Subject: ayan 'notable' provincial warlord
Culture: Ottoman Turk
Setting: late Ottoman empire 18-19thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Streusand 2011 p127
"In 1699, the Ottomans began allowing tax farmers to purchase iltizams for life and pass them on to their children.
"The new tax system started with two existing levies, the avariz-i-divaniye (avariz-i divaniye) and the tekalif (tekâlif). [...]
"... In the later seventeenth century, the ayan became the primary conduit for the collection of tekalif. The regime extracted forced loans from them as well, requiring them to collect the repayment from the general population, a form of forced tax farming. The role of the ayan in the new revenue system became the springboard to ayan dominance in the provinces in the eighteenth century."
* Lapidus 1988 p336-337
"The declining political effectiveness of the central government and increasing economic weakness meant that it was losing power in the provinces to its own officials. Provincial governors, soldiers, and others seized local power. Judicial and financial administrators gained exceptional importance in the course of the seventeenth century, and transformed fiscal and administrative institutions in their interests. They converted tax farms into life tenures (malikane) and ultimately into private properties, usurped revenues, and built up private armies recruited among former Janissaries, demobilized soldiers, and bandits. Janissaries serving in the retinue of provincial governors, assigned to garrison small towns, soon formed an exploitative class living off illegal tax revenues. Rival groups of janissaries, irregular soldiers, rebels, and bandits imposed their own illegal taxes.
"To regain control, the central government started to rotate provincial governors more frequently, and began to assign provincial governorships to high courtiers in Istanbul. They appointed deputies (mutesellim) to administer the provinces on their behalf. Many of these deputies were notables (a'yan) who derived from several strata of society. Some were descendants of slave army officers; some belonged to the families of important 'ulama'; others were tax collectors, owners of large estates, or rich merchants who had the financial resources to buy deputy governorships and build up independent military retinues. Deputy governors also succeeded in the struggle for power by converting their tax farms into life tenures.
"During the eighteenth century, councils of a'yan played a large role in administration. They won control over the appointment of deputy governors and judges, enforced guild regulations, prevented food shortages, and maintained public buildings. By the laws of 1784 the procedures for appointment to councils and deputy governorships were regularized. In 1809 the a'yan extracted from the Sultan formal recognition of their rights and prerogatives. This was the high point of a'yan influence and political decentralization, and was followed in the nineteenth century by strong government efforts to reestablish central control over Anatolia."
* Mugnai 2022 p64-65
"The rise of the governors and their private armies accelerated the decline of the kapıkulu corps, the Sultan's household, and the authority of the Sultan himself. Unfortunately for the Empire, the successful policies and decisions of the past centuries eventually created the nemesis of the system, and successful ayan local families, who excelled within the Ottoman military administrative tradition, used it for their own benefit. Conflicts between the central government and provincial leaders concerned the financial and military obligations of the latter. Despite the fact that most of the ayans did not pursue the emergence of an independent rule and were mostly interested in their own welfare and prestige, their increased local autonomy accelerated the decentralisation of the Empire in the last quarter of the eighteenth century until the first decades of the nineteenth century. In this regard, the Empire was out of step with Europe, where absolutism was on the rise and strong kings were centralising their power in nation states."
* Streusand 2011 p128-129
"The new provincial administration ... meant the transfer of the provincial revenue that had supported the old provincial elite to the central elite. It thus completed the dominance of the qapiqullar, even as it provided the cash revenue the empire needed to fund the new infantry armies and respond to monetary stresses. In the course of the seventeenth century, however, this system also helped to empower a new provincial elite, which became known as the ayan. The eighteenth century became the era of the ayan.
"[...] Later in the eighteenth century, what amounted to a series of local ayan dynasties ruled much of the empire through what amounted to local ayan councils."
* Masselos 2010 p128 (Gabor Ágoston, "Asia Minor and beyond: The Ottomans 1281-1922" p104-135)
"Ottoman military failures in the 18th century often led to unrest and rebellions, resulting in the dethronement of two sultans (Mustafa II in 1703 and Ahmed III in 1730). The latter part of the century witnessed the emergence of the ayan: warlord-bandits, local notables, and governors. They strengthened their position during the Russo-Ottoman War of 1787-92, when they seized a host of vital administrative functions in the provinces, from troop recruitment to provisioning. The most powerful of the ayan carved out large autonomous polities, established their own armies, and waged wars against each other, bringing much suffering upon the subject population. Between 1792 and 1812, notables such as Osman Pazvanoglu in Bulgaria, Tepedenli Ali Pasha in southern Albania and Epirus, the Garaosmanoğlus in western Anatolia, the Tekelioğlus in Antalya, and the Kozanoğlus in Cilicia, in effect partitioned much of the Ottoman Balkans and Anatolia. Yet, threatened by Russia's ambitions in the Balkans, few of them sought independence. They realized that none of them was strong enough to withstand the Russians, and that they had access to the empire's resources only if they negotiated to legitimize their status with Istanbul."
* Sugar 1977 p238
"[Very strong new lords] slowly built up huge estates until they virtually owned little provinces. Others ruthlessly used either their official position or their leadership in a janissary group to force the local lords to turn over their possessions. The former tried to acquire official positions to 'legitimize' their 'lordships,' while the latter added possessions to existing titles. These men were known as âyans, and while the word still meant notable, it was applied very differently than it had been in the earlier centuries and was used to describe local rulers. Some of the âyans established petty dynasties. ... In most cases the âyan owed his eminence to his own talent and savage determination, and to the support of a group of people who were tied to and often loyal only to him. At the death of these âyans loyalties ceased and the struggle for succession developed, of which even the weakened state could take advantage."
* Streusand 2011 p129-130
"The Ottoman Empire in the ayan era differed dramatically from the classical empire of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. But the ayan system offered both the regime and the general population a number of benefits. Because of their lasting local connections, the ayan had incentives to protect the interests of the general population and to invest in the economic development of the area, rather than to exploit their positions for short-term gains. But they also offered the central government an effective way of drawing on the resources of the provinces, not only in routine taxation but in support of military campaigns; for example, ayan families often acted as contractors to provision armies on campaign."
* Sugar 1977 p240
"There were âyans or other lords, both Muslim and Christian, in practically all parts of the Balkan Peninsula. Not only did they train certain segments of the population in the use of arms, but they also served as models for others, including some clergymen and knezes, of how much a strong man could get from the established authorities. Thus, in more ways than one they prepared the soil from which the uprisings and independence movements of the nineteenth century grew. They were a disruptive element and posed a serious problem for the central authorities, but one may ask how the Ottoman Empire's European provinces would have fared without them. If nothing else, the âyans and other lords performed a police function of some value."
* North 1985 p12
"A number of Turkish blunderbusses are to be found, probably introduced from the Continent at some time in the 18th century. These have the standard bell-shaped muzzle and short stock of European forms. The stocks are inlaid with scrolling wire and resemble the short Spanish blunderbusses of the early 18th century which were almost certainly their ancestors. Although the butts are shaped to fit, their small proportions make them about impossible to shoot from the shoulder, and it has been suggested that they were used from the hip when on horseback."
* Wilkinson 1974 p51
"[T]he small Turkish bunderbuss ... is literally a miniature blunderbuss, and although it has the typical shaped shoulder butt it is, in fact, intended to be held in the hand and used as a pistol."
* Tirri 2003 :-( p127
"In addition to the standard Kubur pistol, the Ottomans had a short 'rifle'-style pistol, which is often characterized as a 'Knee-gun.' [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: Why would a blunderbuss, which doesn't shoot bullets, ever be rifled?] This term is used because the method of fire, from horseback, was to rest the butt of the gun against the knee when fired. ... The barrels were straight, flared, or duck-billed."
* Mugnai 2022 p344-349
"The very symbol of the Ottoman world, the sabre, or more precisely the curved blade sword, was the noble weapon par excellence. [....]
"In the Turkish language it is called kiliç and indicates not only the curved sabres, but also all the weapons with the characteristic curvature because kiliç simply means 'sword'. With the exception of the sakkas and acemi-oglanis, sabres were part of the equipment of all kapıkulu soldiers and Ottoman troops, both on foot and on horseback. The maximum size of the blades could reach up to a metre, but generally the smaller ones were preferred, lighter and more manageable.
"The superb blades of the most admirable Damascus steel or t hose with showy decorations on precious metal were naturally the prerogative of the senior commanders, but also sabres of natural metal were conspicuously decorated with calligrams and ornamental figurations gathered in medallions the higab, endowed with talismanic meanings. Among the recurring motifs, a prominent place belonged to the name of God, 'Allah', as well as the typical crescent, or the six-pointed star, the so-called khateh Süleyman, the seal of Solomon. The hilt was made of horn, wood, or bone; sometimes there were ivory or velvet covered hilts with encrustations of turquoise and coral in the richer models. The shape of the hilt establishes the age and place of production of the sabres. The hilt had a cross shape with straight uprights and an oval or pointed end, and extended symmetrically along the direction of the blade and ended with a more or less pronounced rounding. Appearing as early as the late sixteenth century, the karabela hilt would have given its name to a new type of sabre with a less curved blade compared to the kiliç, and in the eighteenth century became the typical kapıkulu infantry side weapon.
"Another type of sabre, with a straighter and broader blade, made its appearance in Anatolia, spreading throughout the Empire and becoming popular also in Europe, especially after the French campaigns in Egypt. Its name was pala, recognisable for the very short blade and for the thickness of the counter-cutting edge. The section of the blade had the shape of a 'T' and in general the overall weight was higher than the other sabre. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the pala was used especially by the cavalry, much appreciated for its power and manageability. By the late seventeenth century palas with hilts ending with a more rounded end made their appearance. These models were the first types of pistol grip, a pattern destined to last for over two centuries and typical of the classic Ottoman and Mamluk sabres. These creations imitated the hilts of the Arab-Syrian sabre, particularly suitable for delivering the slash without running the risk of losing the weapon. In Egypt, sabres were already produced with very curved blades at the end of the seventeenth century, while in Syria the blades maintained a more upright shape.
"The scabbards for all the sabres were made with two strips of wood covered with leather or velvet; metal reinforcements, and rings for the straps completed the whole. At other times the sheaths were entirely metal decorated with stones and other precious materials. Even on scabbards, the Ottoman artisans vented their passion for ornamentation. The most common motif was floral decorations, similar to the Iznik ceramics of the classical age. Often the upper end was flared outward to facilitate extraction of the weapon; another flare was used for housing the hilt."
* Richardson 2015 p50
"The characteristic Turkish sword or kiliç has a blade which is curved and has a sharpened section of the rear edge towards the point, called a false edge or yelman. Earlier examples have a gently curved blade while later ones (from the 18th century) have wider blades, a step at the start of the yelman and an angular curve. The hilt was either of pistol-grip form, with a bulbous pommel, usually formed of two horn plates, or with a narrow angled pommel, and a guard formed of straight steel quillons."
* Royal Armouries Museum > Oriental Gallery (describing Turkish swords, 18th and 19th centuries)
The Turkish kiliç is identified by the style of the hilt, which has a 'pistol-grip' pommel at right angles to the grip and large straight handguards (quillons). The grips are normally made from ivory or horn although one of these examples has a rare Mughal jade hilt. The blades can be of watered steel, and usually have a pronounced curve that requires a scabbard with an open back or has a flat spring to facilitate the removal of the sword." ....
* Stone 1934 p334
"KAMCHA. A whip, Turkish. It has a short, stiff handle with a long lash fastened to one side at the end."
* Diagram Group 2007 p73 caption
"Turkish whip of hide, with a silver-gilt handle. Although not effective for military use, such objects have often been used as impromptu weapons."
* Richardson 2015 p54
"The characteristic dagger of the empire is the hancer, the Turkish transliteration of the Persian word khanjar, generally with a waisted (or 'fiddle-shaped', as Egerton put it) hilt and a curved, double-edged blade."
* Mugnai 2022 p349
"Alongside the sabre, daggers and knives mainly equipped the janissaries and other infantrymen, who carried them alone or in pairs under their sashes. Among the most common knife, the kancjar was recognisable by the slightly curved cutting blade and a straight T-shaped hilt. Some models reached 60 cm in length, but usually the kancjar ranged between 35 and 45cm, including the hilt. This knife was the most widespread throughout Anatolia and the Caucasus, whereas there was also another type of knife, with a straight and double-edged blade, called a kincal. It was not unusual to see both these weapons among the panoply of the Ottoman or Egyptian Mamluk infantrymen and horsemen."