ALTHOUGH ANOTHER KÖPRÜLÜ briefly held the office of grand vezir in 1710, the heyday of this household ended soon after the conclusion of the Karlowitz treaty. Ill health forced Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha to resign in 1702 after five years,1 and thereafter senior members of the household more usually held office in provincial than in central government. Amcazade Hüseyin met his nemesis in Sheikhulislam Feyzullah Efendi, former pupil and son-in-law of Vani Mehmed Efendi who had owed his own career to the patronage of Feyzullah’s father, the highest-ranking cleric in Erzurum.2Feyzullah Efendi had been Sultan Mustafa’s tutor and mentor since childhood, and had first come to prominence during the military rebellion of 1687–8 when he was briefly sheikhulislam following the accession of Sultan Süleyman II; shortly after Mustafa’s accession he was again elevated to head the religious hierarchy. If the manner of his appointment was unusual, the power and patronage he exercised were unprecedented, and total: his eldest son held the office of Registrar of the Descendants of the Prophet, his second son was chief justice of Anatolia, his third son had formerly been a judge in Bursa, his fourth son was tutor to one of the royal princes, and his brother-in-law was chief justice of Rumeli.3Government ministers such as Amcazade Hüseyin came to play a much reduced role in running the state. Marriage alliances between the Ottoman dynasty and the households of the Köprülü and Feyzullah Efendi did not serve to contain the tensions. In the autobiography he wrote describing the fates and fortunes of his family until the year 1702 Feyzullah Efendi stated that he was the Sultan’s most intimate confidant and that his advice was sought in all matters,4 but he was to enjoy his monopoly of influence for only a short time longer: his flagrant refusal to acknowledge any limits to his power or self-aggrandisement eventually brought suppressed discontents into the open, and in 1703 he was murdered in a violent uprising which also forced Mustafa’s deposition.
Edirne had been the favourite seat of the Ottoman court since the reign of Sultan Mustafa’s father Mehmed IV; the uprising which occurred in 1703 is referred to as the ‘Edirne Incident’, and may be ascribed to the frustrations which had been building up in Ottoman society during the years of warfare which had so recently ended. It was twenty years since Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha’s defeat at the siege of Vienna, and although the Ottomans had enjoyed some military successes even in the latter stages of the war, in his willingness to accede to the terms of the Treaty of Karlowitz Mustafa II was seen by many as compromising Muslim honour. The implications of the treaty became evident only gradually, since the demarcation of the new, shrunken borders of the empire in Europe was a lengthy process still under way in 1703, but it had come to exemplify Mustafa’s military failure.
On Tuesday 17 July the mutiny in Istanbul of troops ordered to a distant Ottoman vassal state in western Georgia to put down a rebellion soon attracted wide support.5 A high-ranking cleric handed down the extraordinary juridical opinion that the Friday prayer should not be performed, an act of defiance signifying that the Sultan had lost the allegiance of members of the clerical establishment as well as of the military.6 New leaders emerged to replace those compromised by their association with Mustafa II and Feyzullah Efendi, and a brother-in-law of Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha was put in place to head a caretaker government set up in Istanbul in opposition to that in Edirne.7 When the rebel demand that Feyzullah Efendi be handed over, and that the Sultan and his court return permanently to the capital, was reported to Mustafa in Edirne he had the delegation bearing the petition arrested and, having sent Feyzullah Efendi and his family to a secure location outside the city, he made preparations to confront the rebels.8 The grand vezir at the time was Rami Mehmed Pasha, one of the two Ottoman negotiators at Karlowitz. He had been a protégé of Feyzullah Efendi but their relationship had soured, and he was seen by the rebels as a moderate.9
Events took on an almost revolutionary cast with the establishment of the alternative government in Istanbul – but this was revolution in the Ottoman style, of which the typical ingredients were deposition followed by the succession of another member of the dynasty, rather than a full-blown overthrow of the prevailing system of government. Memories of the bloody uprisings of recent times – such as the months during the winter of 1687–8 when mutinous troops brought chaos to Istanbul – must have inclined the rebels to a degree of caution, an attitude exemplified in the need they felt for clerical sanction at each stage of the insurrection. Further delegations to Edirne from Istanbul met with no response, causing the rebels to suspect that the Sultan was preparing for a showdown. The rebel forces were greatly superior to those the Sultan was able to muster, and on 19 August, in a battle near Havsa, half-way between Edirne and Istanbul, his troops deserted and he fled back to Edirne. It was plain that he retained the loyalty of none.10 On 24 August Mustafa II’s brother Ahmed became sultan in his place, and Sultan Mustafa lived out his life – six months remained to him – in the Boxwood apartments of Topkapı Palace11 where he had been incarcerated when his father Mehmed IV was deposed. Mustafa’s memorialist Silahdar Fındıklılı Mehmed Agha held the Sultan’s senior officials to be guilty of treason, accusing them of having come to an understanding with the putative vezirs of the government-in-waiting and then disappearing from view, deserting the deposed sultan when he needed them most.12
Anarchy ensued as the rebels turned their attention from the certainties of their cause to focus on the future. The transfer of power from Mustafa’s supporters to Ahmed III’s was bedevilled, even after Ahmed’s enthronement, by the problem of whose authority was to be accepted as legitimate while government and court officials fled Edirne for the countryside. Silahdar Fındıklılı Mehmed Agha reported that Feyzullah Efendi and his family travelled from Edirne to Varna on the Black Sea coast, and that while they were looking for a boat to take them to Trabzon en route to Feyzullah Efendi’s home town of Erzurum, he was captured by agents sent by the rebels, and imprisoned in the castle of Varna. Feyzullah Efendi was able to get a message secretly to Rami Mehmed Efendi who convinced the new sultan that the former sheikhulislam be exiled to Euboea. He set out but before he had gone very far there was a moment of danger, as rebels bearing a contrary order of the deposed Sultan Mustafa tried to seize him; Sultan Ahmed’s order was upheld by the local authorities, however, and Feyzullah Efendi and his party made for Edirne. A day’s journey outside the city, as they were spending the night in a caravansaray, officials charged with recording Feyzullah Efendi’s estate arrived – under the direction of Defterdar Sarı Mehmed Pasha, chronicler of the 1683–99 war, now serving the first of his seven stints as chief treasurer of the empire, a position he was shortly to lose in the turmoil of these months.13 The implication was clear. Cursing him with the accusation that he was a Kızılbaş – a heretic – the officials began their work. Feyzullah Efendi, his sons and those with them were stripped to their underwear, and put in simple ox-carts under the watchful eye of a posse of janissaries who heaped curses on them all the way to Edirne where they were thrown in gaol. For three days and nights they were tortured, but neither he nor his sons would reveal where their wealth was secreted; the Sultan was informed of the situation after still more agonizing torture failed to bring results, and a juridical opinion was handed down for the execution of the former sheikhulislam. Feyzullah Efendi was brought from his cell, put on a draught horse and, reproached by a mob consisting of men of religion, janissaries, rebels and the riffraff of the city, was forced to ride to the flea market where he was beheaded. The feet of his corpse were bound to his severed head, and some three hundred non-Muslims, including priests – who had been assembled only by force – walked through the city dragging Feyzullah Efendi’s dismembered body behind them. After an hour and a half the corpse was thrown into the Tunca river that runs through the city: Feyzullah Efendi’s head was stuck on a stick and paraded around the janissary barracks before also being thrown in the river. Silahdar Fındıklılı Mehmed Agha was, we should not forget, a faithful servant of Mustafa II and by default a partisan of Feyzullah Efendi – he only related these events, he said, to illustrate the utterly disastrous situation in the empire. One of the most striking details of this grisly theatre is his observation that braziers of incense were burned as the body of the former sheikhulislam was dragged through the town – to make it clear that he could in no way be considered to have died as a Muslim.14 The clerical establishment felt scant sympathy, considering that his accelerated rise to power and disregard for the limits to the authority of the office of sheikhulislam had set him apart from them. An anonymous author who was clearly close to events reported that Feyzullah Efendi’s identifiable assets were seized for the treasury and used in part to appease the vociferous demands of the military for their arrears of pay and the customary accession bonus; the remainder of the large sum needed was provided from the revenues of the Egyptian treasury and the income of the crown lands of the new sultan, his mother, the Grand Vezir, and others.15 Feyzullah Efendi’s eldest son, whom Mustafa II had designated Feyzullah Efendi’s successor,16 was executed in Istanbul, and his body thrown into the sea; two sons of the Kadızadeli preacher Vani Mehmed Efendi were murdered in the same purge.17
The ringleaders of the uprising who had formed themselves into an alternative government were soon exiled or executed, but the explosive events of 1703 continued to have repercussions: in 1706 some middle-ranking officers of state who had joined the rebellion and been dismissed in its aftermath plotted to depose Sultan Ahmed and replace him with one of his sons, but they were informed upon, and the soldiers among them were strangled and their bodies thrown into the sea – this was risky, because in 1649 a similarly ignominious end, the denial of a Muslim burial, had prompted the rebellion of Gürcü Abdülnebi. A few months later a pretender to the Ottoman throne made an appearance. Proclaiming himself a son of Sultan Mehmed IV, and thus brother to Mustafa II and Ahmed, he sailed from North Africa to Chios carrying papers which purported to confirm his story; rumours reaching Istanbul suggested that he might rally the disaffected in Anatolia and be proclaimed sultan in Bursa. He was beheaded at Sultan Ahmed’s command, and his head displayed outside Topkapı Palace.18
If the Karlowitz treaty brought domestic turmoil in its wake, it also altered the relationship of the Ottoman state to the outside world. An early sign of the shift in the empire’s relationship with the world beyond its borders was that the treaty was negotiated by the highest-ranking Ottoman bureaucrat and not, as hitherto, by a pasha, a military man; thereafter, the use of chancery officials as negotiators became standard practice.19 The European states came to realize that the Ottoman Empire no longer had the strength to challenge them as it had before and, as the eighteenth century wore on, diplomacy rather than military might increasingly set the terms of the Ottoman encounter with its European neighbours, as negotiation began to prevail over aggression as a way of resolving international differences. Between 1739 and 1768 diplomatic initiatives brought peace on the empire’s western frontiers – but not before the Ottomans had become embroiled in a number of conflicts not entirely of their own making.
Under Peter the Great Muscovy, customarily referred to as Russia from this time, was an expansive power without, as yet, the resources to sustain full-scale military operations on widely-distant fronts. To the west Sweden, a formidable opponent, barred Russia’s access to the Baltic Sea, which was crucial to Tsar Peter’s plans for the development of his territories, as was access to the south, to the Black Sea and the warmer seas beyond. In 1699 he allied himself with Denmark and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the aim of forcing a route through to the Baltic; the news that peace had been concluded with the Sultan prompted him to declare war on Sweden in August 1700, joining his allies in what became known as the Great Northern War. Despite the long-standing good relations between them, the Ottomans rejected Swedish appeals for assistance. Having relieved Narva on the Gulf of Finland, besieged by a poorly-supplied and outnumbered Russian army which received no help from its allies, the twenty-year-old King Charles XII of Sweden – known to the Ottomans as ‘Iron-Headed’ Charles – marched south against Augustus II of Poland.20While he was thus occupied, in 1701 and 1702 the Russians made frequent incursions into Livonia – today, the south of Estonia and north of Latvia – and in May 1703 they took a small fort at the mouth of the river Neva. Peter had gained his foothold on the Baltic, and of the wooden village that began to rise there, one modern historian asserts that ‘the founding of Petersburg. . . was tantamount to a declaration that. . . Charles XII, while unbeaten on the battlefield, had lost the war’.21
In the spring of 1706 a report reached Istanbul from the Crimean Khan, apparently solicited by Grand Vezir Baltacı (‘Halberdier’) Mehmed Pasha, that the Russians were threatening the Ottoman Black Sea frontier, and a fleet sailed to his aid.22 Ottoman–Russian relations were tense, and the hostility between Russia and Sweden began to impinge on Ottoman concerns in the wake of Charles XII’s campaign into Russia in 1708. In May 1708 Charles marched across Lithuania, lured ever eastwards by the retreating Russian army, but Peter had ordered the destruction of everything that could sustain the Swedish troops, and they crossed the Dnieper and turned south into Ukraine where the supply situation was expected to be more favourable. Ivan Mazepa, the Cossack hetman of Left Bank Ukraine – all of Ukraine that remained to the Cossacks after the abolition of the hetmanate in Right Bank Ukraine by Poland in 1700 – defected to Charles in early November, but his headquarters at Baturyn, some 150 kilometres north-east of Kyiv, was mercilessly sacked by the Russians and the hoped-for supplies destroyed.23
The winter of 1708–9 was extraordinarily cold and Charles found himself immobilized on the steppes of Ukraine as hundreds of his men froze to death. Although the Zaporozhian Cossacks (the Cossacks of the lower Dnieper) declared for Charles in March 1709, their headquarters was destroyed by a Russian force in May and any hopes that their support might turn the tide were dashed. Finally, in July, Charles besieged the town of Poltava, south-east of Kyiv, at Mazepa’s urging; Tsar Peter arrived to raise the siege, and at the end of the month routed the Swedes.24 Charles sought refuge first at the Ottoman fortress at Ochakiv at the mouth of the Dnieper, moving later to Tighina on the Dniester, where he built a settlement outside the city. From his self-imposed exile he continued to rule Sweden, but his defeat at Poltava signalled the end of its ‘great power’ status.25 The battle of Poltava sealed Ukraine’s fate, as Russian control of the Cossack state on the left bank of the Dnieper intensified.
The Russians protested that in allowing the Swedish King to remain on their soil the Ottomans were acting contrary to the provisions of their treaty of 1700, but Sultan Ahmed and his grand vezir Çorlulu Ali Pasha hoped to use Charles’s presence as a bargaining counter to improve the terms of the peace agreed with Russia. Diplomacy worked against Charles’s interests at first, leading to a renewal of the peace early in 1710 and agreement on the conditions of his return to Sweden. Charles refused to leave Tighina, however, and plotted against Çorlulu Ali, whom he held responsible for the Ottoman policy of appeasement towards Russia.26 Intrigues connected with the presence of Charles and his supporters on Ottoman soil brought about the dismissal of several high-ranking officials, including the Grand Vezir, who was subsequently executed.
The influence of Charles and other ‘Northerners’ who had taken refuge with the Ottomans was in part responsible for a more aggressive policy towards Russia. When he moved south into Ukraine late in 1708 Charles had hoped that Ottoman support might be forthcoming;27 it was clearly in the interests of Charles and his fellows, who saw themselves as victims of Russian might, to encourage the Ottomans in the belief that they had a common interest in hindering Russia’s military advance. Although the Ottoman government in general was reluctant to confront Russia, there were those who argued for action, foremost among them the Crimean khan Devlet Giray II: the anti-Russian policy he forged, independently of the Ottomans, was as intransigent as Sweden’s.28 The khans had long shown themselves ready to manipulate the sensitivities of the Istanbul government in the interests of their own subjects, and were appointed and replaced according to the extent to which their activities contributed to the wider strategic needs of the moment. On this occasion the Ottoman clerical establishment bent an encouraging ear to Devlet Giray’s pleas on behalf of those who found themselves in the path of Russia’s southward expansion, and the janissaries were eager to avenge the loss of Azov in 1696 – on which Peter was lavishing almost as much attention as he devoted to Petrograd – St Petersburg, his ‘window on the west’.29
Reports from the Ottoman Empire’s northern frontier only served to confirm the threat posed by Peter,30 and in November 1710 the Ottomans declared war on Russia. After a winter spent in making preparations, on 19 July 1711 the advance guards of the two armies, Russia’s led by Tsar Peter himself, confronted one another across the Prut, a tributary of the Danube. That night, Tatar forces swam the river to engage the Russians while Ottoman engineers secured the bridges across the river, allowing the rest of the vastly superior Ottoman army to cross. Peter’s troops retreated a distance from the fighting on the river, but although he found himself surrounded and short of supplies, his men at first resisted the Ottoman onslaught on their positions. On 22 July, after an attack on the Russians by forces led by the grand vezir and commander-in-chief, Baltacı Mehmed Pasha, Peter proposed terms to which Baltacı Mehmed readily agreed.31 Between Russian prevarication and Ottoman indecision as to whether to continue the war,32 however, the Treaty of Adrianople, as it is known in the West, was not ratified until 1713; under its terms, Russia lost all it had gained in 1700.33 The reason for Baltacı Mehmed’s failure to pursue his undoubted advantage has remained a matter for conjecture, as has the question of whether a more resolute Ottoman stance would have changed the course of history. The argument that the Ottomans lacked either the resources or the will to involve themselves in another and perhaps prolonged war cannot have persuaded the Sultan, who dismissed and imprisoned Baltacı Mehmed. Many years later, in 1763, Frederick the Great asked the consummate Ottoman politician and envoy to Berlin, Ahmed Resmi Efendi, about this battle on the Prut: he was told that the Ottomans’ withdrawal from the fray had been dictated by the Sultan’s magnanimity.34
Charles XII and the other vociferous ‘Northerners’ with him – Mazepa having died at Tighina, these now included his successor as Cossack hetman, Pylyp Orlik, and Charles’s Polish envoy to the Sultan, Stanislav Poniatowski – finally left Ottoman territory in October 1714, taking their quarrels with them, but not before they had exhausted the patience of their hosts. Early in 1713 Charles’s court outside Tighina had been attacked by local Ottoman and Crimean forces and he and a number of his men taken prisoner – the Sultan expressed anger at the excessive violence employed, but Charles and his men were taken first to Didymoteicho in Thrace, then to Edirne where Charles was detained as a bargaining counter until the peace with Russia was ratified. The Great Northern War did not end until 1721; Charles was killed in Norway fighting the Danes in 1718, and Peter died in 1725; neither was succeeded by a sovereign as able as themselves.35
The story of Charles XII’s relations with the Ottomans did not end with his departure, however, nor even with his death. He left Ottoman territory financially indebted to the Sultan and private moneylenders alike, and in 1727–8 and 1733 envoys were sent to Stockholm for the purpose of scheduling repayment of the Sultan’s portion of the debt – amounting to some three million silver thalers. In 1738 an arrangement was finally worked out: the Ottoman treasury was paid one-third of the outstanding amount, and requested a fully-equipped warship, a seventy-gun frigate and 30,000 muskets in lieu of the remainder. The warship was wrecked off Cádiz en route to Istanbul, but another Swedish ship did reach its destination and this, with its cargo of explosives and 10,000 muskets, was acceptable to the Ottomans. The remaining debt was considered to have been discharged when they accepted a Swedish offer of 6,000 muskets.36
The origin of the Ottoman war against Venice in the Peloponnese between 1715 and 1717 has been traced to rebellions against Ottoman rule in Montenegro which were incited by Peter the Great’s appeals for help to his co-religionists in the Balkans (similar to those the Habsburg emperor Leopold had made in 1690 at the height of his long war with the Sultan, and Peter himself had done early in 1711).37 Following Peter’s defeat on the Prut, the Montenegrins found refuge from the Ottoman authorities in Venice’s Dalmatian territories.38 The governor of Bosnia, Numan Pasha (son of former general and grand vezir Köprülü Fazıl Mustafa Pasha, who had himself been grand vezir briefly after Çorlulu Ali Pasha’s dismissal), was ordered to subdue the Montenegrins, and he reported to Istanbul that Venice was in breach of the conditions of the Karlowitz treaty. The Ottomans declared war in January 1715, and for a campaign that would depend primarily on naval power, the preparedness of the fleet was accorded special attention.39
Redress for these complaints, and for Ottoman loss of the Peloponnese under the terms of the treaty, was accomplished by the capitulation or capture of some of the most strategic fortresses in that peninsula.40 Venice, however, had entered into a mutual defence pact with Austria, which feared that Ottoman gains would threaten its border in Croatia; rather than capturing Venice itself following their successes in the initial campaign, as the Sultan dreamed of doing,41 the Ottomans found themselves fighting on two fronts – not at all what the government had anticipated. Negotiation proving fruitless, in 1716 Grand Vezir Silahdar Ali Pasha led an army to Belgrade, while the fleet sailed to besiege Corfu.42
The views of those in the Ottoman government who thought it folly to go to war against Austria were ignored.43 Mobilization was slow and troop numbers insufficient, and when the opposing armies met on 5 August at Petrovaradin, the Austrian forward base during the latter stages of the 1683–99 war, their forces under the command of Prince Eugene of Savoy took only five hours to rout the Ottomans, and Silahdar Ali Pasha was killed. Matters went badly also at Corfu, where news of the Petrovaradin defeat so discouraged the Ottomans that they abandoned the siege.44 From Petrovaradin, Prince Eugene marched into the Banat and the fortress of Timişoara capitulated within a few weeks. In 1717 he led the Austrian army to a great victory against superior forces by once again expelling the Ottomans from Belgrade, and went on to advance south along the Balkan river valleys deep into Ottoman territory, causing the populations along their route to disperse and flee in panic to Istanbul.45
For eight years the Transylvanian prince Francis II Rákóczi had struggled to secure from the Habsburgs toleration for his Calvinist supporters and recognition of Transylvanian independence, but in February 1711 he had been forced to flee to Poland, and since 1713 had been living in France. Early in 1718 he was invited to Edirne and an audience with the Sultan produced a plan that he should attempt to reclaim the principality of Transylvania – but the Ottomans agreed peace terms with Austria before this could happen.46 Although he had been of no practical help to the Ottoman cause in Hungary, from August 1718 until his death in 1735 he remained with his retinue as guests of the Ottomans in the town of Tekirdağ (Rodosto), to the west of Istanbul on the north coast of the Sea of Marmara, preoccupied with anti-Habsburg schemes.47
With the appointment in May 1718 of a new grand vezir, Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha, the Ottoman government was ready to consider peace; negotiations took place at Požarevac (Passarowitz), south-east of Belgrade, mediated, as at Karlowitz, by the British and Dutch ambassadors to the Sultan. At the expense of the Ottomans, Austria kept Belgrade and Timişoara and advanced its border to Niš. This settlement restored the borders of Hungary and Croatia to their positions before the campaigns of Sultan Süleyman I,48 and codicils improved Austria’s access to trade with Ottoman domains.49 Austria’s ally Venice was left at even more of a disadvantage than the Ottomans: the Ottomans retained the Peloponnese while Venice kept the conquests it had made in Dalmatia.
Its troops might be engaged on far-distant frontiers, but the day-to-day business of government of the Ottoman Empire did not come to a standstill. Once the more violent expressions of the 1703 uprising had subsided and the court returned to Istanbul, a new equilibrium in government and in public life was gradually established. Vezirs were dismissed and appointed, while foreign envoys arrived, as was customary, to present their sovereigns’ congratulations to the new sultan; the Shah of Iran sent ‘an enormous elephant’.50
Though they had destroyed old certainties, the shock of Karlowitz and the crisis of the ‘Edirne Incident’ gradually receded from memory. The authority of the Köprülü household had not after all been replaced by that of Feyzullah Efendi, for the concession of such a position to a clerical dynasty would have required an unimaginably radical transformation in the world-view of both the Ottoman ruling class and the sultan’s subjects. The principle that grandee households had a legitimate part to play in government had been established when in the painful years of the mid-seventeenth century a succession of members of the Köprülü dynasty proved themselves capable of dealing with the havoc caused by the struggles of janissaries, palace aghas and the disaffected military men of the provinces to assert their own claims to a share in the exercise of power. In the early eighteenth century the monopoly they had formerly enjoyed from their close association with the Ottoman house broke down, and the Köprülü became only one among the most prominent grandee households who shared power.
Sultan Ahmed sought to balance the power of the grandee households and also to mould their interests to coincide with those of the Ottoman house. In addition to his several sons, Ahmed III had thirty daughters, and many pages of the chronicles for this period carry reports of their births and weddings – and their deaths, for many died young. Unlike Ottoman princes, who had suffered seclusion in the palace for a century, Ottoman princesses were now allotted a public role for the first time.51 The time-honoured practice of assuring the loyalty of statesmen to the Ottoman dynasty by marrying them to princesses was carried to new lengths as the princesses were wed, often more than once if they were widowed, to leading members of the new grandee households. Six of Ahmed’s daughters contracted seventeen marriages between them: the most-married was Saliha Sultan, who had five husbands.52 The international landscape that began to develop after Karlowitz made it necessary for the character and constituents of Ottoman power to be redefined domestically as well as externally, and in this respect Ahmed III’s fecundity facilitated the extension of the old practice of princess–statesman marriages, promoting stability among the grandee households who now shared in the authority of the Ottoman house.
The unwritten compact between the Sultan and the grandees gave the latter, in exchange for their loyalty, access to the rewards of association with the royal dynasty, enabling them to satisfy the demands of their own burgeoning households. Thus, to the expenses of warfare, traditionally the greatest drain on state revenues, were now added the expenses of the upkeep and perpetuation of the many independent households spawned by the marriages of the Sultan’s daughters. Cash was needed to support their extravagance, and innovative solutions were sought to finance both the luxuries they considered their right and the charitable works they considered their obligation. The restructuring of taxation which had begun in the 1690s in response to the financial drain of the war – most notably through the devices of reform of the poll-tax and life-term tax-farming – coincided with a pronounced increase in regional trade during the first half of the eighteenth century, and this helped the Ottoman state recover and enabled its wealthier members to enrich themselves further.
The system of life-term tax-farming instituted in 1695 was still at an experimental stage when Ahmed came to the throne. Although in theory any male could bid for a tax-farm, it soon became apparent who were the long-term beneficiaries of the new fiscal arrangements. Since a potential buyer needed access to existing assets to fund his bid at the auctions held to distribute life-term tax-farms, it was easier for those who were already well-off – high-ranking officers of the military and clerical establishments, for instance – to get their hands on these state assets. Those with insufficient personal capital to buy on their own account could do so in partnership with other family members or business associates or borrow from the non-Muslim financiers – mostly Istanbul-based and Armenian – who with their access to European capital underwrote much of the Ottoman economy: indeed, their participation was an essential component of the system.53
There was no shortage of buyers for potentially lucrative tax-farms, and competition pushed up the auction price, to the advantage of the treasury.54 Within only two years of the introduction of the system, the treasury’s ongoing search for cash to finance the continuing war had led the authorities to widen the range of investments being auctioned as life-term tax-farms. Initially the system had been intended merely to reorganize the financial administration of imperial estates, already farmed on short-term (typically three-year) contracts; now, veziral estates and land-holdings originally intended to support garrison or cavalry troops were brought within the scope of the new arrangements.55
Those who bought the title to life-term tax-farms were satisfied with promise of a secure income, but it was soon realized that the easy terms under which the system had been introduced were over-generous, and in 1715, shortly after the declaration of war on Venice, the titles to most life-term tax-farms were abrogated. In 1717, shortly before the appointment of Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha as grand vezir, another change of policy returned them to their previous holders, at a fee half of that with which they had originally secured title.56 Investors were particularly attracted to liquid assets – that is, the revenues derived from such non-agricultural tax-farms as the various customs and excise dues, which were growing as trade expanded. By the time of Ahmed’s accession, however, it was striking how a system intended also to revitalize agriculture in Eastern Anatolia and the Arab provinces had become geographically skewed: the most valuable – and, therefore, the most desirable – life-term tax-farms proved to be in the Balkans rather than in the east.57
Another alteration to the system meant that after 1714 members of the traditional tax-paying class were no longer eligible to bid for life-term tax-farms, even if they had sufficient means to do so.58 As a result, the main beneficiaries of the system were members of the Muslim elite – about a thousand bureaucrats, soldiers and clerics, most of them based in Istanbul, far from the sources of their income.59 The many daughters of Ahmed III and his successors were also major beneficiaries – princesses were the only females able to hold life-term tax-farms60 – with land-holdings and entitlement to customs dues in the Balkans in particular.61 The administration of provincial tax-farms was undertaken by men knowledgeable about local conditions whose cut of the tax ‘take’ gave them a financial interest in the rewards of the enterprise.62 The access of even the most wealthy provincials to the rewards of tax-farming at this time was only marginally enhanced by the introduction of auctions in centres outside Istanbul, for these auctions did not include commercial and urban tax-farms such as market dues, but were confined to village and agricultural revenues.63 They did, however, allow small investors a place in the market: given good fortune, they too could accumulate a measure of wealth, and this encouraged them to regard the new financial arrangements, and hence the activities of the state, with favour. The support Ahmed enjoyed from the grandees during his reign indicated that this new distribution of rewards at the state’s disposal was deemed satisfactory by those who might otherwise have been in a position to challenge the government’s authority.
The export of raw materials – predominantly grain, wool, cotton and dried fruits – to the nascent processing industries of western Europe was one of the marks of the new economic interdependency in which the Ottoman Empire was now beginning to share. Since the early seventeenth century the export trade had flowed mainly from İzmir, and Thessalonica gradually became the second largest export centre. During the eighteenth century cotton overtook wool as the leading Ottoman export commodity.64 For domestic consumption the Ottomans produced simple, inexpensive textiles in small workshops, but in the early eighteenth century also tried to reproduce the finer or more specialized cloths coming from Europe, both to reduce reliance on imports and to meet shortages. The rebellion of 1703 curtailed the manufacture of woollen cloth begun under the auspices of Rami Mehmed Efendi but production began again in 1709 and continued until it was eventually abandoned in 1732 because the quality was not sufficiently fine and the price could not compete with that of imports. State manufacture of sailcloth for the navy began in 1709 and continued through various vicissitudes into the nineteenth century. From 1720 the state also became involved in the production of silk, the preferred cloth of the rich, but could not compete with privately-produced domestic silk after mid-century.65
Relations with England were traditionally cordial, but early in the eighteenth century France replaced the English as the Ottomans’ dominant trading partner, a development that was mirrored in a further strengthening of diplomatic relations. France and the Ottomans had a long history of strategic association based on their common interest in countering Habsburg power, and King Louis XIV’s talented minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s reorganization of French trade after 1670 enabled French merchants to take advantage of the ending of hostilities in 1699.
After the wars of the Holy League and the Spanish Succession, after the Great Northern War, after Karlowitz, the 1703 uprising and wars with Russia, Austria and Venice, there was peace in western Europe and peace along the Ottoman Empire’s western frontiers. Now it was not only war that prompted the Sultan to send ambassadorial missions to his European peers. It was to Paris that Yirmisekiz (‘Twenty-eight’) Çelebi Mehmed Efendi – so called because he had belonged to the 28th janissary regiment – set out in 1720 with the news that the Sultan had granted France permission to repair the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This was information that could as easily have been conveyed with considerably less pomp, even through the French envoy in Istanbul – but Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed was instructed by Grand Vezir Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha ‘to visit fortresses and factories, and to make a thorough study of the means of civilization and education, and report on those suitable for application in the Ottoman Empire’.66 In effect, he was the first official Ottoman cultural envoy; he obeyed his instructions, and reported his experiences fully on his return. Damad İbrahim had himself travelled to Vienna the previous year, to ratify the Treaty of Passarowitz, and was well aware of all that could be learnt from beyond the Ottoman borders.67
Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed Efendi’s observations were influential in encouraging those now coming to power in the state to appreciate the usefulness of peaceful contact with the West. The Ottomans had always been receptive to technological innovation if it seemed to answer a practical need and could be accommodated within existing cultural mores – early examples were their use of cannon even before the siege of Constantinople, and of hand-held firearms from the sixteenth century. To the consternation of the governments of the time, as the latter became widely available they upset the balance of power within the empire, bringing considerable social upheaval to Anatolia in particular, as armed men roamed the land. European clocks and watches, porcelain and fashions, by contrast, were trifles only affordable and readily assimilated by the wealthy, mere novelties, with no obvious potentially adverse impact on the existing social order. Exchange of such goods between the empire and the West had a long history stretching back to the Renaissance, and in the years of Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha’s grand vezirate, they became available in greater profusion than ever before, thanks to the upturn in trade.
The alacrity with which such consumer goods were adopted by those who could afford them was only one manifestation of a renewed vitality in social life. Sultan Ahmed III used public display and ostentatious patronage to forward his aim of reviving the fortunes of the Ottoman dynasty. Lavish ceremony marked the wedding of his eldest daughter, five-year-old Fatma Sultan (who later married Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha), to the almost forty-year-old Silahdar Ali Pasha in 1709.68 Damad İbrahim, who became grand vezir in 1718, encouraged the Sultan in his exploitation of public ceremony and display as a tool for impressing both the ruling class and the ruled. A splendid fifteen-day festival celebrated the circumcision of four of Ahmed’s surviving sons in 1720, and two sumptuously illustrated prose manuscripts – one copy for the Sultan and the other for the Grand Vezir – were produced to record the event. The text was from the pen of Seyyid Hüseyin Vehbi and the illustrations the work of the painter known as Levni, the foremost court painter of his day. The volume was only the second but also the last to be devoted to a royal festival: the first was that produced to celebrate the circumcision of the future Mehmed III in 1582. The celebrations of 1720 carried echoes of the past two centuries, such as the wedding of Sultan Süleyman’s ill-fated grand vezir İbrahim Pasha in 1523, the circumcision of the Sultan’s sons in 1530, and the departure of Sultan Murad IV to reconquer Baghdad from the Safavids in 1638. One of the main spectacles of the pageantry of 1720 was a procession of the guilds, like the one described by Evliya Çelebi in the previous century, which enabled tradesmen to show off their wares – both the mundane and luxurious – to potential customers watching the parade, whether Ottoman grandees, European ambassadors or the common people of Istanbul.69
The mosque of Rabia Gülnüş Emetullah Sultan hinted at a restatement of the role of the queen-mother in expressing the legitimacy of the dynasty. Rabia Gülnüş, as mother of both Mustafa II and Ahmed III, was queen-mother from Mustafa’s accession in 1695 until her death in 1715. According to a list dating from 1702 the estates she held were worth almost three times those of the Grand Vezir (after whom came princesses of the royal house, followed by vezirs and members of the dynasty of the Crimean khans),70 and in 1708 she embarked on the building of a prominently-situated mosque complex at the landing-stage in Üsküdar, opposite that of Süleyman I’s daughter Mihrimah Sultan; it was completed two and a half years later, just before the army set out on campaign against Russia.71 In 1722, seven years after her death, it was granted the privilege of suspending lights between its minarets to mark the holy month of Ramadan, thus marking it as the equal in status of the greatest mosques of Istanbul – Süleymaniye, Sultan Ahmed and Yeni Valide.72
With power more widely dispersed among the Ottoman grandees than at any time since the earliest days of the state, it rapidly became clear that the aspirations of the new order would not and could not be confined within the purlieus of Topkapı Palace. Having grown up in the freer atmosphere of Edirne, Ahmed III himself resented the constraints forced upon him once the court returned to Istanbul. Writing a century later, in 1837, Miss Julia Pardoe, a visiting English gentlewoman, recorded the vehemence with which Sultan Mahmud II responded to his chief architect’s efforts to convince him that Topkapı was more splendid than any palace to be found in Europe: ‘None save a rogue or fool could class that palace. . . hidden beneath high walls and amid dark trees, as though it would not brave the light of day, with. . . light, laughing palaces, open to the free air and pure sunshine of heaven’.73 Sultan Mahmud may or may not have spoken so feelingly, but it seems likely that Ahmed III felt much the same. Sultans and their ministers had always had hunting-grounds and gardens along the shores of the Bosporus, with modest pavilions and villas of wood and stone for informal use, but the eighteenth century saw a change as multi-storeyed, waterfront palaces were built, their impressive façades extending along the shore.74 A letter from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the British ambassador, who visited Istanbul in 1717–18, refers to ‘some hundreds of magnificent palaces’ along the Bosporus alone;75 even allowing for exaggeration, this is an indication that the building boom was well advanced before the 1720s. The earliest of the Bosporus waterside palaces of which a portion – a small part of the public rooms – remains standing is that built in wood in the village of Anadolu Hisarı in 1699 by Köprülü grand vezir Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha.
The nouveaux riches Ottoman grandees of the 1720s had the leisure to enjoy themselves and the money to indulge their whims. The social gatherings of this ‘fashionable society’ were frequent, ostentatious, and conducted beyond the confines of the old walled city of Istanbul. Banquets and entertainments often lasting several days were held at Ahmed’s own palaces and those of his extended family and other prominent households. For the first time, according to a modern architectural historian, ‘an introvert society’ was introduced to an ‘urban and extrovert’ way of life.76 This greater sociability had its effect on the local economy, prompting shifts in previous patterns of consumption of, for instance, food, clothing and furnishings. In the case of food, olive oil, seafood and vegetable dishes were used to a greater extent than before. People were also ready to experiment with new dishes, and patterns of entertaining began to change as consumption of coffee and desserts (made possible by increased use of sugar, where honey had formerly predominated), in particular, fostered novel modes of social relationship outside the ‘dining-room’, in spaces reserved for the enjoyment of these foods.77
Ahmed abandoned the tradition of enhancing the mystique of the dynasty by retreating to the seclusion of the suburban gardens and parklands, choosing instead to appear openly before his subjects. He made royal progresses by water, visible to all, just as Elizabeth of England had a century and a half earlier. Simon Schama, writing of the way Elizabeth ‘us[ed] the river [Thames] as a stage on which to embrace all of her subjects [in] a brilliantly calculated triumph of public relations’, quotes a contemporary chronicler who describes her as ‘shewing herself so freely and condescending unto the people, she made herself dear and acceptable to them’.78
The Sultan could not simply abandon Topkapı, however, for it was the traditional centre of government. The palace had not been the sultan’s regular residence for half a century, so it was natural that Ahmed, even if he hoped to live there as little as possible, should have the private apartments redecorated. The centrepiece of these renovations was his chamber in the harem, whose every wall is covered with murals of fruit and flowers, the vibrant architectural decoration of the age. Such naturalistic motifs were ubiquitous, whether rendered in marble or on paper in manuscripts. Portrait painting also changed as the influential artist Levni portrayed the sultans during whose reigns he worked – Mustafa II and Ahmed III – in greater close-up. His portraits are particularly striking for their faithful record of the character of the sitter, whose individuality seems to have been accentuated to make him more human: the distance between sultan and observer seems to have shrunk.79
The future court chronicler Mehmed Raşid Efendi was a cleric in Istanbul at the time,80 with close knowledge of the finances of the empire. He noted that around 1720, for the first time in years, the treasury’s balance of payments began to show a surplus: it seemed that the financial reforms were proving effective.81 The next year Sultan Ahmed gave orders for the construction of the most splendid palace of all, that of Sa‘dabad – ‘Abode of Felicity’ – in meadows upstream from where the Kağıthane stream, the ‘Sweet Waters of Europe’, feeds into the Golden Horn near Eyüp. Grandees liked to build their palaces along the Golden Horn as well as the Bosporus, and the Kağıthane meadows had long been a refuge from the city, a place where people would gather for entertainment and celebration. Ahmed III’s Sa‘dabad took the idea of the ‘garden pavilion’ to new lengths. The Kağıthane stream was tamed to flow through the park in a marble-lined canal (remnants of which are still visible), and along the straight axis thus imposed lay the continuous, symmetrical façades of the palaces of dignitaries and courtiers: the Sultan’s own palace stood on thirty marble columns with a pool before it.82 The palaces were given fanciful names: The Elephant’s Bridge, The First Waterfall, The Silver Canal, The Hall of Paradise, and so on.83
Like that of Sultan Süleyman I in the sixteenth century, the reign of Ahmed III paralleled in many ways those of his European contemporaries (or near-contemporaries), and it is hardly possible to avoid comparison of Sa‘dabad with the Versailles of the recently-dead Louis XIV, or the Summer Palace and Gardens of Peter the Great in Petrograd – or, indeed, the suburban palaces around Peter’s capital. Like Peter, who brought back from his visit to western Europe in 1716–17 an album of views of Louis XIV’s garden palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau, and announced on his return to Petrograd that a new palace he was building there must ‘vie with Versailles’,84 Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed Efendi also came home bearing a souvenir of his time in France – twelve engravings of Versailles, now in the collection of Topkapı Palace.85 Like Tsar Peter, Sultan Ahmed took a close personal interest in the execution of his building projects.86 The circumstances of his own youth provided inspiration for Sa‘dabad: like Edirne, it was to be a refuge where he could enjoy the unencumbered life sought by recent sultans away from Istanbul. The flavour of Iran detectable in the names of the Kağıthane palaces reflected the influence of the Safavid court, as pervasive in Sa‘dabad and in the wider artistic endeavours of the age as that of Versailles.
Ordinary people benefited from the extravagances of the rich, and not only from the increased demand for goods and services. Patronage, particularly that of the Sultan and Grand Vezir, provided such public services as the numerous, large and intricately-decorated fountains throughout greater Istanbul.87 The illumination of the imperial and veziral mosques of Istanbul on more nights than ever before had the effect of expanding and reshaping public space and relaxing constraints on personal mobility, enabling even the poor to move about the city when previously they had been confined to their homes during the hours of darkness. This new freedom was a key aspect of what is called, in a twentieth-century coinage, the ‘Tulip Age’.88
Tulips there were – and in abundance. This oriental bulb, whether it reached Europe in the mid-sixteenth century through the agency of Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq, Habsburg ambassador at the court of Sultan Süleyman I, or even earlier, as has recently been proposed,89 had long been as popular among the notables of Istanbul as it became among their counterparts in Europe. Tulips had been woven into textile designs, drawn on pottery and tiles, painted on manuscripts, and sculpted on fountains since the sixteenth century, and Evliya Çelebi wrote in the 1630s of the tulip gardens of the Bosporus, even referring to a tulip named for Kağıthane in his time.90 Now, almost a hundred years on, tulips once again became an indulgence to console the Ottomans for the deprivations of war – but the thousands of bulbs Ahmed III imported came from the United Provinces, centre of the tulip trade. Most prized by Ottoman tulip-fanciers, the form they sought to bring to perfection, was an ‘almond-shaped, dagger-petalled’ tulip. The Ottomans were aware of the havoc an unregulated market could cause, and sale of the very many varieties available had to be controlled through a system of official pricing to dampen the inevitable speculation in this most sought-after of commodities91 – the Dutch had experienced such tulipomania in the late 1620s and 1630s,92 immortalized by Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Black Tulip. Writing in 1726, the French ambassador to Istanbul described one of Grand Vezir Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha’s tulip extravaganzas:
There are 500,000 bulbs in the Grand Vezir’s garden. When the Tulips are in flower and the Grand Vezir wants to show them off to the Grand Seigneur, they take care to fill in any spaces with Tulips picked from other gardens and put in bottles. At every fourth flower, candles are set into the ground at the same height as the tulips and the pathways are decorated with cages of all sorts of birds. All the trellis-work is bordered with flowers in vases and lit up by a vast number of crystal lamps of various colours. . . The colours and reflections of the lights in mirrors make a marvellous effect. The illuminations are accompanied by noisy music and Turkish music lasts through all the nights that the tulips are in flower. All this is at the expense of the Grand Vezir, who during the whole of tulip time, lodges and feeds the Grand Seigneur and his suite.93
But the ‘Tulip Age’ was not only about pleasure. The sacred complement to the ostentatious banquets, audiences and progresses of Ahmed III’s reign were the visits he and his retinue of state dignitaries paid to the chamber housing the sacred mantle of the Prophet. Before the eighteenth century, visits to the mantle had been regular only at the accession of a new sultan; under Sultan Ahmed visiting the mantle became an elaborate state ceremony that took place annually on 15 Ramadan, the full moon on the middle day of the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. The previous day the Sultan would take part in the ritual cleaning of the chamber and in preparing the mantle for display. Contemporary ‘Books of Ceremonies’ give precise details of the ritual – who was to participate, with their order of precedence sketched in diagrammatic fashion, what they must wear, and the prayers to be performed.94
Another opportunity for Sultan Ahmed to remind his subjects that religion was an essential component of Ottoman dynastic life presented itself on the occasion of the ritual ceremony symbolizing the religious instruction of his young sons, which took place with great pomp shortly after their spectacular circumcision feast in 1720. The younger princes – Mehmed, Mustafa and Bayezid – were only three and four years old when the Sultan and the highest officials of state, both secular and religious, attended the ceremony in the Pearl Pavilion on the coast below Topkapı Palace.95 The Sultan’s concern for his people was demonstrated when five thousand poor boys were circumcised at the same time as his sons.96
In another gesture underlining the attachment of those in power to the sacred calendar, Damad İbrahim Pasha gave a more extravagant form to the feasts which traditionally marked the end of the month of Ramadan. Soon after he came to the grand vezirate, in 1721, he held a feast at Eyüp, he and his retinue returning to Istanbul afterwards with great pomp. Such feasts became more splendid as time went by,97 perpetuated throughout the century by Mahmud I and his successors as a means of impressing upon the court and people the sultan’s piety and continuing relevance as head of state.*
If the clerical profession had their doubts about the comportment of court society, they were nevertheless easily co-opted. Lectures were held in the presence of Damad İbrahim Pasha during Ramadan at which leading clerics engaged in learned disputation on a passage from the Koran or the Traditions of the Prophet. The text to be debated was carefully chosen: among the Koranic passages discussed during the 1720s were those concerning ‘Victory’ – an appropriate topic in the context of the Iranian campaigns that began in 1722.98
As the identification of the clerical profession with the goals of the dynasty grew closer it was manipulated to enhance the legitimacy of the Sultan, and develop a coterie of allies. The role of the clerical profession also changed in more subtle ways as it became increasingly more of a ‘closed shop’. There were families who in the past had furnished more than one sheikhulislam; now, what were essentially clerical dynasties began to enjoy a monopoly on this and other high religious offices, and the principle of dynastic succession to the pinnacle of the hierarchy became entrenched. Sheikhulislam Feyzullah Efendi may have been murdered, but his descendants would be rehabilitated and rise to the top again once a new sultan succeeded Ahmed III. Between 1703, the year of Sheikhulislam Feyzullah Efendi’s murder and of Ahmed III’s accession, and 1839, three families, including the Feyzullahzade, contributed 13 of the 58 sheikhulislams in this period and, since sheikhulislams were frequently dismissed and later reappointed, 20 out of 76 tenures of the office.99 Such clerical dynasties had their counterparts in the military and in the bureaucracy, and while significant numbers of children of military men and bureaucrats were to be found among high-ranking clerics, legislation in 1715 restricting entry into the clerical profession to the advantage of the sons of clerics gave nepotism official sanction. And just as the grandees of Istanbul enjoyed what was tantamount to a monopoly of the life-term tax-farm system, so in the non-secular sphere, the imperial capital was granted a monopoly on educating recruits to the clerical career.100 The ‘new nepotism’ cut across the traditional state ‘orders’ to produce a privileged class – a veritable aristocracy – united by common interests against such challenges to their power and the sultan’s as had blighted government during the seventeenth century.
The relationship of Grand Vezir Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha to Sultan Ahmed bore echoes of that of Sheikhulislam Feyzullah Efendi to Sultan Mustafa II at the beginning of the century, and he was able to use it in the same way to the advantage of his extended family. Members of Damadİbrahim’s household, the Nevşehirlizade, wielded significant influence as offices in the imperial council were monopolized by his men: one son-in-law was his proxy as grand vezir and another was grand admiral. He himself married Sultan Ahmed’s eldest daughter Fatma Sultan, and other members of his family wed the next three surviving princesses. Even before he became grand vezir, Damad İbrahim had been arranging marriages between members of his household and the Ottoman dynasty, and building up his network of patronage. He brooked no rivals: members of the Köprülü household – Abdullah Pasha and Esad Pasha (sons of Fazıl Mustafa Pasha), and former grand vezir Numan Pasha – were assigned to positions in distant corners of the empire, as had been their fate during the years of Feyzullah Efendi’s ascendancy.101
Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha was grand vezir for twelve years, a rare period of stability in government office to match Fazıl Ahmed Pasha’s tenure as grand vezir. Sheikhulislam Yenişehirli Abdullah Efendi also held office for twelve years; Damad İbrahim’s son-in-law, the grand admiral, held office for nine years, the finance minster, Hacı İbrahim Efendi, for ten years, and Chancellor Üçanbarlı (‘Three Storehouses’) Mehmed Efendi for twelve years. However, the longest-serving of all those in the Sultan’s circle was the chief black eunuch, Hacı Beşir Agha, who despite – or perhaps on account of – his venality, held his post from 1717 for an unprecedented 29 years.
Although Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha was admired by European visitors to Istanbul (as he is by many modern writers) as an enlightened reformer who tried to drag the Ottomans into the contemporary world, Ottoman commentators of the time were less generous. His evident commitment to peace certainly did not satisfy some sections of society, for whom a more defensive stance on the part of the Ottoman state was a betrayal of everything it stood for. At best, most Ottoman chroniclers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries considered Damad İbrahim to have been responsible for introducing alien ideas, and for over-taxation and nepotism; they saw him as having been profligate with state resources and overly permissive in his attitude to the relaxed parks-and-palaces social life of the grandees, and at worst, responsible for giving licence to a sexual profligacy which upset relations between men and women. That ordinary people had some opportunity to share in these entertainments and to imitate their betters was also regretted by the chroniclers.102
The diplomatic settlements of Karlowitz in 1699 and Passarowitz in 1719 brought peace to the western and northern frontiers of the Ottoman Empire, and bought the rich and powerful time to savour the pleasures of Sa‘dabad and the new Bosporus palaces of the ‘Tulip Age’. It seemed that Sultan Ahmed was winning the hearts and minds of his subjects, and that he and Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha had been correct in their assessment that satisfying the curiosity of the public about the lives of the royal family and the grandees was beneficial for Istanbul society at large.103Events were soon to prove them wrong, however. The significant changes in the demographic landscape seen during the War of the Holy League as the Habsburgs pushed forward into Ottoman territory, and following the fixing of new borders after Karlowitz, and again following Passarowitz, forced desperate Ottoman Muslims who found themselves on the wrong side of the frontiers agreed by these treaties to move south-east through the Balkans towards the capital. The Peloponnese was returned to the Ottomans at Passarowitz, but the intervening years had seen migrations from that region to compound those resulting from the permanent loss of Hungary, Transylvania and Podolia. Where once Ottoman wars had been fought on enemy soil, after 1683 they were fought within the empire’s borders, exacerbating the displacement of the Ottoman population, and in a city where the maintenance of public order was difficult at the best of times, these new arrivals were not welcome. They formed an underclass whose presence impinged directly upon the tradesmen and artisans of Istanbul – as the immigrants sought employment, the long-established complained bitterly of the undermining of their jealously-guarded privileges.104 Throughout the 1720s it was repeatedly decreed that immigrants to Istanbul should return whence they had come, and local authorities in Rumeli were ordered to regulate their movement, but mere admonitions, however strongly worded, were to little avail.105
With a growing underclass of the displaced and dispossessed, and simmering resentment among established tradespeople, social differences became ever more marked, and violent expressions of popular anger showed that the gulf between the ostentatiously rich and the rest was becoming dangerously wide. In 1726 a crowd stoned Sultan Ahmed’s palace at Beşiktaş over ten nights, forcing him to move to one of his residences on the Golden Horn.106 In İzmir, the years 1727 and 1728 saw a clash between janissaries and the troops of the government representative in the city over their respective spheres of authority; it developed into a prolonged revolt which drew in the discontented from various walks of life, prompting intervention from Istanbul but ending with the escape of the ringleaders.107 As for life-term tax-farming, while it brought greater wealth to those already rich enough to bid at the auctions, and also benefited their agents, and people like traders and artisans providing goods and services for those with the money to pay for them, for those who paid the taxes this system opened the way both to ever more excessive demands, and also to jurisdictional disputes over tax-collection rights in which they were the inevitable losers. In truth, the insouciance of the Ottoman court and grandee households was becoming increasingly resented, and by the time statesmen came to appreciate this, it was too late to deflect popular restiveness.
Apart from the flurry of military activity attending Peter the Great’s capture of Azov in 1696, little had occurred to disturb the peace in the east established by the 1639 Ottoman–Safavid treaty of Zuhab. In the first decades of the eighteenth century Iran had its own domestic troubles, and in 1720 the Sultan, eager for information about events there, sent an ambassador, Ahmed Dürri Efendi, to Shah Husayn.108 The formal, ostensible purpose of the visit was to consult with the Safavids over the Ottoman–Habsburg trade agreement of 1718, which contained a clause regulating the passage of Iranian merchants through Ottoman territory.109 In 1721 Sunni Afghan tribes invaded Iran from the east, taking the Safavid capital of Isfahan the next year; the Shia Safavid dynasty fell and Russia agreed to assist the rump Safavid state in its struggle against the Afghans in return for territorial concessions. The Ottomans, fearing the instability would spread to their own Caucasian frontier with Russia, and putting forward as justification the age-old charge that the Safavids were not true Muslims, profited from the confusion to reoccupy the north-west Iranian provinces they had held at various times before 1639. A clash between the Ottomans and Russia threatened, but diplomacy prevailed, and in 1724, under the terms of an Ottoman–Russian partition of north-west Iran mediated by French negotiators,110 the Ottomans won Russian recognition of their gains. A curious aspect of the agreement with Russia was that, notwithstanding the Ottomans’ religious justification of their campaign, it specified support for the restoration of the Safavids rather than the Afghans.111
But Iran was not peaceful for long. There was no hope for the Safavids in the face of the Afghan advance; and the Afghans were bold enough to use the Ottomans’ own casuistry against them, appealing to the Sultan to recognize them as the rightful rulers of Iran on the grounds that the Shia were heretics and had been branded as such by the Ottomans. This plea cut no ice in Istanbul: the Afghans were considered rebels, and the two years of fighting that ensued112 ended in 1728 when Mehmed Raşid Efendi – now retired from the post of court chronicler which he held between 1714 and 1723 – was sent to Iran by Ahmed III to confirm an Ottoman– Afghan peace.113 The Afghans were soon overthrown by Nadir Khan, also known as Tahmasp Quli Khan, of the Turcoman Afshar tribe, an energetic military leader who confronted the Ottomans and on 12 August 1730 took from them Tabriz which they had won in 1725.114 Like the earlier wars in the west, this war with Iran made its own contribution to the waves of rural immigrants making their way to Istanbul.
Conscious of the currents set in motion by the opening of a new period of warfare with Iran, Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha proposed that to boost public morale Sultan Ahmed should ride at the head of his army on the campaign of 1730. It would not be the first time he had accompanied his army: in 1715 at the outset of the struggle against Venice for possession of the Peloponnese, and again in 1717, the year of the loss of Belgrade, he had set out with his men – but had remained far behind the front line.115 The army began to assemble at the mustering-ground at Üsküdar by the end of July 1730, and by 3 August the troops were drawn up, waiting for the Sultan to cross the Bosporus from Istanbul. When he made no move to do so, Damad İbrahim could only assume that he had decided not to lead his troops eastwards and immediately hastened to his side to beg him not to delay, reminding him that a janissary revolt would certainly be the result if he failed to appear. Emulating his forebears on the eastern frontier was a very different proposition from doing so in the Balkans, and it was only after much pleading that Damad İbrahim, in consultation with the commander-in-chief of the janissaries, could persuade Ahmed to appear in Üsküdar – which he did with great pomp, after a progress to Eyüp, where before an audience which included foreign ambassadors he had been ceremonially girded with a sword, as if for a coronation.116
By an unfortunate coincidence, just at this time news of the fall of Tabriz to Nadir Khan reached Istanbul. Only the previous month, the Ottoman commander of the fortress of Hamadan had deserted his post; now the commander of Tabriz was reported to have done the same. As rumours that the campaign was about to be called off ran through the capital, the army remained immobilized at Üsküdar – neither Sultan nor Grand Vezir seemed eager to provide leadership, both withdrawing from the mustering-ground to their palaces on the Bosporus. Such was the level of public discontent that they then feared to leave the city, for it was certain that an uprising would follow. Clerics and janissaries alike nursed their grievances against Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha, the former on account of his nepotism, the janissaries because not for the first time they found it difficult to adapt to change, and to the new climate of diplomacy and conciliation with an erstwhile enemy.117
Still the army waited at Üsküdar, increasingly restive, and having received little reassurance that any attention had been paid to the essential logistical underpinnings of the campaign. The tradesmen and artisans were particularly aggrieved. From earliest times Ottoman tradesmen had accompanied the troops on campaign, taking their wares with them to sell. This year, however, they fell victim to an onerous tax of recent invention: they were required to pay a levy on what they expected to earn on campaign, and at a rate which they considered excessive; the tax proved the more injurious since no one was buying – the tradesmen had invested in goods to sell to the soldiers, but found no customers.118 On 8 September the Sultan roused himself from his torpor to announce that the Grand Vezir would lead the army on campaign.119
There were many in Istanbul who had reason to be unhappy with their lot, but the protagonists of the uprising that began on 28 September 1730 were a motley crew of tradesmen and former soldiers, numbering some 25–30 men in all. Some had taken part in earlier disturbances, such as that atİzmir in 1727–8, a harbinger of the troubles which now beset Istanbul. Their initial attempts to rally support in the bazaar and from the janissaries met with only limited success, and European observers in the city at the time agreed that the uprising could have been suppressed had it been stamped on at once. When news of it reached the Sultan he summoned his advisers to his palace in Üsküdar; the same evening, in great fear and trepidation, the Sultan and state dignitaries crossed the Bosporus under cover of darkness to the greater safety of Topkapı Palace – but they could reach no decision on what action to take.120
The next day was Friday, the holy day on which it was customary to express grievances and political protest after the midday prayer. The rebels had grown bolder now; at first it was the dispossessed, those for whom there was no place in the life of the city, who joined the swelling crowd, but the janissary rank-and-file were soon persuaded to align themselves on their side. However, as so often in the past in cases of rebellion, the rebels felt the need to grace their deeds with legal sanction, and soon obtained a juridical opinion from a biddable, low-ranking cleric who was willing to endorse their actions. Unable to trust his troops, the Sultan sent some officers of the palace to enquire of the rebels what their grievances were, and to order them to disperse. They refused, demanding that 37 officials be handed over to them to answer charges: the wanted men included the Grand Vezir and one of his sons-in-law; the other, the Grand Admiral, had shown some sympathy for the plight of the rebels.121 This rebellion followed the usual pattern, its participants making no clear statement of their grievances, demanding only to lay their hands on the Sultan’s men.
The Sultan set up the Prophet’s sacred standard and called upon all God-fearing Muslims to rally to it, a ruse successfully resorted to by his grandfather Sultan Mehmed IV at the time of the 1651 uprising in Istanbul. On this occasion it was of no avail, and the rebels repeated their demands that Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha and Sheikhulislam Yenişehirli Abdullah Efendi be handed over to them. Ahmed was reluctant to abandon Damad İbrahim, but there were those around him who thought that the Grand Vezir’s deposition would save their own skins. On the third day of the rebellion the rebels cut the water supply to Topkapı Palace and blocked the delivery of food. Chief Black Eunuch Hacı Beşir Agha caused the Grand Vezir’s seal of office to be taken from him by force, and the Sultan had no other recourse than to order the execution of Damad İbrahim and both his sons-in-law – the reason why both were by now targets of rebel wrath is unclear. Damad İbrahim had alienated many in government circles, and at this time of crisis discovered that he could not count upon even his closest allies. When it was learned that the rebels were attacking the palace, a hasty inventory of the condemned men’s estates was made and the sentences were carried out. The three bodies were delivered to the mob, who displayed them in the city. There was some confusion as to whether one was indeed Damad İbrahim’s corpse, or whether he remained hidden in the palace.122
Despite the murder of Damad İbrahim Pasha and his sons-in-law, the crowd still did not disperse. Now they demanded the removal of Sultan Ahmed himself. When informed of this ultimatum, the Sultan calmly went to Mahmud, son of his brother Mustafa II, brought him and his own two eldest surviving sons Süleyman and Mehmed out of the harem, and ordered the palace officials to swear the oath of allegiance to Mahmud as his successor. This orderly handover of the sultanate was mirrored in the city, where there was remarkably little material damage and, since Sultan Ahmed had no trustworthy troops to call upon to put down the rebellion with force, scant loss of life.123 One of the most eminent victims of the uprising was the Ottoman envoy who had visited Versailles, Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed Efendi: like others associated with the regime of Ahmed III he was distanced from court; he was exiled to Cyprus, and died in 1732.124
The rebels formed a parallel administration by nominating their own candidates to fill the state offices made vacant by the removal of Ahmed’s closest advisers. The new sultan warily issued an invitation to the rebel leader, one Patrona Halil (an Albanian after whom the uprising came to be called – his epithet derived from a ship on which he had once served), to state his grievances at the palace. In response, the Sultan abrogated some of the taxes imposed by Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha; but calm was not so easily bought. One of Damad İbrahim’s economies had involved reducing the number of supernumeraries in the sultan’s troops – the rebels now opened the rolls to any who wished to enlist, and thousands did so, undoing Damad İbrahim’s good work. A witness to these events of whom nothing is known but his name, Abdi, wrote that ‘however many people there were in a household – female, male, bastards in the womb – all were individually registered and then signed-up to the sultan’s troops; thus the public treasury was robbed’. By comparison with the few days leading up to the deposition of Ahmed III, the situation was now far more dangerous, for real authority in Istanbul and at the heart of the state now lay in the hands of Patrona Halil and his associates.125
Patrona Halil presented himself as a man of the people, as well as their protector, and the Ottoman establishment was deeply offended by his uncouth appearance. At the customary ceremony in Eyüp at which the new sultan was girded with the sword, he rode before Sultan Mahmud in the procession in simple clothes and with bare feet. The Sultan’s mother was beguiled by his Rasputin-like charms, referring to him as ‘my second son’ and showering favours on him when he visited her palace. The streets were thronged with his partisans and appointees, who were appeased with hand-outs from the treasury. Eight days after Mahmud came to the throne, he deemed it time to restore order. A compromise was reached: the crowds agreed to disperse on the understanding that no one would be punished for their part in the rebellion, and that the rebels were allowed to keep a small force under arms. But their parallel administration successfully interfered in the process of appointing his own men to state office which was the prerogative of a new sultan: the rebel leaders had not previously aspired to the highest positions themselves, but now began to see their formal integration into the state apparatus as their only hope of salvation and demanded the right to make such appointments themselves. Patrona Halil himself, apparently eager to return to sea, wanted to be grand admiral.126
A month after the revolt began, tensions between the rebel leaders and the janissaries became apparent – and the murder of a janissary officer on 5 November clinched it. The palace found itself of one mind with the janissaries in wanting to put an end to the reign of the plebeian, and public opinion, too, was at last turning. In secret meetings the government decided that open suppression of Patrona Halil and his associates was out of the question, since it might increase their following. Aware that a plot was being formulated, the rebel leaders made it known that if war was declared on Iran or Russia, they would leave Istanbul for the front. But this was unacceptable to Mahmud’s government, and a more elaborate solution was planned: Patrona Halil and the other leaders, about thirty men in all, were invited to attend a meeting at which, they were told, their demands for government office would be met. As they arrived at the palace they were divided into small groups and as they waited – so they thought – for the Sultan to award them the robes of honour to mark their appointment to the posts they had been promised, first the ringleaders and then the rest were murdered by the Sultan’s men. The waiting crowd began to wonder what had happened when none returned from the audience, until they saw the bloody bodies of the rebel leaders being brought out from the palace. This was enough to sap the courage of those who still entertained hopes that their cause would triumph, and many fled the city or disappeared from sight. The Sultan issued orders that any rebels who had fled were to be apprehended wherever they might be found. The French ambassador, the Marquis de Villeneuve, estimated that more than a thousand people were killed during the four days following the massacre in the palace.127
The chronicler Şemdanizade (‘Son of the Candlestick Maker’) Fındıklılı Süleyman Agha was no more than a child when these events took place and must have heard them retold by his father who worked as a state official; he especially mentions one Kabakulak (‘Swollen-eared’) İbrahim Pasha, a man who had gained a reputation for ruthlessness during his many years of service in Egypt, as having been largely responsible for putting down the Patrona Halil rebellion, comparing him to two earlier grand vezirs: Kuyucu Murad Pasha,128 who achieved military success against the revolt of Canbuladoğlu Ali Pasha in Syria in 1607 and against the Celalis in 1609, and Tabanıyassı Mehmed Pasha, who suppressed the Istanbul uprising of 1632. Kabakulak İbrahim was grand vezir for a few months from January 1731, but was dismissed in the autumn of the same year.
Many of the rebels escaped retribution and in March 1731 avenged the death of their comrades by looting the city before marching on the barracks of the janissaries and the sultan’s other regiments, then on to the palace. The witness known as Abdi noted among those now joining the protest recent arrivals in Istanbul whom he evidently considered to be the dregs of society – Laz (from the eastern Black Sea), gypsies, Armenians, Ottoman Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Bosnians, Anatolian Muslims (Turks), and unsophisticated Muslims from the Balkans.129 This time, however, the sacred standard worked its magic: many rallied to it at the Sultan’s call, and the rebels were unable to rouse any support among the people of the city. When a shot from a firearm hit the standard, the crowd turned on the rebels; those bringing severed heads to the palace as evidence of rebels killed were richly rewarded.130
Except in cases where populations were relocated at the direction of the state, it had always been Ottoman policy to discourage migration because land without people to work it did not contribute to state revenues. The Patrona Halil rebellion seemed to demonstrate a further disadvantage of the uncontrolled movement of people – that migration into Istanbul had severe social consequences. Migrant Albanians were blamed for inciting the unrest in 1730, and their role officially noted in edicts subsequently sent to the military and civil authorities in the western Balkans; following a minor uprising in Istanbul in September 1731, the authorities were strictly enjoined to prevent further migration. Patrona Halil was Albanian – it is unclear how many of his fellow rebel-leaders shared his origins, but Albanians in general made convenient scapegoats. A further crackdown in 1734 admonished the authorities of the villages on the northern shore of the Sea of Marmara to ensure that any Albanians – Muslim or non-Muslim – trying to reach Istanbul illegally by water be denied a boat, and be sent bound to Istanbul.131 Thus had the city’s needs changed over time: Sultan Mehmed II had encouraged, indeed required, provincial populations to move to Istanbul to make it a flourishing imperial capital; Sultan Mahmud I introduced stringent regulations to keep people from the provinces out of the city, but was unable to enforce them effectively.
Anatolia could not remain untouched by the human consequences of the wars of this period: whereas in the Balkans the outcome was migration to Istanbul, provoked by the redrawing of the borders of the empire, Anatolia was once more affected by the ravages of a disorderly soldiery. The most undisciplined units of irregular troops had been ordered to disband following the end of the war with Austria and Venice in 1718,132 but the Iranian war of the 1720s gave them a chance to reassemble; Silahdar Fındıklılı Mehmed Agha articulated the view prevailing in ruling circles when he described the Anatolian provinces as the ‘lair of brigands’.133 Anatolia was hardly sharing in the economic growth which was bringing prosperity to some, and the plight of those in rural areas was becoming steadily worse. The inspiration behind the introduction of life-term tax-farming in the empire’s eastern provinces had in part derived from the need to revitalize agriculture, but most of Anatolia was not initially included, probably because it was not anticipated that these provinces would attract bidders. There was some life-term tax-farm investment in western Anatolia in 1703, but only 5 per cent was in village lands.134 The failure to attract investors to bid for the title to agricultural lands offers some clue to rural conditions at the time.
Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha’s government had been well aware of the distress being experienced by the people of the Anatolian provinces, and had by no means neglected them. Efforts to assuage rural misery by enabling people to make a living lay behind the establishment of new settlements or improvement of those existing, especially along the pilgrimage route through south-eastern Anatolia where security had long been a problem. Caravansarays were built or rebuilt, with villages around them in which tribesmen or villagers from particularly poor areas were resettled, a policy that continued into Mahmud I’s reign, and beyond.135 The most ambitious of Damad İbrahim’s projects was the transformation of the central Anatolian village of Muşkara, where he was born, into the town of Nevşehir (‘New City’) (today, the administrative centre for the tourist region of Cappadocia). Here he built two mosques, a theological college, a soup-kitchen, a school, a library, a covered market, two bath-houses and eight fountains, which still form the commercial heart of the modern city.136
Far to the east and south of Istanbul, beyond the core territory of Anatolia, were the Arab provinces of the empire. They had become part of the Ottoman realm at various dates during the sixteenth century, and most were initially administered according to a law-code tailored to local customs and conditions under a governor exercising authority in the sultan’s name. Two systems of land-holding prevailed: in the province of Mosul, and in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Damascus and Tripoli, for instance, land-grants were awarded in return for military service as in most of Anatolia and the Balkans; and in Basra, Baghdad, Egypt and Habeş, for instance, and in the north African coastal provinces of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, which were only loosely connected to the centre, tax-farming predominated. In addition to these two systems, significant territory remained under the control of tribal chiefs – such as the Kurdish chiefs – who, although also subject to some central regulation, enjoyed a greater measure of independence than other land-holders. Over time the methods by which these provinces were governed – like other provinces formed as territorial conquest allowed, and as administrative priorities evolved – might diverge radically from the model imposed on conquest, but what they always had in common was that the degree to which central control was enforced waxed and waned, as locally-based groups accumulated – or temporarily relinquished – power at the expense of Istanbul.
Egypt was the largest province of the empire and, from its strategic location on the main trade routes, the richest. It also had a special place in the empire, owing to its responsibility for ensuring the smooth functioning of the pilgrimage and supplying grain and financial support to the Muslim Holy Places. Customs dues contributed the greatest share of the revenue of the Egyptian treasury, and its agriculture and its towns thrived under the Ottomans; after meeting local expenses including, most notably, those of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, a surplus was sent each year to the central treasury in Istanbul. There were inevitable problems associated with the grafting-on of the alien Ottoman regime to that of the defeated Mamluks, but Ottoman rule in Egypt was fairly stable until the latter part of the sixteenth century, a period marked by a rash of rebellions against the governor’s authority.137 During the seventeenth century the tensions inherent in the conflict between central and local interests were played out in a series of factional struggles for control of the lucrative posts of provincial treasurer and commander of the pilgrimage, and the role of the Istanbul-appointed governor was reduced to that of a mediator between the factions. The attempt by the Köprülü vezirs to strengthen central authority in Egypt was short-lived,138 and by the early eighteenth century the janissaries – some of them on temporary assignment from the sultan’s regiments, others of local origin – were the strongest power in the province, fully integrated into the networks of tax-farming and household-based politics which were the route to wealth and power. In 1711 a particularly bloody revolt rooted in a janissary struggle erupted, drawing in the dominant households of Fiqari and Qasimi, competitors for control of the rich grain trade of Upper Egypt. The favoured Ottoman tactic of divide and rule failed to restore equilibrium: in 1730 these rival factions were again in open conflict, and in 1736 the Ottoman governor had many leaders of the Fiqari murdered.139
A prominent challenger of the writ of Istanbul was Çerkes Mehmed Bey, who became leader of the Qasimi faction in the 1720s but was driven from Cairo by the leader of the Fiqari; he took ship across the Mediterranean to Trieste, and sought refuge at the Habsburg court – denied him following a strongly-worded letter from the Sultan to the Emperor. He fled back to Tripoli on the north African coast. The mere act of seeking sanctuary with the Sultan’s enemy was enough to have Çerkes Mehmed branded a traitor, and orders went out through the Muslim world for his capture and execution. The vehemence with which they were phrased testifies to the added severity with which an attempt to solicit such help from a foreign power was viewed by the Ottomans. In the event, Çerkes Mehmed managed to re-enter Egypt, and was reported to have drowned in the Nile mud while fleeing his Fiqari adversaries.140
As long as the province’s military and financial obligations were met and local disturbances did not get out of hand, the central government allowed the notable families of Syria, too, latitude in their affairs. Many thousands of the faithful crossed Syria each year on the pilgrimage, and their security was a mark of the sultan’s legitimacy in the region. During the 1690s local officials proved inadequate to their responsibilities in this respect, and the case for a reorganization of the province became inescapable. In 1708 one Nasuh Pasha was appointed governor of the province of Damascus and commander of the pilgrimage, which from this time on was subject to direct supervision by Istanbul. But Nasuh Pasha’s considerable skills as an administrator were outweighed by his propensity for self-aggrandisement, and by 1713 members of his household held most of the sub-governorships in Damascus; this was too much for Istanbul – an army was sent against him from Aleppo, and he was killed. The al-‘Azm family held the governorship on several occasions during the rest of the century, benefiting financially from this political-administrative role.141 Other prominent families were the Ma‘n and Shihab in Mount Lebanon142 and the Zaydani in Galilee.143 Sheikh Zahir al-‘Umar was a leading Zaydani tax-farmer who held sway in the coastal province of Sidon, where he grew rich following the growth in trade during the first half of the century, monopolizing the cotton market. In the 1740s he secured the customs revenues of Acre, thereby formalizing his position as the most powerful magnate of the area.144
In 1720 Sultan Ahmed III ordered the restoration of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, together with that of some dozen other Muslim shrines in the area which had received little attention since the time of Sultan Süleyman I. The European states had vied for authority over the Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during the negotiations which culminated in the Treaty of Karlowitz of 1699, and while authority over these shrines was still technically in the gift of the sultan, in practice he was now more than ever constrained by diplomatic considerations. It may be that behind Ahmed’s repair programme lay a wish to signal Ottoman interest in the Muslim sacred monuments, as a counter to the heightened interest of foreign powers in the Christian shrines; the repair of the Muslim shrines, like the government’s attempt to improve administration in Syria, was a gesture aimed at reinforcing the loyalty of local Muslims and further restoration of Muslim shrines in Jerusalem took place under Mahmud I in 1742 and in 1753–4.145 By Sultan Mahmud’s time, the audience at whom these appeals were directed was, increasingly, the local magnates on whom the central government depended for the smooth functioning of Ottoman administration in outlying regions of the empire like the Syrian provinces.
As in Egypt and elsewhere, the Damascene military establishment included many janissaries of both central and local origin. These two corps coexisted unhappily in the garrisons of the province and in 1740, when tensions became too great, those of the central forces were withdrawn from the city of Damascus for six years. A third group with which the central state had to deal were the Bedouin tribesmen, and these it continued to seek to contain by a policy of settlement reinforced by a degree of incorporation into the local administration, especially by means of employing them to protect and supply the pilgrimage caravans.146
The Ottoman Empire’s north African provinces of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli usually received even less attention than Egypt and Syria from central government. In the sixteenth century they had played an essential role providing bases for the naval forces fighting on behalf of the Ottomans against the Spanish Habsburgs; during the seventeenth century, they were left largely to their own devices but from the early eighteenth century the three provinces were ruled by officials descended from men who had seized control locally and established dynasties recognized by Istanbul – with occasional reminders that these provinces were part of the empire. The increased reliance on diplomacy that marked the eighteenth century impinged upon life in these provinces because the main source of their revenue – privateering – was proscribed once Sultan Mustafa II had agreed to guarantee the safety of Christian shipping from corsair attack. Skirmishes between the corsairs and Spanish vessels continued through the century, and the Ottoman government was rarely able to exert influence on the unruly seafarers who were theroretically the sultan’s subjects. When circumstances demanded, the sultan could bring his will to bear in these provinces – but it required continual effort. By the terms of an Austrian–Ottoman navigation convention of 1727 the Ottomans undertook to ensure that Habsburg shipping was protected from the corsairs of their north African provinces, and when, between 1729 and 1731, the Algerian ruler allowed his ships to attack Austrian shipping in the Mediterranean, sanctions were applied to make him see sense – among them the denial to the province of military and financial assistance, the closing of Ottoman harbours in the eastern Mediterranean to Algerian shipping, and prohibition of recruitment of Anatolian manpower to the Algerian army and navy.147
The seventeenth-century Russian statesman Afanasii Ordin-Nashchokin had proposed three main strategic goals for an expanding Muscovy. The first was to reach the Baltic, the second was to reunite the Belarussian and Ukrainian lands and bring them under Muscovite rule, and the third was to open Muscovy to the Black Sea.148 Access to the Baltic had been won by Peter the Great, while the incorporation of Belarussia and Ukraine would not be entirely achieved until 1795 with the Third Partition of Poland; as the modest Muscovite state began to evolve into the Russian Empire, however, the Ottomans now found themselves hard-pressed to prevent the third, Russian access to the Black Sea and the warmer waters beyond. In 1726 Russia and Austria concluded a mutual defence pact – Russia wanted assistance against the Ottomans, Austria against its old rival France and the emerging power of the kingdom of Prussia – and it served both sides well in 1733 when Russia intervened to secure the Polish throne for its preferred candidate, initiating the War of the Polish Succession which convulsed western Europe for the next two years. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s weakness diminished the chances of an attack on Russia’s western frontier, and it seemed the time was ripe for a new stage of Russian southward expansion. In May 1735 Russia declared war on the Ottomans, and in July 1736 took the Crimean capital, Bakhchisaray; the Black Sea fortress of Kinburun, on a sand spit opposite Ochakiv at the mouth of the river Dnieper, also fell to them, and was razed. In July 1737 they took Ochakiv itself, and an Ottoman attempt to retake the fortress in October failed because of torrential rain, desertion, and insufficient effort on the part of the Ottoman fleet. Russia’s further ambitious plans foundered on their continuing inability to overcome the logistical demands of campaigning in the steppe region; their only other success was the recapture of Azov, which they had forfeited in 1713 by the Treaty of Adrianople. Peace negotiations held in 1737–8 came to nothing. Russia’s demands reflected its long-term aims: it claimed the Crimea, the Kuban steppe, and the Black Sea coast from the Dnieper west to the Danube; it further demanded the independence under Russian protection of areas where there were large numbers of Orthodox Christians – in Moldavia and Wallachia, along the Danube, and around the northern shores of the Black Sea – the first assertion of Russian claims to Ottoman territory on the grounds of the inhabitants’ religion. Campaigning continued in 1738, extending to the western Black Sea region, but soon ended in a stalemate.
The mutual defence pact with Russia had dragged Austria into the war in 1737. The Ottomans sought to protect themselves from these two formidable opponents by means of agreements with Sweden in 1737 and 1739 – the latter included a mutual defence pact against Russia.149 The war was a disaster for Austria, and by 1739 it too was ready for a respite. Under the terms of the Treaty of Belgrade – negotiated with French mediation and concluded in the same year – Austria lost Belgrade and most of the territory gained in the Treaty of Passarowitz some twenty years earlier. Russia sacrificed all its conquests except Azov; it had lost some 100,000 men during the war, mostly from sickness exacerbated by the meagre diet on which its troops were forced to subsist.150 The resolve of the Sultan’s negotiators over the matter of who should possess Belgrade was an important element in ensuring the favourable outcome for the Ottomans of the peace treaties that ended this war.151 French mediation put the Ottoman Empire in the debt of France, and for the first time France did not have to accept a gracious bestowal of trading privileges from the sultan, but was in a position to demand them – a new treaty was agreed in 1740. As it happened, the impossibility of controlling the volatile and poorly-coordinated Ottoman market meant that France was unable to take full advantage of its new privileges, but nevertheless the fact remained that a foreign power was no longer a supplicant to the Ottoman sultan in commercial affairs.152
While Central Europe was plunged into two vicious conflicts sparked by the expansionist policies of Frederick the Great of Prussia – the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–8) and the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) – on the northern and western frontiers of the Ottoman Empire a long period of peace followed the wars with Russia and Austria. Things were different in the east, however. The Ottomans had enjoyed almost a century of peace with Iran, as a result of the stability of the late Safavid period, until the appearance of Nadir Khan. Having captured Tabriz in 1730, he besieged Baghdad for several months in 1733, and forced the Ottomans to enter into peace negotiations. Because their bargaining power was circumscribed by Nadir Khan’s treaty of alliance with Russia in 1735 and their own defensive need to counter the Russian push southwards, the Ottomans thought that the best they could expect to salvage was a settlement imposing a return to the borders of 1639. In 1736, as the Ottomans defended themselves against the Russian advance on the Black Sea, Nadir Khan declared himself the first shah of the Afshar dynasty; he followed this with proposals for redefining the character of Iranian Islam so that the Twelver Shiism adopted around 1500 as the religion of the Safavid state by its first shah, Isma‘il, would now be considered a fifth school of Sunni Islam, alongside the four long-established schools – Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi‘i and Maliki. The Ottoman negotiators were nonplussed: there were no precedents to assist them in arriving at a decision on such a radical suggestion and, despite Nadir Khan’s supplicatory and co-operative stance, they rejected his request. Fortunately for the Ottomans, Nadir soon turned east to pursue his conquests against the Afghans, the Mughals of India and the Özbeks of Transoxiana, his career reminiscent of that of Tamerlane, three and a half centuries before.153
The return of Nadir Shah to Iran in 1740 directly affected Ottoman strategic interests in the region. His demeanour towards his western neigh-bour was more aggressive now, and he reasserted his proposal for the reorganization of religion – but it was still unacceptable to the Ottomans. Campaigning first in the Caucasus, he went on the offensive and by 1743 was in Iraq, where he besieged the fortress of Mosul which the Ottomans could hold only with great effort, and in 1745 marched on Yerevan.154 In Istanbul there were fears that another rebellion might ensue, and new controls on public assembly were introduced, relaxed only in 1746 when an Ottoman–Iranian peace treaty was at last achieved.155 Both sides were ready for peace: the Ottoman–Russian war had taken its toll, and Nadir Shah had now dropped his proposals concerning religion. The latter were not without effect, however, for the 1746 treaty established a completely new basis for relations between the Ottomans and Iran, the essence of which was that Iran was no longer to be considered a pariah state of Shia heretics, against which Ottoman aggression could always be justified by sophistry, but was to be accepted as a fellow Muslim state on an equal footing with all other Muslim states – a compromise clearly to the advantage of both Ottomans and Iranians.156
The first decade of Sultan Mahmud’s reign was spent in not altogether successful attempts to grapple with the frustrations that had produced the 1730 rebellion. Successive Ottoman governments were well aware of the consequences of shortages, so that ensuring adequate food supplies for the people of Istanbul was always a prime concern. The Venetian blockade of Istanbul in the 1650s had caused anxiety, but the accelerated migration to the city in the eighteenth century brought problems of a different order. The immediate aftermath of the 1730 rebellion saw the Sultan write to officials in İzmir of food shortages and plague in the capital.157
Migration could be tackled at source as well as in the migrants’ destination of Istanbul. In 1740, following the war with Austria and Russia, and at the start of a new period of hostilities with Iran, demobilized irregulars were again running amok in Anatolia and government forces were ordered to attack them if they continued their insurgency.158 The same year a decree directed at secular officials ordered them not to make overly onerous or illegal exactions from the tax-payers of Anatolia. The underlying purpose of these decrees was to prevent further movement of people to Istanbul159 which was what alarmed the Sultan and his vezirs most of all. On 6 June 1740 an incident in Istanbul that began with a crowd looting shops soon snowballed into cries for an uprising. As at the time of the 1730 rebellion, neither the Sultan nor the Grand Vezir was in evidence and the initiative lay with the janissary officers, who prevented the unrest from spreading, but bloodily. The city was searched for those considered to be implicated: Albanians were again the prime suspects, and those who had lived in Istanbul for less than ten years were ordered to return whence they had come. The British ambassador put the death toll resulting from these events at 3,000.160 There were disturbances in Istanbul again in May 1748, and again they were violently suppressed; more deportations followed, and a near-complete ban on migration was introduced, but despite the severe penalties for infringement161 there is ample evidence that migrants, including Albanians, were present and earning their living quite peacefully in Istanbul around the middle of the century.162
Yet the wars and uprisings which punctuated the era – and the social consequences they brought in their wake – did little to dent the confidence of the Ottomans. Though domestic peace was only an illusion during the middle years of the eighteenth century, it was a period of consolidation for the social order that had been establishing itself since the early years of the century. The revival of architectural patronage on the part of the sultan and his family begun during Ahmed III’s reign continued alongside that of the grandees, and pleasure palaces, libraries and fountains remained the dominant forms – Ahmed’s fountains outside the walls of Topkapı Palace and at the landing-stage at Üsküdar are among the most imposing monuments of Istanbul. Mahmud had symbolically dissociated himself from the ‘Tulip Age’ at the start of his reign: within three days of his accession he had ordered its most potent symbol, the palaces at Sa‘dabad, to be razed by their royal and grandee owners.163 This was not the end of Sa‘dabad, however: in 1740, an officer belonging to the embassy sent from Vienna to ratify the 1739 Treaty of Belgrade made a series of drawings of the palace as he saw it when the ambassador’s retinue was entertained there by the Sultan and his vezirs. From these it is clear that much had survived the events of 1730; documentation still exists of the repairs which restored the palace to its former splendour, and made Sa‘dabad once again the scene of pageantry.164 In 1743 the Sultan ordered repairs to the marble basins of the water cascades165 which had given Ahmed III’s playground its unique character.
It was almost 150 years since a sultan had last sponsored the building of a new and impressive mosque complex, that of Ahmed I early in the seventeenth century; Mahmud’s – named the Nuruosmaniye, or ‘Light of Osman’, named for his successor who completed it in 1755 – was situated at the entrance to the Covered Bazaar.166 The mid-eighteenth century was also a period of mosque-building in the provinces – in the cities of Aydın and Erzurum, for instance.167 Mahmud I continued the work his predecessor had begun in providing the ever-growing population of Istanbul with a new system of dams and aqueducts in the Belgrade Forest, north-west of Istanbul,168 to bring water to the fountains which were springing up on every corner; Mahmud’s most striking fountain was (and is) on the southwest corner of Taksim Square in Istanbul. Taksim means ‘distribution’, and it was to this point that waters from the countryside were channelled for distribution to the inhabitants of the Ottoman capital, which was expanding as never before – the wall on the west side of Taksim Square conceals the water distribution pipes.
Mosque complexes had always included libraries but during the eighteenth century libraries increasingly became independent structures designed expressly to house manuscript collections – Fazıl Ahmed Pasha had been the first patron of a purpose-built library.169 Sultan Ahmed III and his circle had founded many libraries, a tradition continued by Mahmud and his court, both in the provinces and in Istanbul. The golden pickaxe with which Ahmed turned the soil for the foundations of his library in the third court of Topkapı Palace was said to be the same one his great-grandfather Sultan Ahmed I had used when initiating the building of his imperial mosque in 1609.170 The pickaxe was until recently exhibited in the library,171 and the priceless manuscript collection of Ahmed III and his successors is now housed in the nearby mosque first established in Mehmed II’s reign, where it is available to scholars.
The Ottoman literate were afforded a new experience during the ‘Tulip Age’ with the establishment of the first Arabic-script printing press in the empire in 1727. Printing had had a chequered history in the Ottoman Empire. Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal had brought this relatively new technology with them when they settled in Istanbul and elsewhere in 1492, but according to contemporary Jewish sources, Sultan Bayezid II soon banned all printing and his order was reiterated by Sultan Selim I in 1515 – the crime was punishable by death. Thereafter, the production of printed books for the Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities of the empire was not without problems – at some time in the sixteenth century Jesuit missionaries in Istanbul banned the operation of a press run by a Cephalonian bishop in Istanbul, while in 1698 an Armenian press was destroyed by the janissaries.172 The seventeenth-century Ottoman chronicler İbrahim of Peç, a Hungarian by origin, had wondered why printed books were not available to readers of the Arabic and Ottoman languages, and it was a fellow countryman of his, İbrahim Müteferrika (who had arrived in Istanbul as a slave and was appointed translator to Francis Rákóczi during his exile in Tekirdağ), who took the initiative and set up the first press. He began by printing maps, and in 1726 submitted a treatise detailing his project to Grand Vezir Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha. The juridical opinion of the Sheikhulislam was favourable, and the Sultan’s blessing followed.173
The order which Sultan Ahmed addressed to İbrahim Müteferrika and his partner in the enterprise, Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed Efendi’s son Mehmed Said Efendi (who had accompanied his father on his embassy to France in 1720), made it clear that the Sultan did not find it difficult to justify the introduction of printing. Since the dawning of the Islamic era, he wrote, the doctors of religion had produced many books of various sorts, from Korans to dictionaries, but
Because most literary works have perished or been lost with the passage of time and the conflicts of the years, and in the rebellions of Genghis Khan, the Troublemaker and Hulagu Khan, the Undiscerning [this refers to Genghis Khan’s grandson who sacked Baghdad in 1258], and the occupation of the land of Andalusia by the dissolute Franks [this refers to the expulsion of the Muslims from southern Spain from the late fifteenth century], and in other wars and massacres and in conflagrations, lexicons and works of onomancy [i.e. divination from names] and Arabic grammars and dictionaries and history books and substantial volumes of copies of the Traditions of the Prophet and great essential works are rare today in the lands of Islam; and furthermore clerks and copyists are lethargic and lack zeal, and what they write is not without errors and blunders.174
The innovation of printing in Arabic characters had mixed fortunes after a promising start. In partnership with Mehmed Said Efendi – who since his visit to France with his father in 1720 had visited Sweden in 1733 in pursuit of the money owed by Charles XII to the Ottoman treasury – İbrahim Müteferrika printed seventeen books before his death in 1745. Most were Ottoman chronicles, but there were also an Arabic–Ottoman dictionary, a Persian–Ottoman dictionary, an Ottoman–French grammar, and a history of Afghanistan (the Sultan had banned the printing of religious books in order that scribes should not be put out of business).175 The Müteferrika press operated only sporadically after its founder’s death and was eventually closed down in 1796–7, having printed only 24 titles (most print runs numbered 500 copies) in its 64 years of existence. Its demise seems not to have been a consequence of overt opposition to printing in Arabic characters, but rather to a lack of interest among the small number of those who could read,176 who seem to have preferred the more sensuous pleasures of manuscript books.*
The way those who wielded power in the Ottoman Empire responded to the new influences of the eighteenth century is usually illustrated by accounts of various people considered by modern writers to have been agents of change. Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed Efendi and his fellow ambassadors formed one such group, while the printer İbrahim Müteferrika represented another. The advisers who brought the latest European military methods to the Ottomans made up a third group, epitomized by the French renegade Comte Claude-Alexandre de Bonneval, who had fought alongside Prince Eugene of Savoy when the Habsburgs defeated the Ottomans at Petrovaradin in 1716, and then in 1729, having fallen out with Prince Eugene, sought asylum in the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were aware that changes in methods of waging war had tipped the balance against them, and one of the first works published by İbrahim Müteferrika’s press after the accession of Sultan Mahmud I in 1730 was a pamphlet on military organization written by Müteferrika himself.177 The next year Mahmud invited Bonneval to Istanbul and encouraged him to initiate the modernization of the army. Humbaracı (‘Bombardier’) Ahmed Pasha, as he was known in his adopted land after his conversion to Islam, wrote a treatise recommending the adoption of western methods by the army, emphasizing in particular the need for improved training. Though his efforts were undermined as much by the French ambassador (who saw him as a turncoat) as by squabbling vezirs, he succeeded in reorganizing the corps of bombardiers and was involved in the modernization of the imperial cannon and weapons foundries and of gunpowder production. The school of military engineering he founded in 1734 was closed in 1750, however, as a result of clerical pressure, and janissary opposition put paid to his plans to enlarge the bombardier corps.178
The changes which occurred in the Ottoman Empire in the first half of the eighteenth century were complex, and the life-stories of prominent men such as these who took advantage of what the modern world had to offer go only part of the way to explaining them. The relative tranquillity of relations between the empire and other nations at mid-century can in part be attributed to the calibre of the statesmen who held office during these years. This was an interlude during which there was a better chance than hitherto that international misunderstandings and disputes could be resolved through diplomacy rather than war, a trend manifest in the downgrading of the military to the advantage of the administrative profession, the inevitable outcome of the longer-term transformation of the empire from a militant state to one more concerned with defence. A career in the upper reaches of the Ottoman administration now brought a man greater prominence than one in the army; military heroism was now exemplified by the stubborn defence of a beleaguered fortress rather than the triumphant occupation of new territories.
The growth of diplomacy as a means of resolving differences brought greater prominence to the chancellor, whose responsibilities had evolved to include the all-important area of the conduct of foreign affairs. The Ottoman negotiator at Karlowitz, Rami Mehmed Pasha, was chancellor for a total of almost eight years before reluctantly and briefly serving as grand vezir, and the career of Koca Ragib Pasha followed a similar path. Koca Ragib participated in the peace negotiations with Nadir Shah and also those leading up to the Treaty of Belgrade of 1739; he became chancellor in 1741,179 and was grand vezir from 1757 until his death seven years later. Koca Ragib was also a son-in-law of the Sultan, and thus an early beneficiary of the trend for high-level bureaucrats to be so favoured, which continued until the end of the empire. A further five men who held the post of chancellor before 1768, and the outbreak of a new phase of war with Russia, were subsequently appointed grand vezir – a man of military background was no longer given preference.180
Unlike warfare, diplomacy encourages an interest in and knowledge of one’s fellows, simply because those responsible for diplomatic relations need a constant flow of information on which to base policy decisions. In the case of the Ottoman Empire, individual embassies such as that of Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed Efendi to France in 1720–1 were one-off opportunities to provide the chancellor’s office with description of strange and distant worlds. Many other such reports followed, from Ottoman envoys sent to Russia, Austria, Poland, Sweden and Iran. The customary but irregular exchange of envoys with Mughal India continued, the activities of Nadir Shah in Iran providing the impetus in the 1740s.181 The conveyance of greetings from a new sultan to his fellow rulers also offered an excuse for an embassy, one accorded all the pomp and circumstance due his representative. In a style that was reminiscent of the reports Venetian envoys to Istanbul had filed on their return home in earlier centuries, Ottoman envoys paid especially close attention to the politics and culture of the countries they visited, and the cultural exchange, in particular, worked both ways – during these years more curious Europeans than ever before travelled both to Istanbul and deeper into Ottoman territory, to see the empire for themselves.
Many in high places who had the means were happy to experiment with ideas and fashions which stimulated their curiosity, but there was no uncritical emulation of the West in Ottoman ruling circles at this time; there are limits to the adaptability and flexibility of every society, and it was never likely that ever-closer Ottoman contact with Europe would result in deep cultural transformation. Historians of the Ottomans have often stigmatized them for a conservatism which declined to embrace western ways, as though the western path to the modern world was so inevitable that all who rejected it were by definition guilty of opposition to reform and enlightenment. But the janissaries opposed reorganization and modernization for the good reason that it materially threatened their privileged position, while the clerics could see the incipient changes of the time as a challenge to their monopoly of education – a science such as military technology required teachers with a non-traditional education and thus threatened the clerical ‘closed shop’. Peter the Great is renowned for his manipulation of the old order for the purpose of dragging his state into the modern world, but this was not the Ottoman way. The eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire may have been fully involved in European trade, but not all the novelties brought back by ambassadors and merchants from the exotic West, whether artefacts or ideas, were likely to take firm root in a state so fundamentally different in outlook from its European neighbours. A need to compensate for the damage inflicted on the self-esteem of the Ottoman Empire by the disastrous wars of the later seventeenth century perhaps lay behind the renewed emphasis on the Islamic quality of the sultan and his realm that ran parallel with the increased consumerism and apparent openness to western ideas that characterized the eighteenth century. Although designed as much for internal as for external consumption, this redefinition of the Ottoman imperial image so evident in the reigns of eighteenth-century sultans was at the same time very much in tune with the spirit of the age, one in which in other states across Europe respect for and adherence to a single officially-defined religion was still a touchstone of loyalty, whether it was Catholic France and Austria, Protestant Britain and Prussia, or Orthodox Russia.
During the eighteenth century the empire was no longer able to choose whether to accept or reject foreign influence, but used the means at its disposal to resist what were deemed its harmful effects. One aspect of the retreat into traditional certainties that accompanied this time of increasing consumption was a renewed emphasis on sumptuary laws as a tool to maintain an ordered society. Military men, bureaucrats, clerics and peasants could be distinguished by their dress, but most striking were the differences in the dress of non-Muslims – regulated in style and colour – that helped to confine them to their appropriate, subordinate place. Like non-Muslims, women were also subject to restrictions on how they could behave and what they might wear, especially in public – they were expected to be untouched by any hint of scandal and anonymous in appearance. During the last decade of Ahmed III’s reign the people of Istanbul – and especially women of all classes – enjoyed greater freedom of movement and opportunity to appear outside their homes than ever before, a fact that did not go unrecognized by the authorities. In 1726, at the height of the ‘Tulip Age’, Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha acted to shore up the familiar moral order before it was irrevocably undermined, issuing a set of regulations aimed at curbing the stylish excesses of fashionable female society and reimposing norms of decorum:
While the government was at Edirne preparing for the approaching military campaign, and occupied with matters of general importance, some good-for-nothing women took the opportunity to embellish and ornament their garb, and behave coquettishly in the streets; they copied the headgear of infidel women in all its strange forms, resulting in many shameful styles completely at odds with chaste observance. They must avoid rending the curtain of honour and disturbing their costume by such shameful acts, and making unsuitable proposals to their husbands and disturbing [man’s respect for woman] with evil innovations. Hereafter, women must not go out into the street in a dustcoat with a collar greater in width than a hand-span or a kerchief [composed] of more than three squares (which is the limit of sobriety), with a head-band wider than a finger-breadth, and if they do, their collars will be cut.182
These regulations do not seem to have been enforced, however, but subsequent governments did not give up the struggle to confine women to their allotted place in society. Both Mahmud I and his brother and successor Sultan Osman III (1754–7) issued numerous sumptuary regulations designed to reverse the drift towards unseemly deportment among women apparently condoned by their uncle Ahmed III.183
Osman’s reign, as one modern historian would have it, was memorable for little else than the restrictions he placed on the public life of women and his sumptuary laws affecting both women and non-Muslims; this was certainly one of the cornerstones of his approach to the problem of redefining the dynasty in keeping with the pervading religiosity. Though non-Muslims were less prominent than formerly in the public arena, many had acquired considerable wealth, often through their commercial association with Europeans, and in aspiring to the status enjoyed by similarly successful Muslims were ready to disregard the sartorial markers of their inferior station: the chronicles of the time record numerous hangings, beatings and drownings for infringements.184 Osman’s successor, Mustafa III, added more sumptuary laws of his own, as did Sultan Abdülhamid I who reigned between 1774 and 1789185 – these impositions carried echoes of the puritanical concerns of the Kadızadelis. The many levels of exchange fostered by diplomacy and trade were matched and counterbalanced by an impulse to protect what was unique to Ottoman political and cultural life, particularly the religious substructure on which it rested, for this, like the temporal power of the dynasty, was in danger of being undermined by the empire’s ever closer involvement with Europe.
* To this day, evening banquets are held during Ramadan by politicians hoping to win votes, and businessmen wishing to impress with their largesse.
* The market for printed books in Peter the Great’s Russia had also been less than buoyant, despite his personal enthusiasm for the printing press and his realization of its power to educate and reform. He encouraged the publication of books of all sorts, from histories to instruction manuals to law-codes to belles-lettres; this was in stark contrast to the situation before his time, when between the establishment of the Moscow printing press in the 1560s and the start of his reign, only three books that were ‘not specifically religious’ in character were published (Hughes, Russia in the Age of Peter the Great 316–25).