Timar: Land granted by the Ottoman Sultans between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, with an annual value of less than 20 000 akces. The revenues produced on this land acted as compensation for military service. A Timar holder was known as a
The Timar System
In the Ottoman Empire, the Timar system was one in which the projected revenue of a conquered territory was distributed in the form of temporary land grants among the
Sipahis(cavalrymen) and other members of the military class including Janissariesand other kuls(slaves) of the Sultan. These prebends were given as compensation for annual military service, for which they received no pay. In rare circumstances women could became Timar holders. This position however was restricted to women who were prominent within the imperial family or high ranking members of the Ottoman elite [Hedda Reindl-Kiel “A Woman Timar Holder in Ankara Province during the Second of the 16th Century.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 40 (1997), 208] . Timars could be small, granted by governors, or large which required a certificate from the Sultanbut generally the fief had an annual value of less than twenty thousand akces [ [http://www.theottomans.org/english/glossary/index_7.asp Ottoman ] ] (Ottoman silver coin). This system of land tenure lasted roughly from the fourteenth century through to the sixteenth century. The goals of the system were necessitated by financial, state and expansionist purposes. The financial aims of the system were to relieve pressure from the Ottoman state of paying the army as well as to gain a new source of revenue for the central treasury [Oktay Ozel “Limits of the Almighty: Mehmed II’s ‘Land Reform’ Revised.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 42 (1999), 234] . The expansionist aims were to increase the number of cavalry soldiers and to gradually assimilate and bring conquered countries under direct Ottoman control [Ozel, 234; Merry E Wiesner- Hanks Early Modern Europe 1450-1789. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2006), 73] . The Ottoman state also desired to centralize the sultan’s authority by removing the feudal system and aristocratic elements from dominating the empire [Bernard Lewis “Ottoman Land Tenure and Taxation in Syria.” Studia Islamic. (1979), 117] .
Power and conditions
Within the Timar system the state gave Timar holders, including the
Sipahis(cavalryman), the authorization to have control of arable lands, vacant or land possessed by peasants, wastelands, fruit trees, forests or waters within the Timar territory [Halil Inalcik An Economic and Social history of the Ottoman Empire 1300- 1914.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (1994) 114] . The Sipahisemployed agents or surrogates called "Keetuda", "Vekil", or "voyvoda" to collect revenues and exercise the delegate powers [Ibid, 74] . They had the right to collect certain parts of the tax revenue from arable lands in certain localities in return for service to the state [Ozel, 230] . They were responsible to supervise their Timar territory and the way it was cultivated and possessed by peasants. The Sipahiswas rewarded if he procured the settlement of vacant land. However he was punished if he caused the abandonment of cultivated land [Lewis, 118] . Timar holders had police authority to pursue and arrest wrong doers within their territories. However they could not enforce penalties until they received a verdict from a local judge with accordance to imperial law [Inalcik (1994), 114] . Their duties were to protect peasants and persons in their territory and to rejoin the imperial army during campaigns. The Sultan gave Sipahisvineyards and a meadow which would take care of their families, retainers and horses needs [Inalcik (1994), 115] . One of the main conditions imposed by the state was that a Timar holder did not own the land; land ownership was held by the Ottoman state [Ibid ] . Another essential condition was that Timars could not be inherited but it was not uncommon for a Timar to be reassigned to a son provided they performed military service [Lewis, 118] . Timar holding was contingent on active military service and if a Sipahisfailed to engage in military service for seven years he lost his duty and land [Inalcik (1994), 115] . Nevertheless the Sipahisretained their title and could be eligible for another Timar if they remained in the military class and participated in military campaigns [Ibid] .
Due to the nature of the documentation of the early history of the Ottomans it is very difficult to assign the Timar system a concrete date. Elements of the Timar system however can be seen to have their origins in Pre- Islamic antiquity (Ancient Middle Eastern Empires,
Rome, Byzantium, and Pre- Islamic Iran) [Lewis, 112] . Although elements of the Timar system can be traced back to the beginnings of Ottoman history, it was not until the re-emergence of the empire under Mehmed Iin 1413 that a tenure system that was distinctly Timar was developed. Before the collapse of the empire by Timurin 1402, Bayezidhad granted quasi- Timar holdings to his own slaves. With the reunification of the Ottoman lands under a Sultan, these men would once again have legal title to their holdings. Over the next fifty years this system of land tenure was largely expanded and standardized. After the conquest of Constantinoplein 1453, the Ottoman turned once more to the familiar policy of expansion through conquest [Halil Inalcik “Ottoman Methods of conquest.” Studia Islamica. 2 (1954), 106] . With the period of consolidation that followed there was a move towards total annexation and assimilation of the provinces into the Ottoman system. This meant the elimination of local dynasties and replacing them with the Timar system and other apparatuses of provincial administration [Inalcik (1994), 114] .
Surveying and Distribution
By the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the surveying and distribution of conquered territory among the
Sipahisclass had became a very complicated and highly bureaucratic process. In the survey, known as the Tapu-tahrirs,all the fiscal information about the territory would be collected and divided into Timar. The process went as follows: 1) appoint administrator ( emin)- accompanied by clerk ( Katip) and regional Kadicollected available documentation about land and building ownership and local taxes 2) information is written down and codified in a narrative called ( Kanunname) that mediated and resolved contradictions especially between those two non-Islamic legal traditions –local and imperial; upon which the Ottomans based their dominion3) officials consult with local grandees and proceeded from village to village to inspect and evaluate land and other holdings 4) draw up results of the survey in a register prefaced by the Kanunnamethat listed the names of all the towns, villages and populations, what they produced and expected revenues [Daniel Goffman The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University, (2007), 77] .
Based on these fiscal projections, the Sultan would distribute the land and villages to the soldiers who had participated in the conquest. Initially the candidates for Timar were recommended individually to the
Sultan. Upon receiving this recommendation, the Sultancommanded the provincial governor to award the candidate with Timar in the province. The candidate then, “with the Sultan’s order” ( eli-emirlu) would go out and find a vacant Timar suitable for him [Inalcik (1994), 116] . It has been suggested that there was a regular rotation system so that Timar holders were dismissed after serving a defined period of tenure. This length would vary case to case. As long as the candidate participated regularly in the Sultan’s military campaigns who would be eligible for a Timar grant. This made it so competing groups formed and were motivated to fight for the Sultan’s favouritism and patronage [Ibid] .
Problems and Decline
By the time
Mehmed II(r. 1451-1481) reigned over the Ottoman Empire the number of Candidates eligible for Timar grants had fallen substantially. There was a growing expectation among the Janissarysoldiers and other Kulsof the Sultanfor these grants in reward for participating in the growing number of campaigns. Furthermore Timars were being offered to volunteers and members of the pre-Ottoman military class for their loyalty and service to the Sultan. In order to meet this new demand, existing Timars were turned into jointly held unites, or divided into shares. This growing demand also forced the Ottoman Sultan’s to engage in further wars of conquest in neighbouring countries thus creating Timar through new surveys. This however, also increased the number of candidates for Timar grants. The solution to this crisis took two forms: more then one Sipahisholding a single Timar and instead of being receiving an entire village, Sipahiswere given shares in many villages in order to make up their Timar. These solutions likely had further implications than just meeting the demands of a growing demographic. The Ottoman government had a policy of keeping the registered Timar unites intact even while the number of Sipahisgrew. Furthermore it prevented Sipahis from gaining complete and independent control over the peasants and land within a territory [Inalcik (1994), 73; 114-115; 116-117] .
By the end of the sixteenth century the Timar system of land tenure had begun its unrecoverable decline. In 1528, the
Timariotconstituted the largest single division in the Ottoman army. Sipahiswere responsible for their own expenses, including provision during the campaigns, their equipment, providing auxiliary men ( celelu) and valets ( gulam) [Inalcik (1994), 90] . With the onset of new military technologies, particularly the gun, the Sipahis, who had once made up the backbone of the Ottoman army, were becoming obsolete. The long and costly wars which the Ottoman Sultanswaged against the Habsburgsand Iranianshad demanded the formation of a modern standing and professional army. Therefore cash was needed to maintain them. Essentially, the gun was cheaper then a horse [Ibid, 115; 117; 434; 467] . By the early decades of the seventeenth century, much of the Timar revenue was brought into the central treasury as substitute money ( bedel) for exemption from military service [Ibid, 73] . Since they were no longer needed, when the Timar holders died off, their holdings would not be reassigned, but were brought under imperial domain. Once under direct control the vacant land would be turned into Tax Farms ( muqãta’a) in order to ensure greater cash revenue for the central government [Lewis, 122] .
Gwinn, Robert P, Charles E. Swanson, and Philip W. Goetz. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica.vol. 8, 11, 10. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1986 Goffman, Daniel. The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2007
Inalcik, Halil. An Economic and Social history of the Ottoman Empire 1300-1914.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994 Inalcik, Halil. “Ottoman Methods of conquest.” Studia Islamica. 2 (1954): 103-129
Lewis, Bernard. “Ottoman Land Tenure and Taxation in Syria.” Studia Islamic. (1979), pp. 109-124
Murphey, Rhoads. “Ottoman Census Methods in the Mid-Sixteenth Century: Three Case Histories.” Studia Islamica. (1990), pp. 115-126
Ozel, Oktay. “Limits of the Almighty: Mehmed II’s ‘Land Reform’ Revised.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 42 (1999), pp. 226-246
Reindl-Kiel, Hedda. “A Woman Timar Holder in Ankara Province during the Second of the 16th Century.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 40 (1997), pp. 2007-238
Wiesner- Hanks, Merry E. Early Modern Europe 1450-1789. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006
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