Subject: غازي raider
Setting: early Ottoman empire, Anatolia/Balkans 1300-1402
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Black ed. 1999 p149 (Virginia Askan, "Ottoman war and warfare 1453-1812" p147-175)
"The Seljuk dynasty maintained its power through a system of clients, called principalities, whose vassals were allied by military service to the Seljuk figurehead in Konya. In the mid-thirteenth century one of several rival principalities was that of Osman, eponymous founder of the Ottomans, who held the territory nearest Constantinople and the Balkans.
"Osman (1280-1326), son of Ertuğrul (d. 1280), assumed the leadership of his loyal bands of gazis (warriors for the faith) in the 1290s, making a name for himself by defeating the Byzantines at Bapheon, near Nicea in 1301. Victory over the infidel brought OSman fame and more warriors, creating the basis for the political and cultural development of the empire, which has some and successor, Orhan (1326-62), consolidated in the first capital, Bursa, in 1326. Their expansion was slow, but was aided by having the Byzantines call on them as allies, and by actually marrying into the imperial family. The new Ottoman power swas permanently established in Europe by 1354, when the Ottomans crossed the Dardanelles at Gallipoli. Under Murad I (1362-89), gazi raids became consolidated offenses, culminating in the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389 against the Serbian aristocracy."
* Nicolle/McBride 1983 p4-5
"Osman and his immediate successors ruled from the saddle, as Ottoman territory remained a frontier 'march'. ... Osman's first successes were self-perpetuating. Victory over a Byzantine army at Koyunhisar in 1301 spread his fame, and gazis and settlers flocked to Ottoman territory. This became a true gazi state -- 'the instrument of God's religion, God's sure sword' -- which existed for war, and in which the ruler relied on booty to pay his followers.
"Ottoman success went beyond this, however, while the other gazi emirates of western Turkey withered away. Perhaps the strength of Byzantine and other resistance toughened the Ottoman army and administration, while also giving its population time to settle down. Once the other Turkish emirates had reached the coast, the Ottomans faced the only remaining Byzantine land-frontier, except for that around Trabzon, and so attracted most of those who wanted to be gazis. Yet the Ottomans were also allied to Byzantium on occasion, protecting it from other Turkish or Mongol foes.
"The culture of this frontier march was as complicated as its politics. Its laws were those of Turkish tribal customs, the yasa, not of the Muslim Koran. Even its religion was often a strange mixture of orthodox Islam, ancient Turkish shamanist belief, and peasant Christianity. Heretical dervishes accompanied early Ottoman armies on their campaigns. Some of these mystics, claiming that Christianity and Islam were the same religion, even had Christian followers.
"Official Ottoman attitudes to Christians and Jews were similarly sympathetic. Previously persecuted minorities like the Bogomils of Bosnia turned Muslim in large numbers, while elsewhere in the Balkans, Orthodox Christians often welcomed the Ottomans as liberators from Catholic domination."
* Almond 2009 p104-105
"For many years, one of the main reasons given for the astonishing success of the Ottomans' rise to power was, in a word, Islam. Many prominent historians, both Turkish and Western, insisted not only on the wholly Turkish and Muslim origin of the Ottomans, but also that it was the idea of the gazi -- the holy warrior of Islam who spreads the true faith and wages a jihad against his neighbours -- that was the secret of their extraordinary growth.
"Over the past thirty years, a number of leading historians have begun to seriously question this thesis. Partly because the job of a gazi was to wage war on non-Muslims -- and ... some of the Ottomans' earliest wars were in collaboration with Greek unbelievers and waged against their fellow Muslim believers. With the help of the Christian Byzantines of of Harman Kaya, the early Ottomans swallowed up their hated (Muslim) rivals, the emirates of Karas and Germiyan, in the early 1320s and 1330s. In fact, one of the leading gazi referred to in sagas was an unconverted Christian Greek, Köse Mihal (who became a Muslim at the end of his life), a central figure in the growth of the Ottoman state and a close hunting-companion of Osman himself. In an early Turkish medieval epic, the Battalname, one of the propagandist's closest friends is a Byzantine. Moreover, the word gazi or 'holy warrior of the faith' simply does not feature as prominently as tradition would have us believe. [...]
"What is most ironic is that the secret of the Ottomans' startling success, far from being any kind of Islamic call to jihad, actually appears to have been the reverse: the early Ottomans were not particularly Islamic at all, and appeared to have no problem doing convenient deals with any neighbour, Christian or Muslim, if it helped them get ahead .... Unlike the later Ottoman Empire, there appears to have been no particular pressure to convert to Islam during the first century of the Ottoman expansion."
* Gommans 2002 p39
"This phenomenon of the war-band is best studied in the case of the Ottomans, who appear to have started their careers as so-called ghazi, or warriors of the faith. These bands of ghazis, however, were not like modern-day fundamentalists, relentlessly attempting to spread their own untarnished version of Islam, but consisted of open status groups articulating a religious or tribal idiom. In fact the word 'ghazi' itself does not refer to some kind of holy war at all, but merely to the more opportunistic razzia, or raid, whether or not sanctioned and rendered meaningful within the framework of a higher cause."
* Sugar 1977 p11
"Both the gazis and the akritoi were 'fighters of the faith,' but neither group was educated and sophisticated enough to understand the true meaning of the religions for which they fought. They were fanatical upholders of their beliefs, but those beliefs had little to do with what the Muslim ulema or the Christian theologians would have recognized as the correct understanding and interpretation of the respective religions. The religious of the frontier -- with this Christian and Muslim mixture of superstitions, mysticism, traditional, and in some cases even pagan beliefs -- were more similar to each other than they were to officially correct versions of the creeds. These folk-religions began to fuse and gradually became dominated by Muslim characteristics.
"Just as the western medieval knight needed a code of conduct in fighting local wars of the early Middle Ages, so did the Anatolian warrior have to develop his own norms of behavior in conformity with his religious convictions. With the Turkish element dominant this code of Anatolian chivalry had to focus on the person (or family) of a leader. With military and religious considerations predominating in the frontier society, this leader could either be a religious or a military figure; ideally he should be both. When this was not possible, a close alliance between a religious leader şeyh, and a military leader, whose title could be sultan, bey, or gazi, was sought."
* Bennett 1998 p128
"ghazi (Arabic 'soldier of the faith') religious warrior fighting in the cause of Islam against infidels (Hindus, polytheists, and idolators). Ghazis first appeared as members of dedicated and organized bodies in Anatolia in the early 14th century. Their Christian counterparts were the Byzantine akritos or the Frankish crusaders.
"The term ghazi was later applied to any individual ready to sacrifice himself in battle and became synonymous for 'hero'."
* Mikhail 2020 p6-7
"While Osman succeeded in chipping away some territory from the Byzantine Empire, it was his son who scored the first real victory for those early Ottomans. In 1326, Orhan took Bursa, a cosmopolitan city set in a lush valley not far from the Sea of Marmara. As a center of the international silk trade, its seizure provided a major boost to the Ottomans' rising ambitions. From this first Ottoman capital, the bearers of the mantle of Osman notched up victory after victory, taking control of an impressive range of territory in western Anatolia and the Balkans. There, the mostly Christian communities accepted the mostly Muslim Ottomans in large measure because these new arrivals from the Asian steppes excelled in cutting favorable deals with strong families and other local power brokers. The Ottomans' conquering armies promised military protection, along with more favorable tax and trading terms than the Byzantines offered, in exchange for allegiance to the family of Osman and the contribution of some troops every now and then."
* Nicolle/McBride 1983 p34 (reconstructing an Ottoman Gazi, first half 14th century)
"This gazi, or religious volunteer, wears a style of buff-leather armour originally introduced by the 13th century Mongols. The circular ear-pieces on his helmet are also of Mongol derivation, while his straight sword is typically Iranian." [references omitted]