Third JANET Workshop 2022, Janissaries in Ottoman Port-Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean
Istanbul Medeniyet University
Ziraat Bank Library, Ziraat Bank Conference Hall
14-15 September 2022
The project “JaNet: Janissaries in Ottoman Port-Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean,” funded by the European Research Council under the program Starting Grant 2019, aspires to create an innovative entanglement of military, social, political, and economic history which has the potential to change our current perception of the early modern Mediterranean and the role of Islam in it. JaNet investigates the economic and sociopolitical role of the Janissaries in the 18th and early 19th centuries through their examination as a complex of interconnected networks in the Mediterranean. By studying the Janissary corps, the project brings forward a radically new historical analysis concerning, on the one hand, the role of Muslims in the Ottoman and wider Mediterranean commercial economy – a role largely ignored by the bibliography – and, on the other, the processes that led to the creation of diasporas and the dissemination of people and ideas among various Muslim communities in the area.
14:00-14:30 OPENING SESSION
14:00-14:10 Welcome Address (Turhan Kaçar, Dean, Faculty of Letters, Istanbul Medeniyet University)
14:10-14:30 “JANET 2022-2023: Developments and Prospects/the Medeniyet University Experience” Yannis Spyropoulos & M. Mert Sunar
14:30-16:00 SESSION I: Janissaries and Their Provincial Networks
14:30-14:55 Yannis Spyropoulos, “Istanbul Janissaries and their Trans-provincial Connections: Two Janissary Letters Intercepted during the 1821 Greek War of Independence”
15:15-15:40 Anna Sydorenko, “The Transformation of Janissary Networks in the Steppe- Frontier Region of the Black Sea”
16.15-17.45 SESSION II: Some Aspects of Janissary Involvement in Istanbul’s Economy
16:15-16:40 İrfan Kokdaş, “Some Remarks on the Istanbul Esame Market (1750-1826)”
17:00-17:25 Abdulmennan M. Altıntaş, “Janissary-Artisan Relations: The Case of Istanbul Boatmen’s Guild (1677-1752)”
14:00-15:05 SESSION I: Social and Everyday Life of Janissaries in Istanbul and Provinces
14:00-14:25 Yahya Araz, “Personal Worlds, Sense of Belonging, and the Society: The Vasiyets of Janissaries and Their Families in Istanbul (1750-1826)”
14:45- 15:10 Demetris Papastamatiou, “Depicting the Profile of Wealthy Janissaries in Salonica of the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century: Properties, Entrepreneurial Strategies, Familial and Social Networks, and Debts”
15:30-15:55 Süreyya Pekşen & Mehmet Savan, “The Universe of Janissary Poets and the World of Galatalı Hüseyin Ağa, one of the Last Janissary Poets”
16:35-17:35 SESSION II: Istanbul Turned Upside Down: Janissary Involvement in Rebellions and Violence
16:35-17:00 Aysel Yıldız, “The Notorious Soldiers of Istanbul: Sipahs, Armorers and the Janissaries”
17:20-17:55 M. Mert Sunar, “Street Battles among Janissary Regiments in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century Istanbul”
Ayşe-m: A Story with Janissaries and Vampires on Ottoman Crete
A theatrical play created in the framework of the Institute for Mediterranean Studies’ ERC projects “JANET” and “GHOST”
“Erofili” Theater, Fortezza, Rethymno. Saturday, June 11, 21:15
In the theatrical play Ayşe-m we are following the efforts of a film crew to film a silent movie related to late-eighteenth-century Crete. This is the movie’s story line:
Once upon a time, around 1780, in the famous port of Marseilles lives a charming French wholesaler of soap and olive oil, Reybaud. Thanks to his intelligence, his business flourishes quickly, but his reckless life eventually leads him to ruin: Reybaud finds himself in significant debt, risking his life and being chased by his wicked creditors. He flees Marseille as soon as possible and Crete – an island rich in olive oil and with a flourishing soap industry – seems like a unique opportunity to earn enough money to pay off his debt. However, most of Ottoman Crete’s economy, including the trade in olive oil and soap, is in the hands of the local Janissaries. Reybaud is well aware of the dangers that entering the Janissary networks entails, but he has complete confidence in his mind and charm.
At the same time, on Crete, in two neighboring estates, a great love is born between two Christians. Yet, the decision of the bride’s father to change his religion and become a Muslim gets in the way of the young couple’s marriage: Upon hearing the news, the groom’s father reacts and, in the ensuing argument, the bride’s father stubbornly decides to convert his daughter to Islam as well, giving her the name Zeynep. Following the incident, the desperate young man decides to clash with his own father and convert to Islam in order to marry the woman he loves. With the mediation of his father-in-law, the young man – who upon his conversion was named Mahmud and lost all rights to his Christian family’s property – joins the 37th regiment of the Janissary Corps, hoping to gain some social prestige and financial connections.
The young couple gets married, but their joy does not last long. On the night of the wedding, the father of the groom, frustrated by his son’s conversion, tries to retaliate by slaughtering some of the sheep of the bride’s father, whom he holds responsible for this turn of events. The latter, however, discovers the attack on his property and, in the ensuing fight, accidentally kills the groom’s father.
The Janissary’s grief over the loss of his father casts a shadow on his family life and his relationship with his father-in-law. In an interesting turn of events, however, while Mahmud gets drunk to forget his sorrow, the ghost of his father appears. Coincidentally, it is at that exact time that the merchant Reybaud arrives in Crete from Marseilles and comes across the grieving young man. Understanding Mahmud’s vulnerability, Reybaud immediately sees an opportunity to enter the Janissary circle and with the consolation he offers to the young Janissary, he helps to alleviate his pain. The ghost tries to warn his son of the catastrophe that awaits him if he invites Reybaud to his house; however, it is only Mahmud’s father-in-law who can see the spirit. As Reybaud befriends the Janissary, he manages to enchant him and Zeynep with his charm, bringing them gifts and even a solution to the ghost’s curse: he opens the grave of the deceased and impales his corps. In this way he also delivers Zeynep’s father, who is haunted by the spirit and gains the entire family’s trust.
Life returns back to normal thanks to Reybaud’s intervention. After many happy days, Zeynep becomes pregnant and everyone bubbles over with excitement, except for the Frenchman who understands that the child that Zeynep is expecting is actually his. It is at that point that he decides to persuade Mahmud to get a 1,000-piasters-worth loan from Karakaş – the commander of the 37th Janissary regiment of which he was a member – ostensibly to become business partners with him. The young Janissary, full of trust for his friend’s good intentions, receives the loan from his regiment’s common fund and hands it over to Reybaud, who, in turn, tricks Mahmud by giving him an unsigned contract as surety and departs from Crete. Zeynep is desperate as she realizes what had happened, but the gullible Janissary maintains his hope that Reybaud will not break his promise to return back from France with a profit.
In their despair, the couple turns to a local bibliomancer hoping that he will reveal to them a better future, but their destiny is already predetermined. The fierce Janissary commander Karakaş had given a deadline of three lunar months for the debt’s payment with interest. When the third moon completes its cycle, Karakaş seizes the 500 piasters and the three estates that Zeynep had received as dowry from her father, leaving the couple with only a few livestock to continue with their lives. A few days later, a beautiful little baby, Ayşe, is born: She is the daughter of Reybaud, who, with the stolen money, manages to become a great merchant in Marseilles again and, using his connections and guile, is eventually appointed as the Deputy Consul of France in Alexandria.
Yannis Spyropoulos, “The Janissaries of Crete, 1669-1826” online lecture in the framework of the “Greek History and Culture Public Seminar Series” organized by the Greek Community of Melbourne on June 23.
After the end of the War for Crete in 1669, thousands of soldiers were sent to the island in order to defend the Empire's last major conquest from the Venetians. Due to its strategic location, even after the official cessation of the Ottoman-Venetian war in 1718, Crete maintained the status of a frontier (serhad) and, along with it, a considerable number of Janissaries in its three major cities. The 18th century brought about drastic changes to the entire Janissary establishment and especially to its provincial organization. In the framework of this transformation, the Janissary units of Crete went through a process of gradual localization which led to the acceptance of thousands of Cretans into their ranks and to the creation of broad local networks that included the largest part of the island's Muslim population. The result was an increasing involvement of the corps' members into the local economy and the evolution of the Janissary regiments into the island's biggest credit organizations. Moreover, the Janissaries became the main players in the island's political life, a development that would lead first to the weakening of the centrally appointed officers' administrative power in the province and, eventually, after the ascension of Mahmud II to the Ottoman throne, to extended clashes between the central government and the local Muslim elite.
Presentation by Yannis Spyropoulos entitled “Η Επανάσταση του 1821 και η κατάργηση του γενιτσαρικού σώματος (1826): η αυτοκρατορική και τοπική διάσταση μιας ιδιαίτερης σχέσης” [The 1821 Revolution and the Abolition of the Janissary Corps (1826): The Imperial and Local Dimensions of a Special Connection] paper presented in the framework of the “Η Ελληνική Επανάσταση. Νέες προσεγγίσεις” [The Greek Revolution. New Approaches] organized by the Society for the Study of Modern Hellenism (EMNE) and the journal Mnimon in Athens on June 15-16, 2022.
Although both the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the abolition of the Janissary Corps in 1826 are events of enormous political importance for the early-19th-century Ottoman Empire, few studies have attempted to explore their connection and understand their political relationship. However, the examination of the Ottoman sources points to the fact that the relation between these two events is strong and has aspects that impacted the history of the Ottoman state both at the imperial and provincial levels. This presentation attempts to analyze this connection through the use of examples from a number of Ottoman regions, offering a new perspective on the impact that the Greek War of Independence had on Ottoman politics.
Presentation by Yannis Spyropoulos entitled "Janissary networks in Izmir (late 18th-early 19th century)" in the framework of the "Çaka Bey'den Günümüze İzmir Sempozyumu" organized by İzmir Katip Çelebi Üniversitesi and Türk Tarih Kurumu in Izmir from March 23 to March 27, 2022.
Having as a starting point the Janissary-instigated bloody events which took place in Izmir in 1821, this presentation focuses on the operation of Janissary economic and political networks in the city, examining various instances of violent uprisings and their relation to the wider Ottoman political realities. In this framework, the paper analyzes these networks’ contribution to the transfer of ideas and violent mobilizations from one Ottoman province to another, as well as their ability to connect and express the economic and political interests of different Muslim communities and actors in the eastern Mediterranean.
Online lecture by Yannis Spyropoulos with the topic "Janissary Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean: An ERC Project and the Case of Late-Eighteenth- and Early-Nineteenth-Century Izmir" organized by the Department of History of the Middle East Technical University (Ankara) in the framework of the latter's "ODTÜ TARİH KONUŞMALARI (XVII)" lecture series.
"This talk has two goals: the first is to introduce the ongoing ERC project named "JANET - Janissaries in Ottoman Port-Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean" to the academic community at METU and the second is to discuss one of the case-studies examined in the framework of the above-mentioned project, namely Izmir. Having as a starting point the Janissary-instigated bloody events which took place in Izmir in 1821, the presentation will focus on the operation of Janissary economic and political networks in the city, examining various instances of violent uprisings and their relation to the wider Ottoman political realities. In this framework, the paper analyzes these networks’ contribution to the transfer of ideas and violent mobilizations from one Ottoman province to another, as well as their ability to connect and express the economic and political interests of different Muslim communities and actors in the eastern Mediterranean."
Talk in Greek by Yannis Spyropoulos with the topic "Τα γενιτσαρικά δίκτυα ως αγωγοί εξεγέρσεων στην οθωμανική Μεσόγειο (τέλη 18ου –αρχές 19ου αι.)" [Janissary Networks as Conductors of Revolt in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Late 18th-Early 19th c.)]
The presentation took place in the framework of the two-day online conference "ΟΘΩΜΑΝΙΚΗ ΚΡΙΣΗ ΚΑΙ ΕΠΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ / Η ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΕΠΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ ΩΣ ΟΘΩΜΑΝΙΚΗ ΚΡΙΣΗ" [Ottoman Crisis and Revolution / The Greek Revolution as an Ottoman Crisis] organized by the Department of Cultural Anthropology and History of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the Aegean (Mytilene, Greece).
"This presentation concerns the development of Janissary economic and political networks in the Ottoman Mediterranean during the 18th and early 19th centuries. My focus is on the development of a networked connection between Crete, Izmir, and Istanbul which was first created in the second half of the 18th century. By analyzing the functions and characteristics of this network I attempt to examine a. its contribution to the transfer of violent mobilizations from one area to another and b. the opportunity it provided to various Muslim communities in different Ottoman cities and provinces to promote their economic and political interests. In this context, I will investigate the violence of Muslims against Christians in the region of Izmir following the outbreak of the Revolution of 1821 and its relation to some parallel events which took place in Istanbul and Crete, as well as to the infamous "Rebellion of Izmir" of 1797."
Lecture by Edhem Eldem with the topic "Of men and stones. Historiographical meanderings around the destruction of the janissary corps in 1826"
Abstract: "Rethymnon is home to one of the most original ERC-funded research projects in Ottoman studies, JANET, on janissary networks across Ottoman port cities. This contribution by a non-specialist outsider, adopts an oblique approach to the topic by focusing on the wiping out of the janissary corps in 1826 by Sultan Mahmud II, and linking this event to a number of historiographical issues in Ottoman history. Of particular interest will be the much-debated question of the post mortem and symbolic annihilation of the institution through the destruction of janissary tombstones after the so-called ‘auspicious event’ of 15-16 June 1826."
The Institute for Mediterranean Studies (IMS) of the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) in collaboration with the Department of History and the Institute of European Studies of the University of California, Berkeley have launched a series of lectures for the research in history undertaken in both establishments to enhance communication, knowledge and exchange of ideas. The lectures of 2021 started with the presentation of the four ERC projects carried out by the research groups of IMS-FORTH.
In this lecture, co-organized by the two above-mentioned institutions and the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association (OTSA), Yannis Spyropoulos, İrfan Kokdaş, Mehmet Mert Sunar, and Aysel Yıldız presented their team's ERC project "JaNet" on Monday September 10, 2021 at9 am (PDT) / 7 pm (Greece & Turkey).
The JaNet Kickoff Workshop was originally planned to take place on the premises of the Host Institution, the Institute for Mediterranean Studies (IMS-FORTH) in Rethymnon, Crete, on September 18-19, 2020. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop had to take the form of an online event. Fourteen scholars from Europe and the US came together to officially start the project by presenting their research modules and discussing their ongoing research, the project’s prospects, directions, and future deliverables.