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Balat

(949 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The Balat quarter of Istanbul, situated on the southern shores of the Golden Horn, was heavily populated by Jews from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century. There were Jews living in Balat as early as the Byzantine period, and they were joined by a substantial influx of exiles from Spain in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, but Balat became the principal center of Jewish presence in Istanbul only after the Great Fire of 1660. This calamity caused the destruction of thousands of Jewish homes and shops in the districts of Eminönü, Bağçekapusu, T…

Crete

(885 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Crete is an island in the Mediterranean 96 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of the Peloponnesus that had a Jewish community from the Hellenistic period to World War II. The island, called Iqrītish by medieval Arabs, was captured from the Byzantines in 827 by a band of Andalusian Muslims under Abū Ḥafs ʿ Umar al-Ballūṭī, who established a dynasty that remained in power until the island was retaken by Nicephorus Phocas in 961. Crete is mentioned in Cairo Geniza documents as an important exporter of cheese. There are documents mentioning Egyptian Jewish women marryi…

Tire

(732 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Tire is a town in western Anatolia, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Izmir (Smyrna). Its small community of Romaniot Jews antedated the Ottoman conquest (1390). Some of them were  moved to Istanbul as part of the forced population transfers ( sürgün ) after the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453. In the late fifteenth century, Sephardic immigrants to the Ottoman Empire began to settle in Tire. According to Ottoman tax-registers for the period between 1512 and 1530, the town had a  Jewish quarter with sixty-four Jewish households and eighteen unmarried Jews. Betwee…

Amasya

(369 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The town of Amasya in central Anatolia was the birthplace of the Greek historian Strabo (d. 24 B.C.E.). It was captured by the Ottomans in 1389 and made the capital of one of their three principal administrative districts (Turk. beylerbeylik). During the Ottoman period, the town was the seat of Ottoman princes and a stopping place on the Silk Road and other trade routes to the eastern and northeastern parts of the empire as well as to Iran and the Caucasus. It was also center for the manufacture of gold brocade, velvet, and silk fabrics. A group of Sephardi Jews settled in Amasya in the l…

Beratlı

(621 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
In the Ottoman Empire of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a berat was a document issued by the Ottoman government upon the recommendation or at the request of a foreign consul that conferred certain legal, fiscal, and commercial privileges upon the holder, or beratli, normally a non-Muslim Ottoman subject employed by the consul. The privileges included exemption from taxes and from the jurisdiction of local courts. Beratlis were originally recruited to serve as vice-consuls, interpreters ( dragomans), commercial agents, and in various menial capacities, but …

Tanzimat Reforms, Period

(1,154 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The Tanzimat (Tur. tanzîmât, Ar. tanẓīmāt; lit. organizations)was an era of reforms in the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century. It is conventionally considered to have extended from 1839 to 1871. The Tanzimat extended the reforms begun by  Sultans Selim III (r. 1789–1807) and Mahmud II (r. 1808–1839), which had focused primarily on modernization of the army and the bureaucracy. Inaugurated by Sultan Abdülmecid I (r. 1839–1861) and implemented under the leadership of Westernizing officials like Reşid Pasha (1800–1858), Ali Pasha (1815–1871), and Fuad P…

Tokat

(326 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Tokat is a town in northern Anatolia, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Ankara. The town was captured by the Ottomans in 1399 and made part of the Sivas province. During the Ottoman period, the town was a major center of the transit trade between Europe and Asia, and specialized in silk production, textile dyeing, and metalworking, particularly copper. Sephardi Jews settled there from the late fifteenth century, but were registered by the Ottoman authorities in the tax-books of the neighboring old Jewish community of Amasya. In the mid-sixteenth century, the Jews of Tokat …

Hatt-ı Sherif of Gülhane (Tanzimat Fermanı)

(668 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The Hatt-ı Sherif of Gülhâne (Imperial Decree of the Rose Chamber) was an edict ( ferman) signed by Sultan Abdülmecid I (r. 1839–1861) on November 3, 1839, and read aloud by Grand Vizier Mustafa Reşid Pasha to an assemblage of bureaucrats, foreign dignitaries, and the heads of the empire’s non-Muslim communities, including Chief Rabbi Moses Fresco (r. 1839–1841), in the Imperial Garden of Gülhâne, outside the walls of the Topkapi Palace. The proclamation came at a time when the Ottoman Empire was severely threatened by the advancing forces of Ibrāhīm Pasha, the son of Mehmet Ali (Mu…

Anatolia

(949 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The name Anatolia derives from the Greek anatolē (lit. (sun)rise), adapted into Turkish as anadolu (lit. full of motherliness). The Anatolian peninsula is the westernmost extremity of Asia, bordered by the Black Sea to the north, the Caucasus to the northeast, the Aegean Sea to the west, the Mediterranean to the south, Greater Syria (Upper Mesopotamia) to the southeast, and Transcaucasia and the Iranian plateau to the east. Also known as Asia Minor, the Anatolian peninsula has been the home of numerous civili…

Capitulations

(835 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The capitulations (Ar./Ott. Turk. imtiyāzāt) were bilateral agreements between the Ottoman Empire and various European states that conferred certain rights and privileges on subjects of those states residing or trading in Ottoman lands. The capitulations were meant first and foremost to serve Ottoman political and fiscal interests. The Ottoman government granted these commercial privileges in order to make political allies within Christendom, obtain scarce goods and raw materials, and increase custo…

Mardin

(384 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The town of Mardin in southeastern Anatolia, situated on the heights overlooking the northern Syrian plain, was conquered by the Safavids in 1507 and then by the Ottomans in 1517. It was designated as a sanjak in the province of Diyarbakır in 1534. At that time, there were more Christians and Jews in Mardin than Muslims. The Christian population included Armenians, Nestorians, Chaldeans, Syrian Catholics, and Jacobites. The historic monastery of Dayr al-Zafarān (Tūr ‘Abdin) in Mardin, built in 493, served as the seat of the Jacobite patriarchate from …

Hatt-ı Humayun (Islahat Fermani), 1856

(798 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The Hatt-ı Hümâyûn (imperial decree) was promulgated on February 18, 1856, to reaffirm the stipulations of the Hatt-ı Sherif of Gülhane (1839), which had introduced sweeping changes in Ottoman law and administration, and ushered in a new era of reforms known as the Tanzimat. After the deposition of Grand Vizier Mustafa Reşid Pasha, the chief architect of the Tanzimat, in 1852, domestic reaction against the reforms from both Muslim and non-Muslim clerics brought the process of change to a standstill. It was only because of the abysmal state in w…

Ankara

(574 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Ankara is a central Anatolian town captured by the Ottomans around 1360 and made the capital of a sandjak (Turk. district) in the eyalet (Turk. province) of Anadolu (Anatolia). During the Ottoman period, the town was a trading center and was also known for its textile manufactures, particularly of angora wool (mohair) obtained from long-haired white goats. The small Jewish community of Ankara was joined in the late fifteenth century by an influx of Sephardim from Spain and Portugal. Even then, however, the Jewish community was fairly small. Between 15…

Izmit

(475 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Izmit (Nicomedia) is a town in northwestern Anatolia, situated on the eastern side of the Sea of Marmara, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Istanbul. The Ottomans captured the city from the Byzantines in 1338. It later became the center of the province ( sanjak) of Kocaeli (and is still the capital of a province of the same name in the Republic of Turkey). During the Ottoman period, the town was particularly known for its naval arsenal, which supplemented the imperial shipyard in Istanbul. The forested region surrounding Izmit was th…

Trabzon (Trebizond)

(270 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Trabzon is a small Turkish city on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea. A point of convergence for the major trade routes between Europe and Central Asia, it was the capital of a Byzantine successor state from 1204 until its capture by the Ottomans in 1461. The Ottomans made it the administrative center of a province with a predominantly Muslim but considerable Greek population. There is no record of a Jewish  presence for most of the Ottoman era. Jewish agents of European merchants occasionally operated in the city after the opening of the Black Sea to the commercial …

Tax-Farming

(1,014 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Tax-farming was a method of landholding and surplus extraction employed by many premodern states across Eurasia. Under this system, the government contracted out the collection of revenues from designated tax-units for a given period to a private bidder, who in return for a substantial payment was given the right to collect the unit’s taxes or fees in the name of the state and keep the balance over and above the initial amount he paid to the state. In the early Islamic world, the Abbasids, Fatimids, Ayyubids, and Mamluks all extensively used such a system, usually called ḍamān or ḍamāna (sec…

Cyprus

(886 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Cyprus (Ar. Qubrus; Trk. Kıbrıs) is an island in the eastern Mediterranean about 90 kilometers (56 miles) off the southern coast of Turkey and 180 kilometers (112 miles) west of Syria. There have been Jewish settlements in Cyprus, sometimes of considerable size, since the Hellenistic period, and there was a sizeable Jewish community in F Famagusta in the early seventh century. Benjamin of Tudela (twelfth century), Obadiah da Bertinoro (fifteenth century), Moses Basola (sixteenth century), and other early travelers all mention the Jewish community.  Benjamin notes t…

Slavery, Slave Trade

(2,658 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman | Onur Yildirim
1. Medieval Period Gaonic responsa and Cairo Geniza documents alike allude to the fact that Jews living in Islamic lands in the medieval period owned slaves and engaged in the slave trade. Male and female slaves were identified by different terms— ṣabī or ghulām (Ar. boy) for males, and jāriya or waṣīfa (Ar. maid) for females—and were generally assigned different functions in the household economy. The concentration of Jewish economic life in crafts and trade rather than agricultural production meant that male slaves were often entrusted with du…