Devshirmeh

From Academic Kids

Devshirmeh (Turkish devşirme) refers to the system used by the Ottoman sultans to tax newly conquered states, and build a loyal slave army and class of administrators: the Janissaries. The word literally means "gathering" in Turkish.

The devshirmeh system was similar to a system used by earlier Islamic dynasties, such as the Abbasids who used slaves to build armies that were thought to be loyal to the ruler and thus provide a steady pool of manpower that was outside of local politics. These descendants of these slaves would form the Mameluk dynasties.

Despite the intentions of the Abbasid rulers, the Mameluks would eventually grow in power, reducing the caliph to a virtual puppet.

The devshirmeh was an outgrowth of this system, but it also proved to be more efficient and effective at achieving its goals. Under the Ottomans, the system was first instituted by Murad II who needed a large pool of manpower from which he could build armies to fight in seemingly never-ending wars.

Under the Ottomans, newly conquered lands were "taxed" of their youth, with each province ordered to present a certain number of boys to the Sultan. Initially, these boys came from Christian families. The boys would not be forced to convert to Islam, but their children would be Muslims, and thus their children would not be allowed to enter the devshirmeh. This was intended to keep the system from generating a hereditary class, such as the Mameluks.

Boys were collected every year, from lands in the Balkans by a janissary. From here, they were taken to the sultan if deemed fit, or sent to other families where they would train until they reached adulthood. Upon reaching adulthood, they were sent to different units of the Janissaries. Again there were two paths open, they could end up as cavalry soldiers and eventually hope to attain the rank of an officer, or they could remain in the court of the Sultan and possibly become the grand vizier.

Training itself involved physical preparation in the arts of war, as well as the study of culture, such as calligraphy, theology, literature, law and languages. Despite the rigors of training, while students, the devshirmeh were not allowed to leave the palace.

The devshirmeh began to decline in the 17th century. This was due to a number of factors, including the inclusion of free Muslims in the system. Despite the devshirmeh being slaves, it was actually considered an honor as it would lead to a relatively prestigious position in Ottoman society, and allowed many to leave lives of poverty.

See also. Bat Ye'or, a scholar of dhimmi peoples.de:Knabenlese

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