Here they are lightly clad in linen or in cloth of Saloniki, with caps of Prusa cloth. Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and considered to their greatest ruler. Still, they were slaves, and reminded of it frequently enough. Members of the corps were more interested in their economic ventures than in keeping ahead of the military curve. Not being taken as a tax, actually being rich and educated man. ottoman-empire | definition: a Turkish sultanate of southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa and southeastern Europe; created by the Ottoman Turks in the 13th century and lasted until the end of World War I; although initially small it expanded until it superseded the Byzantine Empire | synonyms: Turkish Empire, Asia, Europe, Africa Averill: For about 200 years, the devshirme system, with its ‘taxation’ every three or four years, was necessary to fill out the ranks of the Ottoman bureaucracy and military. The nepotism was rampant. By the system known as devşirme (the notorious “blood tax”), numbers of Christian children were periodically recruited into the Turkish army and administration, where they were Islamized and assigned to wherever their services were required. One of the sources I always assign to my World History students is a description of the devshirme system in 1493, so just after the time of Mehmed the Conqueror. Averill: For about 200 years, between the 14th and 16th centuries, devshirme was the primary way the Janissaries were repopulated. They carried with them a written decree, the “firman,” and where ever they showed up, the villagers had to come out and present their sons. “Marissa: Yet, as we already mentioned, having a son in the Janissary corp could be quite advantageous”. This system of kidnapping children, known as devsirme, lasted more than three centuries and proved incredibly successful for the Ottoman Empire. I beg of my merciful Sultan to fill me with joy by enlisting me in the Janissary Corps. It was useless to expect any exhibit of valour from the corps once Turks penetrated it. Devshirme, the focus of today’s show, and the institution from which Ibrahim Pasha emerged, was the taking of Christian children as slaves for the sultan. Ouch. Standing in the front of their ranks, he stretched the sleeve of his gown over the head of the foremost soldier, and his blessing was delivered in the following words “Let them be called Janizaries [yingi-cheri–or “new soldiers”]; may their countenances be ever bright; their hand victorious; their swords keen; may their spear always hang over the heads of their enemies; and, wheresoever they go, may they return with a white face.” … Such was the origin of these haughty troops, the terror of the nations.” So one of the goals in the devshirme system was, according to this source, to convert Christians to Islam. . In Ottoman Turkish, the empire was referred to as Devlet-i ʿAliyye-yi ʿOsmâniyye (دَوْلَتِ عَلِيّهٔ عُثمَانِیّه), or alternatively Osmanlı Devleti (عثمانلى دولتى). The different types of trade used by the empires were one of the biggest differences between them. Some historians theorize that he’d made enemies of too many of the Ottoman elite, including the sultan’s favorite wife, Roxelana. So while there were those who did not want to give up their children to a life of servitude to the sultan, resentment or resistance were not always the standard reactions. They might become personal attendants to the sultan, provincial administrators, or even rise to be vezir-i a*-zam, the grand vezir. Because these Christian communities were had been conquered by the Ottomans, however, this is a sort of conundrum for scholars of the Ottoman empire. The were to be humble and polite, reverent in the presence of their superiors. The boys were grouped into crowds of 100-200 for the march from the village to the palace. The Devshirme came up out of the kul system of slavery that developed in the early centuries of the Ottoman Empire and which reached this final development during the reign of Sultan Bayazit I. Thousands died in flaming agony when the Istanbul barracks were blitzed with cannon fire. We’re talking like 3 year olds getting a paycheck. They were marched to the pasha’s palace, and then divided. The men who wrote these letters were effectively rural peasants. We don’t know the tune, so I will just make one up so you can get the full effect. And I cry until it pains me; As long as I live I shall cry, In other cities, some regiments managed to flee. When they are received into the corps of the Janizaries, they are placed in cloister-like barracks, in which the different odas or ortas live so entirely in common that the military dignitaries are called from their soups and kitchens. Devshirme is derived from a word that means “to collect” or “to gather” in Turkish. Devshirme was a system that took place under the Ottoman Empire.The system of devshirme was introduced under Sultan Murad 2 in the 1420s. If nothing else, these nuances reveal the really varied ways that enslavement could be defined and experienced. They had to get up at the same time, pray at the same time, walk slowly and quietly, eat slowly, bathe weekly, even, according to Gulay Yilmaz, “shave regularly, wear well-pressed clothes, and perform the five daily prayers.”4, Marissa: Our European commentator echoes Yilmaz’s findings, writing “Both classes are kept under a strict discipline. …service through the child-tribute (devşirme) levied in the Balkans, Mehmed rose to the rank of high admiral of the fleet (1546) and later was governor-general (beylerbeyi) of Rumelia. And many maintained those ties with their non-Muslim families back home, which made their loyalties all the more fractured. Janissaries very in-group loyal, rather than to the Sultan. Historical Background Since Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Great Conqueror of Istanbul, Turkey is run by “Devshirme” system. He appointed other devshirme recruits who were related to him to really cushy palace jobs. Others posit that he “feathered the nests” of his relatives too liberally. He had fancy buildings built in his native land. According to our European source, “These recruits are divided into two classes. He ultimately fell out of favor with the sultan, and was executed at Topkapi Palace. Averill: We’ll get to some of the other ways that devshirme resembles the slave systems that we are more familiar with in a little bit. Dervishes were Sufi ascetic, almost saint-like, who would have had a decent enough following to be noticed by the Sultan. −10% Unjustified demands 3. They’d typically take boys between the ages of 6 and 8, but also took boys as young as 4 and as old as 18. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. But in most ways, this system was very different from the chattel slavery of the Atlantic. one of the most powerful and longest lasting empires in the history of the world I’m Averill Earls Any similar tribute system thereafter was localized and responding to immediate need for manpower. Except for those forcibly converted, the rest of the non-Muslim population was protected for payment…, The mid-16th century also saw the triumph of the devşirme over the Turkish nobility, which lost almost all its power and position in the capital and returned to its old centres of power in southeastern Europe and Anatolia. Because remember like 5 minutes ago we said that Janissaries were not allowed to get married or have children. The mention of it first appears in written records in 1438, but probably started earlier. The Ottoman Empire reached its height under Suleiman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-66), when it expanded to cover the Balkans and Hungary, and … Marissa: Yet, as we already mentioned, having a son in the Janissary corp could be quite advantageous. The idea that one person can have ownership of another has taken countless forms. Simultaneously the Ottomans were enslaving war captives from Poland, Russia, Italy, Germany, etcetera. Discussing the cruel punishment of enslaved children in the same breath as forced conversion to “Mussulman” faith — Islam — was surely intended to shock readers at the barbarism of the Ottomans. The Ottomans had many different words for conditions of enslavement. a member of an elite force of soldiers in the Ottoman Empire. A sultan who thought to cross them paid the ultimate price. Averill: Another wrote “Your Majesty, my prosperous and generous Sultan, may you be healthy! The Devshirme was the systematic gathering of Christian boys from the Balkans who are forcibly brought to the Ottoman Empire. While the corps barely functioned that way at the time they were writing, it was still, in theory, the standard.
We’re honored to present this episode in conjunction with the PBS series, Secrets of the Dead. The boys were taken to Constantinople, converted to Islam, and employed in a variety of posts. Ibrahim was not the first or last enslaved man elevated to the status of Grand Vizier. It notes, for example, that the devshirme system was the primary mode of acquiring new Janissaries, and that for the most part this was an involuntary procedure, but that in the mid-15th century, for example, Bosnian Muslims, though recently converted, requested that their children be eligible for the devshirme. For permission to publish any Dig: A History Podcast or History Buffs Podcast episodes in whole or in part please contact the Executive Producer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Marissa: So again, the ideal age was seven, when a boy was, presumably, more malleable into a loyal servant to the sultan. If apprentices were driven away and the practice of recruiting youths through Devsirme was re-established, then military victories would be guaranteed.”11. Ottoman Empire, empire created by Turkish tribes that grew to be one of the most powerful states in the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. Even the magnificent Janissaries weren’t immune to a good-looking goat bribe.  The kuls were mostly prisoners from war, hostages, or … The Ottoman Empire was one of the main powers of the 15th and 16th centuries. They also had restrictions on the ethnic and religious backgrounds of boys they would take. That’s kind of hard to conceptualize, coming from a place where chattel slavery is the standard of slave systems. “Janissary” means “new soldier” in Turkish. © 2015-2021 DIG: A HISTORY PODCAST. I, Your humble servant, praise be to God, was granted the honour of adopting Islam and even circumcised myself with my own hand… Your servant, the new Muslim, Mustaga from Karlovo.”9. Like our friend Ibrahim Pasha, who was known for improving his blood relations’ lives considerably once he attained the position of Grand Vizier, many devshirme children grew up to be extremely powerful allies for their families. The Devshirme came up out of the kul system of slavery that developed in the early centuries of the Ottoman Empire and which reached this final development during the reign of Sultan Bayazit I. What is most surprising about Ibrahim Pasha, the second most powerful man in the Ottoman Empire between 1522-36, is that he was a slave. The text also, perhaps snidely, comments that “it used to be that Janissaries could not marry,” a rule set out in the original tenets of the corps. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some found refuge with the peoples who had been their own in the Balkans. We, Your slaves, wish to be granted the honour to adopt Islam. These children and their families, particularly in the early years of the devshirme system, saw this for what it was: the enslavement of their children. But there were many others who came to see what it could be: an opportunity to have a son in a high-ranking government position; a way to stop paying the poll tax levied on all non-Muslims in the empire; a different, maybe better, kind of life for one of their many children in a hard year on the farm. By the 18th century, they were hardly a slave force any longer, and maintained their loyalties to their ruler only insofar as he served them. Two men, hoping to join the corps, wrote directly to the sultan: “Your Majesty, our illustrious and generous Sultan, may you be healthy! So devshirme might be interpreted as an infringement on that protected status. There are plenty of examples in history of slaves who became kings! Averill: Right, yes! By the 16th century, they were already a formidable and volatile force. He was not allowed to marry or have children or own property without express consent from the sultan. Every year perhaps 1,000 to 3,000 healthy boys and young men were taken, converted to Islam, and strictly educated for military profession and in Islamic religious disciplines. As an institution, particularly in its later years, the Janissary Corps had more power than almost any other bureaucratic institution in the Ottoman empire. As we know from other sources, this usually involved going first to the local priest, getting a list of all the boys and their ages, and then calling those families specifically into the center of town to do the selection. [dn 2] In Modern Turkish, it is known as Osmanlı Devleti or Osmanlı İmparatorluğu. And we’re your historians for this episode of Dig. “You catch and shackle…the archpriest.” And because he’s the guy with the parish records, who can tell the janissary officers all the names and ages of the boys in town, he is the most valuable resource for tribute collection. They lived only at his pleasure, and every lira to their name was only at the sultan’s discretion. From Croatian records the slave taking time was a horrific event in the region but little could be done against it. It's not an example of tolerance if someone is … Sending a child to war is never easy, no matter the context. Enslaved people in the Caribbean resorted to active resistance much more often than their North American and South American Read more…, Today, we’re really excited to have an extra special episode for you. The Ottoman Government is a unique government type with fixed dynasty and the following benefits: 1. “Let officers be stationed at Gallipoli,” he said, “and as the Christians pass by, let them choose the fairest and strongest of the Christian boys to become your soldiers.” Agreeing, the sultan issued an edict. As the Janissaries grew however, and gained considerable leverage in the empire, they began to renegotiate the terms of their enslavement pretty significantly. Our request of the Sultan is that we two wish to be enlisted in the Janissary Corps and in accordance with the law, be issued with Janissary uniforms. Teachers come every morning, who remain with them until evening, and teach them to read and write.” Depending on what age they were taken, the captives could be in the palace service for at least three years; if they were chosen to stay longer, it was because they exhibited great promise. Marissa: When there wasn’t a fostering program, captives were sent straight to the palace for service and learning. It’s effectively a manual for how a Janissary should expect to live, but it also provides some interesting commentary on the changing nature of the Janissary corp. All rights reserved. And I’m Marissa Rhodes There is an estimate that about 500,000 boys were taken into military slavery. By the 17th century, more Janissaries wanted their sons and nephews and such to get the cushy lifetime jobs that the corps offered; because service in the corps didn’t mean those boys couldn’t also be involved in lucrative land acquisition ventures and businesses, there was no sense in trying to keep their kids out of the service. Frequently those “spoils” included human captives — as was true of almost all war-making and imperial nations. He was taken from his home, his family left hundreds of miles behind. Learn how your comment data is processed.
+3 Number of states 4. Some resisted, some embraced the devshirme system. Your humble servant, etc.”8, Marissa: And yet another wrote, “Your Majesty, blessed and happy, my Sultan! There’s no telling if the boys even knew what was coming, or if they were suddenly just being held down, naked, and then experiencing the suddenly searing pain of a knife across the tip of their penis. Dr. The source continues to describe the process of tribute collection. As the Ottoman State attained the status of Empire after conquering Istanbul in 1453, the State decided to eradicate Turkish aristocracy from bureaucracy. Most devshirme children were collected from the Balkans. Averill: Talk about going the extra mile. Marissa: So the strictness surrounding family ties eroded pretty quickly.
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