byzantine aristocratic family, because both Karatay and his two brothers appear in the service of the sultans. Therefore it could not be a question here of gulams. However, there are other known cases of brothers who were gulams, such as Mubarizuddin Isa and his brother. At any rate, Ibn Bibi specifically states that Karatay entered Seljuk service as a gulam.


60. Duda, op. cit., p. 337.            61. Duda, op. cit., p. 341.            62. Duda, op. cit., p. 239.                63. Duda, op. cit., p. 269.


64. Duda, op. cit., p. 197, he participated in a jousting tourney with the sultan Alauddin Kaikobad in 1237. Duda, op. cit., p. 128, he was present at and assisted in the lancing of a dangerous boil on the sultan's neck.


65. Duda, op. cit., pp. 298, 343, implies that Karasunkur was prominent amongst the spahis of Anatolia.


66. Duda, op. cit., pp. 46, 63.            67. Duda, op. cit., p. 107.            68. Duda, op. cit., pp. 142—143.            69. Duda, op. cit., pp. 150—151.





mentions in connection with this formidable emir is his conquest of the city of Kogoniya. [70] Another important official of gulam origin was Aminuddin Mikail, who functioned as naibul-hadra under sultan Ruknuddin in the latter half of the thirteenth century. Ibn Bibi tells us tantalizingly little about this figure, but it is enough to indicate that he played an extremely important role in Seljuk financial administration. He was of Greek origin, a Muslim, and a slave of Saaduddin Abu Bakr al-Mustaufi al-Erdebeli. He was responsible for reforming the financial apparatus of the Seljuk state in Anatolia by instituting the siyaqat system into the financial administration, and was famed generally for his great knowledge. [71] As naib, Aminuddin Mikail perished defending Konya against Cimri and the Karamanids in 1278. [72] Just as the appearance of the gulams in the conquest of so many towns and cities indicates their importance in the military, so their appearance as the military governors of the towns indicates that they permeated not only the central administration in Konya but that of the provinces as well. Torumtay appears as serleşker of Malatya, [73] Zainuddin Bişara in Niğde, [74] Saifuddin Türkeri in Siwas, [75] Mubarizuddin Ertokuş in Antalya, [76] Fahruddin Ajaz in Siwas, [77] Assaduddin Ajaz in Honas [78] and in Malatya, [79] Mubarizuddin Çavlı in Elbistan, [80] Şamsuddin Tavtaş in Niksar, [81] and Mubarizuddin Isa in Amid. [82] Because of their position in the central administration they were key figures both in the election of the new sultan as well as in the ceremony of enthronization. [83]


There is evidence that these Islamized youths participated quite actively in the cultural life of the Seljuk state in the thirteenth century.



70. Duda, op. cit., p. 152.            71. Duda, op. cit., p. 345.            72. Duda, op. cit., pp. 311—313.            73. Duda, op. cit., p. 255.


74. Duda, op. cit., p. 55.            75. Duda, op. cit., p. 256.            76. Duda, op. cit., pp. 46, 63.            77. Duda, op. cit., p. 190.


78. Uzunçarşili , Afyon Karahisar Sandıkle, Bolvadin, Çay, isaldı, Manisa, Birgi, Muğla, Milas, Pecin, Denizli, İsparta, Atabey ve Eğirdirdeki kitabeler ve Sahip, Saruhan, Aydın, Menteşe, inanç, Hamit Oğulları hakkında malûmat (İstanbul, 1929) (hereafter Kitabeler) II, 210.


79. Duda, op. cit., p. 122.            80. Duda, op. cit., pp. 54—55.            81. Duda, op. cit., p. 214.            82. Duda, op. cit., p. 216.


83. Duda, op. cit., pp. 90, 239, and passim.





For instance Celaluddin Karatay was a fervent religious mystic, having been initiated as a murid by the famed sheikh Suhrawardi during the latter’s visit to the court of Alauddin Kaikobad in Konya. [84] His religious ascetic character is revealed by Ibn Bibi, who relates that he abstained from eating of meat, from marital joys, and from pleasures generally. He was an intimate of the circle of the famed mystic Celaluddin Rumi as well. [85] Şamsuddin Hass Oğuz was a poet of quality, having written a noteworthy composition on Wine and the Harp. [86] The fame of Aminuddin Mikail in the learned world of thirteenth century Anatolia has already been mentioned. [87]


But the most important testimonial to the participation of the more successful gulams in the cultural life of the thirteenth century is their appearance as patrons of architectural art. They were responsible for the building of numerous mosques, medressas, hospitals, fountains, fortifications, etc. Aminuddin Mikail spent sums of money for the Ulu Cami at Sivri Hisar in 1247; [88] Asaduddin Ajaz and Raşiduddin Ajaz built the Abat Han at Çardak in the region of Denizli in 1229—1230, and the former also built a construction of some sort in Sinope in 1215; [89] Asaduddin Ruzbeh built the Horozlu Han, and the son of a gulam, [90] Ali ibn Sivastos, had a mosque near Afyon Karahisar built in 1272. [91] Celaluddin Karatay and his brother Saifuddin Karasunkur actively patronized monumental art. The former built his famed medressa in Konya in 1251, [92] whereas the latter constructed



84. Duda, op. cit., p. 103.


85. Eflaki, Les saints des derviches tourneurs, tr. C. Huart (Paris, 1918), I, 94—95, 199, 208. Aminuddin Mikail was also an intimate of this circle, Eflaki, 259-260.


86. Duda, op. cit., p. 244.


87. Certainly the most famous of these Greek slaves converted to Islam in the annals of thirteenth century Islamic culture was the geographer Jaqut ibn Abdullah ar-Rumi (1179—1229). He was born of Greek parents in Greek lands, fell into captivity and was sold on the slave market of Bagdad. He received a good Muslim education, made many journeys, and then wrote his famous geographical work. C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur (Weimar, 1898), I, 479—480.


88. Répertoire chronologique d’épigraphie arabe, ed. E. Combe, J. Sauvaget, G. Wiet (Cairo, 1943) (Hereafter RCEA), XII, 197.


89. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, II, 210; RCEA, X, 115—116.


90. “Horozlu Han (Ruzbeh Han)”, Konya, ii, 100—104.


91. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, II, 13—14; RCEA, XII, 199.


92. Konya, ii, 127—128; iii, 189—191. O. Turan, “Celâleddin Karatay, vakıfları ve vakfiyeleri,” Belleten, xii (1948), 17—171. For the day it opened see Eflaki, I, 94 95.





the Ak Han near Denizli in 1249, as well as a fountain. [93] Mubarizuddin Çavlı, appointed serleşker of Elbistan, built a mosque there in 1241. [94] Mubarizuddin Ertokuş, the serleşker of Antalya, built a medressa in the district of Atabey near İsparta in 1224. [95] Şamsuddin Altmbe ordered the construction of a medressa in Konya, [96] Şihabuddin built a fountain at Boya Hane in the region of Tokat, [97] and Torumtay’s turbe was erected at Amasya in 1279. [98] Zainuddin Bişara, whose great wealth and power are mentioned in Ibn Bibi, constructed mosques at Nigde and Konya, and a tower in Sinope as well. [99] Yatırmış commissioned the building of a fountain at Boldavin in 1248, [100] Anbar ordered the erection of a hospital in Amasya, [101] Faruh Atabey built an edifice at Tsanghir in 1242. [102] Their role as patrons did not end with the financing of the actual construction of these buildings, but it included the financing of their future existence as religious and cultural institutions. Thus a number of vakuf documents providing for the financial income and management of many of these edifices has survived.


The names of the thirteenth century Anatolian architects which have survived indicate that a significant number of these professionals were either of slave or at least of Christian origin. Such were Ahmad ibn Abdullah, the builder of the tomb of Sayid Mahmud at Akşehir in the reign of Alauddin Kaikobad ; [104] Lulu the architect who built the walls of Baiburt; [105] and the architect, or architects, variously referred to as Kaluk ibn Abdullah and Kaluyan al-Kunawi, who built the mosque near the gates of Laranda, [106] the Indje Minare and the Nalindji Türbe at Konya, [107] and the Gök Medressa in Siwas. [108]



93. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, II, 192—196; RCEA, XI, 209.


94. RCEA, XI, 132—133.


95. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, II, 221—224; O. Turan, “Mübârizeddin Er-Tokuş ve vakfiyesi," Belleten, xi (1947), 415—429.


96. Konya, vi, 370—375; O. Turan, “Şemscddin Altun-Abay vakfiyesi ve hayatı," Belleten, xi (1947), 197—235.


97. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, I, 16; RCEA, XIII, 256.


98. RCEA, XII, 245—246; Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, I, 90—99.            99. RCEA, X, 93, 203, 119.


100. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, II, 46; RCEA, XII, 246—247.            101. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, I, 101 ; RCEA, XIII, 24—25.


102. RCEA, XI, 141—142.


104. RCEA, X, 218.            105. RCEA, X, 94—97.            106. RCEA, XII, 22—23.            107. RCEA, XII, 24.            108. RCEA, XII, 164 165.





The gulam system as it operated in thirteenth century Anatolia was obviously a successful system from many points of view. It produced a comparatively large number of able and gifted generals and administrators, as well as patrons of Islamic culture, all of whom contributed considerably to Seljuk society. The system was responsible for providing these slave youths with good training. In time this overall arrangement provided for the assimilation of the gulams and their descendents in the Islamic society of Anatolia. Many of these gulams and their descendents came to be associated with the spahis of the provinces. Such were Saifuddin Karasunkur the brother [109] of Celaluddin Karatay, and Rümeri the son of Türken. [110] Though they were ‘slaves,’ they cast about in an effort to contract favorable marriage alliances. This concern to acquire connections by convenient marriage arrangements is in a sense more consonant with the outlook of the landed aristocrats of the provinces, the spahis, than with that of court slaves. [111] Thus a number of these slaves founded Muslim dynasties of note in Anatolian society. This tendency is discernable in the cases of Saifuddin Karasunkur and his brother Kamaluddin Rum taş. [112] Fahruddin Sivastos and his son Ali ibn Sivastos, [113] but above all in the case of Saifuddin Torumtay, the descendents of whose family were still in evidence during the eighteenth century. [114] Thus new and vigorous blood and outlook were brought into the ranks of the provincial society by this process. [115]



4. The Period of the Anatolian Emirates


With the collapse of the Seljuk state in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century the use of gulams is not so well documented. But this is no doubt due to the lack of satisfactory source material rather than to the actual disappearance of the phenomenon.



109. Duda, op. cit.f pp. 298, 343, he was associated with the spahis. In the vakuf of his brother he is entitled emirul-isfehsalar, Konya, ii, 128.


110. Duda, op. cit., p. 298, was of the spahis.


111. Such arrangements are recorded in the case of Şamsuddin Hass Oğuz and Asaduddin Ruzbeh, Duda, op. cit., p. 240.


112. Konya, ii, 127—128.


113. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, II, 13—14.


114. Uzunçarşili, Kitabeler, I, 90—99. His son was an important official in Konya and a frequenter of sufi circles, Eflaki, II, 337.


115. V. A. Gordlevsky, Gosudarstvo Sel'dzlinkidov Maloĭ Azii, Izbrannye Sochinenna, (Moscow, 1960), I, 106.





The disparate sources which refer to Asia Minor in the fourteenth century indicate that Christian slaves were as abundant as they had been previously and that the Turkish emirs employed gulams in their governmental and military apparatus.


In the first half of the fourteenth century when Matthew the metropolitan of Ephesus first occupied his ecclesiastical seat he was appalled at the large numbers of Greek slaves in the area. In one of his letters he remarks :


“Also distressing is the multitude of prisoners, some of whom are miserably enslaved to the Ismaélites and others to the Jews. . . . And the prisoners brought back to this new enslavement are numbered by the thousands; those (prisoners) arising from the enslavement of Rhomaioi through the capture of their lands and cities from all times by comparison would be found to be smaller or (at most) equal.” [116]


The Muslim authors also note that the Turkmen tribes of western Asia Minor were constantly raiding the Greek lands and were carrying off large numbers of prisoners. Both Abul Fida and al-Umari remark that the Turkmens especially singled out the Greek children for enslavement. [117] The number of slaves available was so great that “. . . one saw. . . arriving daily those merchants who indulged in this trade.” [118] Ibn Batuta picked up a number of young male and female slaves during the course of his journey through western Asia Minor,.. some he purchased, others he received as gifts. [119]


Given the fact that Christian slaves were so plentiful in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries one would have expected to see a continuation of the gulam principle in the administrative and military institutions of the emirates. There are hints that the gulam system did continue during this period, but the sources are very sparse. Al-Umari notes of the emir of Germiyan:


“He has about him emirs, viziers, cadis, secretaries, courtisans, gulams; he possesses treasures, stables, kitchens, palaces; all his furnishings are worthy of a king, and he is constantly surrounded by all the pomp and luxury which



116. Matthew of Ephesus, Matthaios Metropolit von Ephesus. Ueber sein Leben und seine Schriften (Potsdam, 1901), p. 56.


117. F. Taeschner, Al-Umari’s Bericht über Anatolien in seinem Werke masālīk al-absār fī mamālik al-amsār (Leipzig, 1929) (hereafter Taeschner, alUmari), p. 44. Géographie d’Aboulféda, ed. M. Reinaud and M. de Slane (Paris, 1840), pp. 379, 381.


118. Taeschner, al-Umari, p. 44.


119. Ibn Batuta, Voyages d’Ibn Batoutah, texte et tr. C. Defrémery and B. R. Sanguinetti (Paris, 1854), II, 307, 309, 310—311, 317.





are fitting for a sultan.” [120] Obviously the governing apparatus of the Oermiyanid emirs was a small scale model of that of the Seljuks and was to a certain extent manned by the gulams. The same author further notes that a certain Zakaria, the emir of the principality of Karahisar, was originally a slave of Yunus the ruler of Antalya. [121] Ibn Batuta also describes the 'presence of mamelukes in the retinues of the emirs of Antalya, Birgi, Kastamonu, Sinope, and Kayseri. [122] Finally, an anonymous Greek chronicle of the sixteenth century mentions that Uzun Hasan had a corps of ajem oğlans. [123]


The period of the Anatolian emirates probably saw no break in the tradition of gulam or slave administrators and soldiers, the majority of whom continued to be recruited from the Christians of Anatolia.



5. The Ottoman Devshirme in Anatolia


When the Ottomans absorbed most of Anatolia in the fifteenth century the use of Anatolian Christian youths in state service had already enjoyed a respectable history of almost three centuries. The extension of the devshirme to the Anatolian Christian would thus appear to be nothing extraordinary on the part of the Ottomans. Though the raising of the devshirme in Ottoman Anatolia was noted three centuries ago by the English observer Ricaut, and was again described in Lybyer’s classic, [124] nevertheless one is struck by the number of scholars who continue to assert that the devshirme was levied only in Rumeli and not in Anadolu. That the Ottomans did take Christian children from Anatolia for the Janissary corps and for palace service is testified to not only by western sources, but above all by the Ottoman documents.



120. Taeschner, al-Umari, p. 25. The Danişmendname, ed. I. Melikoff, La geste de Melik Dānişmend (Paris, 1960), I, 248, 253, mentions the kullar of the Danişmendids. But it is difficult to say whether this reflects the situation in the eleventh century when the Danişmendids first appeared in Anatolia, or the situation in the thirteenth century when the work was first composed, or the situation of the fourteenth century when the present version was written.


121. Taeschner, al-Umari, p. 48.


122. Ibn Batuta, II, 259, 288, 303, 345, 353. In his audience with the emir of Pirghi Ibn Batuta remarks that in the emir's reception hall were twenty Greek pages of unusual physical beauty, clothed in silk, and with peculiar coiffures.


123. S. Lambros, Ecthesis Chronica (London, 1902), p. 32.


124. Lybyer, op. cit., p. 79.





The existence of the devshirme in Anatolia is testified to in these Ottoman sources from the mid-fifteenth through the end of the seventeenth century. Most of the information comes either from imperial documents specifically concerned with the regulation and imposition of the devshirme, or, from the maaş defteri, those documents concerned with the pay of the Janissaries. These latter documents usually list the salary of each Janissary and then qualify his name by a geographical epithet showing his place of origin.


Amongst the earliest references which mention the taking of Christian children in Anatolia by the Ottomans is the Greek document dated 1456 which was addressed by Greek Christians in Anatolia to the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitalers of Rhodes. [125] Then with the conquest of Trebizond by Mehmed II considerable numbers of Greek youths were taken for the Janissary corps and palace service. [126] In a maaş defteri dated 1526 there are ten Janissaries (out of a list of 289) who were by origin Trebizondines, [127] and in another such document dated 1563 Janissaries from Trebizond, [128] Tokat, Mihaliç, and Gemlik are mentioned. [129] A document of 1576 mentions the names of Janissaries from Bursa, Lefke, and Iznik. [130] A maaş defteri of the year 1623 lists the pay of Janissaries including certain Janissaries from Maraş, Tokat, Mihaliç, and Niğde. [131] Finally, a pay register of 1679 includes Janissaries from Mihaliç and Kastamonu. [132] Various other documents mention devshirmes from Sinope and Tokat



125. Vryonis, loc. cit., 441—442. F. Miklosich and I. Müller, Acta et diplomata medii aevi sacra et profana (Vienna, 1865), III, 291.


126. G. Zoras, “Ἡ ἅλωσις τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως καὶ ἡ βασιλεία Μωάμεθ Βʹ τοῦ κατακτητοῦ,” Ἐπετηρὶς Ἑταιρείας Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδῶν, xxii (1952), 276. This text gives the number 800. A. Papazoglou, “Σινὰν ὁ Ἀρχιτέκτων,” Ἐπετηρὶς Ἐταιρείας Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδῶν, xiv (1938), 453—454, shows that it was already in effect in the fifteenth century. Uzunçarşili, Osmanlı devleti teşkilâtından Kapukulu Ocakları (Ankara, 1943) (hereafter Kap. Ocak.), I, 19, relates that the devshirme was discontinued soon after because of the evil character of the Trebizondines, and that it was reinstated by Selim I. In the expedition at Chaldiran the oğlans from Trebizond exhibited rebellious behaviour.


127. L. Fekete, Die Siyaqatschrift in der türkischen Finanzverwaltung (Budapest, 1955), I, 151, 153, 155, 159, 161.


128. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 71—72. In 1556 it is recorded that an attempt was made to levy the devshirme in Trebizond by the use of forged documents, Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 15.


129. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 71—72.            130. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 20.            131. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 436—437.


132. Fekete, op. cit., T, 727.





(dated 1559), [133] Baiburt, [134] Eğirdir, [135] Kutahya, [136] Bursa, and Manyas. [137] In the palace service itself it was stipulated that the sultan’s kitchens and bakery should employ twenty devshirmes from Anatolia and twenty-live from Rumeli. [138] The Anatolian Christians thus came to be subject to the devshirme as early as the mid-fifteenth century, and by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries this had assumed regularized form. [139] It was quite often the practice to send the devshirmes levied in Anatolia to Rumeli, whereas the devshires collected in the Balkans were sent to Anatolia. [140] Certainly the most celebrated of these Anatolian devshirmes was Mimar Sinan Pasha the greatest of the Ottoman architects, who was levied from the Christian rayas of the region of Kayseri in the time of Selim I. [141]


A few of the documents which are concerned with the devshirme in Anatolia have fortunately survived and been published. They speak of devshirme levied from Sis (1574), [142] Mihaliç (1567), [143] Bilecik (1574), [144] Sivas and Karaman. [145] In 1622 a general order was issued for the taking of Christian children from Kocaili, Bolu, Kastamonu, Çorum, Sinope, Amasya, Malatya, Karahisar, Arapkir, Çemişkezek, Cizre, Sivas, Maraş, Erzerum, Diyarbekir, Kemah, and Baiburt. [146] Another document of a similar nature but without a date remarks that children have been taken from the sanjaks of Maras, Kayseri, Nigde, and Beğşehir. However it was found that these were not enough, so an order was issued that one hundred more youths should



133. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 115.            134. Uzunçarşili , Kap. Ocak., I, 320.


135. Papazoglou, loc. cit., 453—454.


136. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 438.            137. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 442—443.            138. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 121.            139. Uzunçarşili, Kap). Ocak., I, 14.


140. From a manuscript, Eyyubî Efendi Kanunnâmesi p. 34, quoted by Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 623. “Rumeli ve Anadolu vilayetlerinden yarar oğlanlar devşirüp sürü ile gelüp kızıl aba giyerlerdi Gelüp dahil oldukta Kümelinden geleni Anadolu Ağası zapt idüp Anadolundan geleni Rumeli Ağası zapt ider idi.“ This practice was also noted by contemporary western observers, see Lybyer, op. cit., p. 79.


141. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 20; Papazoglou, loc. cit., 443—460.


142. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 126.            143. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 127.            144. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 106.            145. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 102, No. 2.


146. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 95—96. It is evidently to this decree that von Hammer, Ἱστορία τῆς ᾿οθωμανικῆς αὐτοκρατορίας, tr. C. Crocidas (Athens, 1874), VI, 304, refers.





be taken from the district of Karaman and one hundred from the district of Zulkadriye. [147] In 1583 they were levied from as far east as the beğlerbeğlik of Batum. [148]


The chance survival of these documents thus demonstrates that the devshirme was levied by the Ottomans in Anatolia at least from the mid-fifteenth century until the late seventeenth century. They also demonstrate that the Ottomans levied the Christian children all the way across Anatolia from Bursa to Batum. The list of the regions in which children were taken is impressive : Trebizond, Maras, Bursa, Lefke, İznik, Kayseri, Tokat, Mihaliç, Eğirdir, Gemlik, Kocaili, Bolu, Kastamonu, Çorum, Samsun, Sinope, Amasya, Malatya, Karahisar, Arapkir, Çemişkezek, Cizre, Sivas, Erzerum, Diyarbekir, Kemah, Baiburt, Niğde, Beğşehir, Karaman, Zulkadriye, Bilecik, Batum, Sis, Kütahya, and Manyas. And though it is true that Anatolia was not as important as Rumeli as a source for Janissary recruits, it was nevertheless a significant source of these youths. [149]



6. Attitudes and Reaction of the Christian Populations to the Devshirme


Another of those aspects of the history of the devshirme which has been dealt with in a somewhat vague and inexact fashion concerns the attitudes and reaction of the Christian populations towards the taking of their children by the Turks. It has been stated on numerous occasions that the Christian populations were either indifferent to the taking of their children or that they welcomed the devshirme as it meant that all the highest offices of state and brilliant careers would



147. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 104.


148. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 107.


149. The continuity in the taking of Christian children in Anatolia in Ottoman times, in contrast to what many scholars have alleged, raises another point. This has to do with the ethnic groups from which recruits for the Janissary corps were taken. It has usually been alleged that the youths were taken only from Balkan Christians, that is to say Albaniens, Greeks, and Slavs. However, Armenians were taken from Anatolia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and Lazes from northern Anatolia were also taken for a while, Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 17, 19. In 1569 Selim II enrolled both renegade Greeks and Jews into the Janissary corps, von Hammer, ed. Crocidas, V, 42. Mehmed II had demanded 500 Wallachian youths as tribute from the prince of Wallachia, but the latter refused to comply and defeated the Turkish forces sent against him, Ducas, Historia byzantina, ed. I. Bekker (Bonn, 1834), pp. 343—355.





be open to their children. [150] No one would doubt the definite attraction of promising careers as a factor which might motivate people. And it is true that large numbers of the conversions to Islam which occurred throughout the centuries-long struggle between Christianity and Islam were motivated by the hope for a better position in a society which was dominated by Muslims. So it also occurred in Anatolia and the Balkans that Christians in large numbers apostacized to Islam in order to obtain a better social status. But in discussing the devshirme we are dealing with the large numbers of Christians who, in spite of the material advantages offered by conversion to Islam, chose to remain members of a religious society which was denied first class citizenship. Therefore the proposition advanced by some historians, that the Christians welcomed the devshirme as it opened up wonderful opportunities for their children, is inconsistent with the fact that these Christians had not chosen to become Muslims in the first instance but had remained Christians. Though it is possible to argue on theoretical grounds that some of the Christians might have welcomed the devshirme, there is abundant testimony to the very active dislike with which they viewed the taking of their children. One would expect such sentiments given the strong nature of the family bond and given also the strong attachment to Christianity of those who had not apostacized to Islam.


First of all, the Ottomans capitalized on the general Christian fear of losing their children and used offers of devshirme exemption in negotiations for surrender of Christian lands. Such exemptions were included in the surrender terms granted to Jannina, Galata, the Morea, Chios, etc. [151] Christians who engaged in specialized activities which were important to the Ottoman state were likewise exempt from the tax on their children by way of recognition of the importance of their labors for the empire. Ottoman documents granting immunity to such dhimmis have been published in the work of Uzunçarşılı. Amongst these one reads that the derbentcis of Yeniköy in Bulgaria, and also those of Sidrekapsi in northern Greece, were exempt from giving their children to the devshirme collectors. Likewise the alum miners from the twenty-three villages of the region of Şarkı Karahisar were



150. T. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam (London, 1935), p. 151. W. H. Langer and R. Blake, “The Rise of the Ottoman Empire and Its Historical Background,” The American Historical Review, xxxvii (1932), 504. H. A. R. Gibb and H. Bowen, op. cit., 58—59.


151. Vryonis, loc. cit., 440—441. P. Argenti, Chius Vincta 1566 (Cambridge, 1941), pp. 212—213.





exempt. Exemptions for Christians in the regions of Biga (1578) and Yeni II (1579) are also described. [152] Whenever labor was needed, either on short terms or for longer periods, a region might be exempted from paying the child tax. Thus the Morea received immunity for one year (1574) during which time Moreotes were to work on the fortifications of Navarino. [153] Rayas responsible for the care and maintenance of bridges were likewise on occasions exempted (1578). [154] Exemption from this tribute was considered a privilege and not a penalty. In 1576 the Christians of the Anatolian region of Mihaliç registered an official complaint that even though the Christians of the neighboring islands were richer and more powerful than the Christians of Mihaliç, and that even though the latter were obedient to the commands of the sultan, nevertheless the islanders did not have to give their children whereas the inhabitants of Mihaliç had to surrender their children. [155] Obviously the Christians of Mihaliç did not see their liability for devshirme as any great reward for their obedience to the sultan. A fifteenth century document demonstrates specifically that the devshirme was also used as a means of punishing rayas who were disobedient in various matters. [156]


That the Christians disliked, rather than welcomed, the taking of their children is implicit in the documents considered above. However, there are other documents wherein their dislike is much more explicitly apparent. These include a series of Ottoman documents dealing with specific situations wherein the devshirmes themselves have escaped from the officials responsible for collecting them. In 1573 the beğlerbeğ and cadis of Karaman received an order from Istanbul to assist the devshirme officials in recapturing the Christian youths who had been aided by the inhabitants of the villages and towns to escape. [157] In 1564 the beğ of Kayseri was ordered to assist in the capture of devshirme youths who had made their escape in his province. This order relates that these youths had escaped after their 'conversion’ to Islam and adds that, when retaken, the boys were to be bound and sent to Istanbul under the guard of 'brave men’. [158]



152. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 109, 110, 113.


153. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 113.            154. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 110.            155. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 127.


156. N. Beldiceanu, Les Actes des premiers sultans conservés dans les manuscripts turcs de la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris I : Actes de Mehmed II et de Bayezid II du ms. fonds turc ancien 39 (The Hague, 1960), p. 147.


157. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 105.            158. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 126.





The youths levied in Mihaliç in 1576 were brought to ports on the Propontis for transport to Istanbul. But from here they managed to effect their escape to various of the coastal islands. [159]


If the youths themselves found their new status so unpleasant as to attempt to escape it, their parents also often found the prospect unpleasant. One of the documents testifies that the villagers aided the youths in their attempt to escape. Another relates that the Christians of Meki in the district of Sis took the seven youths levied in their locality to a Christian church and performed a religious service on their behalf, much to the displeasure of the Ottoman officials. [160] A firman addressed to the beğlerbeğ of Rumeli for the purpose of collecting children in 1601 provided the officials with stern measures of enforcement, a fact which would seem to suggest that parents were not always disposed to part with their sons.


“Know, also, that the mübaşir sent . . . shall have the right, whenever necessity might arise, to enforce the command of the known and holy fetva of the Şeyhul-Islam. In accordance with this whenever some one of the infidel parents or some other should oppose the giving up of his son for the Janissaries, he is immediately hanged from his door-sill, his blood being deemed unworthy.“ [161]


It is obvious that the Ottoman officials on occasion were required to resort to violent measures in order to enforce the tax.


The Christians resorted to various measures, aside from promoting the escape of youths already collected, in order to avoid the devshirme. There were even appeals to the Latin Christians of the West in which the Christians appealed for their aid so that their sons would be saved from becoming Muslims. In 1456 Greeks inhabiting the western shores of Anatolia appealed to the Knights Hospitalers of Rhodes.


“We, your poor slaves . . . who do dwell in Turkey . . . inform your lordship that we are heavily vexed by the Turk, and that they take away our children and make Muslims of them . . . For this reason we beseech your lordship to take council that the most holy pope might send his ships to take us and our wives and children away from here, for we are suffering greatly from the Turk.



159. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 127. Orders to the cadi of Yenişehir (1560) and to the beglerbeg of Diyarbekir (1573) likewise record the escape of devshirmes, Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 125, 127. Some of the more famous accounts of the system were written by youths who had escaped it after having served in it for a number of years. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Italian Menavino who at the age of twelve was captured by corsairs and put in the school of pages and later made his escape.


160. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 126.


161. Basdrabelles, op. eit., 4.





(Do this) lest we lose our children, and let us come to your domains to live and die there as your subjects. But if you leave us here we shall lose our children and you shall answer to God for it.“ [162]


A similar letter of one century later has also survived. It was written in February 1581, and sent by the Greek and Albanian inhabitants of the district of Chimara to Pope Gregory XIII. They appealed to the Pope to intervene on their behalf with King Philip of Spain to come and free them.


“Most holy father, if you persuade him (Philip), you shall save us and our children, of all Grecia, where the impious ones take them daily (our children) and make Turks of them. . .” [163]


Appeals to western powers to save them from payment of the child tax were certainly dramatic, but they were not as important or as frequent as some of the less sensational practicies to which the Christians had recourse to save their children. Contemporary observers recorded some of these practices, the one most often mentioned being the practice of paying sums of money to the government officials. Thomas Smith, writing in 1680, remarked:


“Some of their parents, out of natural piety and out of a true sense of religion, that they may not be thus robbed of their children, who hereby lie under a necessity of renouncing their Christianity, compound for them at the rate of fifty or a hundred dollars, as they are able, or as they can work upon the covetousness of the Turk more or less.“ [164]


The same practice is recorded one century earlier, in 1581, in a work written by David Chytraeus. [165] Stephan Gerlach noted the practice of child marriage as an artifice by which parents sought to save their sons from the tax. [166] The Greek cleric Metrophanes Critopoulos, who was patriarch first of Constantinople and later of Alexandria in the



162. Vryonis, loc. cit., 442.


163. A. Theiner and F. Miklosich, Monumenta spectantia ad unionem ecclesiarum graecae et romanae (Vienna, 1872), p. 89. The document was signed by the representatives of thirty-eight villages in Chimara.


164. Quoted from T. Arnold, op. cit., p. 152.


165. D. Chytraeus, Was zu dieser Zeit in Griechenland, Asien, Afrika unter der Türcken und Priester Johans Herrschaften, Item in Ungern und Behmen, etc. der Christlichen Kirchen zustand Sei, (1581), i—ii. Such is also the information supplied by Guillet de Saint-Georges, An Account of a Late Voyage to Athens (London, 1676), p. 272. It seems as if the author had not been to Greece, but that his information was based on reports of the Capuchins. Thus his dramatic account of the slaying of the Athenian youth at the hands of the devshirme officials, for having refused to convert to Islam, is not to be taken seriously.


166. S. Gerlach, Tage-Buch (Frankfurt, 1674), p. 314.





first half of the seventeenth century, mentions two interesting strategems, to which the Christians resorted. Christians on occasion ‘purchased’ Muslim boys and represented them to the devshirme officials as Christians, and also they bribed them to take less deserving Christian boys, “such as deserved hanging.” [167] In some border regions the Christians seem to have resorted to migration in order to flee the devshirme. [168]


There is even evidence that on occasion the Christians preferred rebellion and death to the handing over of their children to the sultan’s agents. An instance of this type is recorded in three documents from the cadi registers of the Greek city of Naousa in the year 1705. These deal with the attempt of an official to recruit fifty youths from Naousa, the refusal of the Christians to give up the children, their rebellion, the bloody suppression of the rebellion, the trial of the Christians, and finally there is included a detailed financial account of the money and provisions expended by the government in connection with this affair. As these documents are of considerable interest from the point of view of the Christian’s attitude toward the devshirme the first two are translated here in their entirety.



            No. 139


“To the most wise cadis of Beroia and Naousa, may God increase their wisdom; to the powerful voevodes and remaining notables and potentates of the land, may God increase their strength.


By my present exalted command I bring to your attention that our sublime ruler, the most powerful sultan and great caliph of the faithful, had commanded by his previous elevated firman the rapid collection and remission of the new Janissaries who, as is known, are customarily chosen from amongst the bright and sturdy youths of the infidel rayas. Thus, in obedience to the commands of of our sublime caliph we appointed and immediately dispatched to the district of Naousa the silihdar Ahmed Çelebi with the order to effect the selection and enrollment of fifty new Janissaries according to the valid ancient custom. As is known the said silihdar had previously gone to the city of Naousa to execute this exalted command and had undertaken the enrollment of the new Janissaries. At that time the infidel inhabitants of the said city rebelling and saying, “We are not giving up our sons to the Muslims/' then dared to murder in public and in the midst of the sultan's road the silihdar and the two Muslims accompanying him. Finally these infidel murderers, forming a band of one hundred and more evil doers with the armatolos Zeses Karademos and his two sons in charge, raised the banner of rebellion. Now roaming the mountains and plains of the districts of Beroia and Naousa they have perpetrated and continue to



167. Quoted from T. Arnold, op. cit., p. 151.


168. J. Cvijić, La péninsule balkanique, géographie humaine (Paris, 1918), pp. 129—130. He records the story of the family of Luschan the celebrated anthropologist.





perpetrate countless evils, that is to say murders and robberies, at the expense of the Muslim faithful. Because of this we order and decree that immediately upon arrival of our present exalted order that there be formed a significant force of sufficient brave warrious, to be recruited from amongst the Muslim inhabitants of Beroia, under the leadership of the voevod Muharrem Ağa and of the bulukbaşı Beceb Ağa. They are ordered to pursue inexorably and to annihilate from the face of the earth these infidel brigands. We remind you that the arrest and execution of these infidel murderers, who dared to spill the blood of a Muslim in the midst of the sultan's road, constitute an inviolable obligation and a holy duty for every Muslim according to the commands of the şeria and in the presence of our God-sent prophet.


Written in the sublime divan of the beğlerbeğ of Rumeli in Selanik, first of the holy month of Muharrem 1117 (25. April, 1705).” [169]



            No. 140


“To the most illustrious and most glorious beğlerbeğ of all Rumeli in Selanik.


As you happen to know, the infidel and abominable inhabitants of the city of Naousa, having refused to give up their sons adjudged suitable for Janissaries during the present year, dared sometime ago to murder Ahmed Çelebi, who had gone to their city to recruit the Janissaries along with his two Muslim assistants, in public and in the middle of the sultan's road. Finally raising the banner of rebellion and revolution they formed a band of one hundred and more infidel brigands under the leadership of the abominable Zeses Karademos and his two sons Basil and Demetrios. Roaming the mountains and plains of the districts of Beroia and Naousa from that time, these brigands have perpetuated countless evil deeds, that is to say murders and robberies, at the expense of many Muslim faithful. Thus a short time ago by exalted command of the beğlerbeğ's divan the voevode Muharrem Ağa and the bulukbaşı Receb Ağa of Beroia organized sufficient force of select and warlike men, Muslim faithful of our district, and immediately undertook the unrelenting pursuit of the said infidel brigands. These, carrying out faithfully and with devotion their sacred duty, and from that time pursuing closely the infidel brigands, they succeeded, glory to a11-powerful God, in surrounding them a few days ago in the narrows of the river Arapitsa which flows by Naousa. There, after a heavy and raging battle they defeated and routed them. During the course of this battle the infidel chieftain of the brigand band Zeses Karademos having been struck by four bullets in the various parts of his body gave up his unclean soul on the spot to satan. His two sons Basil and Demetrios, with six other brigands, were captured and brought back alive to your sacred court to be judged and punished according to the commands of the God-protected şeria.


After this we immediately summoned here the most wise cadi of Naousa Halil Effendi, the voevodes and remaining notables and potentates of the land, and in their presence and publicly today we summoned a special judiciary board before which the apprehended evil-doing brigands were brought in bonds. These, having been asked one by one, dared in public and within the hearing of the august assembly to proclaim with their unclean lips the impious phrase, “We are truly armatoloi and we proclaim our thoughts.“



169. Basdrabelles, op. cit., pp. 112—113.





Thus assured that tho apprehended are the actual evil-doers who up to the present perpetrated countless evil deeds at the expense of so many Muslim faithful, and judging them in accordance with the holy maxim of our God-sent prophet, “kill tho infidels who oppose,“ we condemned them all to die by hanging. We turned them over to the voevode Muharrem Ağa, who was present at tho assembly, who gave the order and the imposed death penalty was carried out.


Afterward the bulukbaşı Receb Ağa was ordered to cut off the heads of the infidels Zeses Karademos and of his two sons and to parade them along the sultan's road in the city. He was also ordered after this to send these to the elevated divan of Selanik.


Written on the 28th of the sacred month of Safer, 1117 (21 June, 1705)." [170]



The third document is a detailed and itemized account for all the money spent from the time the silihdar Ahmed Çelebi first went to Naousa to collect the devshirme until the 800 Muslims were recruited to put down the rising. [171]


This series of three documents offers considerable interesting detail on the history of the devshirme. First of all one should note the comparatively late date, 1705. It has been the practice to date the end of the devshirme at various points throughout the seventeenth century. [172] Secondly, the incident demonstrates most dramatically that no matter how attractive the careers which might open up for their children, the Christians of Naousa did not consider the attraction sufficient to enable them to part with their sons peacefully. As the number of children to be recruited was not inconsiderable (fifty), the reaction of the inhabitants of Naousa was violent. The insubordination to and slaying of government officials in public were certainly the acts of men who considered themselves to be caught up in a desperate situation. Rather than give up their children without protest, they chose to die in battle. The rebels, as they were armed armatoloi, were in a position to ‘proclaim their thoughts.’ For it was these armatoloi, armed Christians, who were responsible for patrolling the countryside against bandits, and who on occasion were one and the same with the ‘bandits.’ It may even be that as armatoloi they felt themselves entitled to exemption from the devshirme. We have already noted the granting of exemption to similar bodies of men, the derbentcis, in Greek and Bulgarian lands.



170. Basdrabelles, op. cit., 113—114.


171. Basdrabelles, op. cit., p. 115.


172. Uzunçarşili, Kap. Ocak., I, 66ff. notes evidence for its partial survival down to the early years of the nineteenth century.








The conclusions of this study are the following. A well-developed slave system of governmental and military organization was in existence during the period of the Seljuk state in Anatolia. The Seljuks brought this traditional Islamic slave system with, them when they entered the Anatolian peninsula. During the course of their existence as a state, the Seljuks found ample sources of slave personnel amongst the Christians and Turkmens within their domains and also from the prisoners taken in their wars against the various Christian states in Asia Minor. These gulams played an extremely important role in the society and politics of pre-Ottoman Anatolia. The Ottomans, as one of the many successor states to the Seljuks in Anatolia, remained true to the Islamic tradition of utilizing slaves in the government and in the military. Generally speaking, then, the palace system and Janissary corps of the Ottomans were not innovations in the institutional history of the Islamic states and empires. Nor should one be surprised that the candidates for the system were taken in Ottoman Anatolia as well as in the Balkans. The Seljuks had previously found the major source of their slave manpower in Anatolia, and so the Ottomans likewise levied candidates for the palace service and the Janissary corps from Anatolia. These devshirmes in Anatolia were levied not only from the Greek, but also from the Armenian rayas, and even on occasion from the Laze population. On the other hand it is true that the major source of this manpower was the Balkan peninsula. Finally it seems highly probable that the Christian subjects quite often found this tax on their children the most onerous of all their burdens. There is ample testimony to this fact not only in the Greek sources and western observers, but above all in the Ottoman documents themselves. [173]



173. For further bibliography since this paper was submitted to Der Islam, consult. V. Ménage, “Devshirme,” EI2; B. D. Papoulia, Ursprung und Wesen der „Knabenlese“ im osmanischen Reich (Munich, 1963), and my review in Balkan Studies, V (1964), 145—153.


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