Depredations of the Ottomans

March 1 2011

“This Empire, as vast and large as it is, is yet dispeopled, the villages abandoned, and whole provinces as pleasant and fruitfull as Tempe or Thessaly uncultivate and turned into a desart or wilderness – all which desolation and ruine proceeds from the tyranny and rapine of the Beglerbegs and Pashaws; who either in their journies to the possession of their Government, or return from thence, expose the poor inhabitants to violence and injury of their attendants, as if they had entred the confines of an enemy or the dominions of a conquered people. In like manner, the insolence of the horse and foot is unsupportable; for, in their marches from one countrey to another, parties of 20 or 30 are permitted to make excursions into divers parts of their own dominions, where they not onely live upon free quarter but extort money and cloaths from the poor vassals, taking their children to sell for slaves, … so that, rather than be exposed to such misery, and licence of the soldiery, the poor people choose to abandon their dwellings and wander into other cities, or seek for refuge in the mountains or woods of the countrey.” (Rycaut, Sir Paul: The Present State of the Ottoman Empire (London 1668, Starkey and Brome), p. 170.)

Rycaut’s “Beglerbegs and Pashaws” reminds one of Gladstone’s “their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and Yuzbashis, their Kaimakams and their Pashas”. The sixth edition of Rycaut (or part of it: how can you tell with Google Books?) is here.

Toynbee rarely or never writes “Ottomans”, but if his Turkish “Osmanlis” is correct, then so is an English “Ottomans”. Osmanli means “of or pertaining to Osman”, the founder. Is it a noun as well as an adjective in Turkish? Osman is the Turkish pronunciation of the Arabic Uthman, the name of the third Caliph.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

One Response to “Depredations of the Ottomans”


  1. […] March 30 2011 Or, in the nineteenth-century language of contempt, “the […]


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