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Timariot (or tımar holder; tımarlı in Turkish) was the name given to a Sipahi cavalryman in the Ottoman army. In return for service, each timariot received a parcel of revenue called a timar , a fief, which were usually recently conquered plots of agricultural land in the countryside. [1] [2] Far less commonly, the sultan would grant a civil servant or member of the imperial family a timar. [3] Also non-military timar holders were obliged to supply the imperial army with soldiers and provisions. [4]

The timariots provided the backbone of the Ottoman cavalry force and the army as a whole. They were obligated to fight as cavalrymen in the Ottoman military when called upon. The timariots had to assemble with the army when at war, and had to take care of the land entrusted to him in times of peace. When at war, the timariot had to bring his own equipment and in addition a number of armed retainers (cebelu). The timariot was granted feudatory with the obligation to go mounted to war and to supply soldiers and sailors in numbers proportionate to the revenue of the appanage. [2] The timariot owed personal service for his sword in time of war and for a certain sum of money owed a number of soldiers as a substitute (cebelu). The (cebelu) was bound to live on the timariot’s estate and look after the land. When summoned for campaign the timariot and his cebelu had to present themselves with a cuirass. When a timariot failed to obey the summon he was deprived of his timar for one or two years. [5] Timariots were expected to bring cebelus or men-at-arms as well as their own equipment on campaign, the number of cebelu being determined by revenue. The number of the sultan in the Timariot army fluctuated between 50,000 and 90,000 men. [6] Timariots were themselves organized by sanjak-beys who ruled over groups of timars. The sanjak-beys were subordinate to the beylerbeyi and then the sultan himself. This semi-feudal arrangement allowed for the Ottomans to organize large armies at once, thus making an imperial army from what was still essentially a medieval economy. [7] This system of using agricultural revenue to pay troops was influenced by a similar Byzantine practice and other near-Eastern states prior to the Ottoman Empire.

During peace, timariots were expected to manage the lands they were given. Each timariot did not own the land that had been granted. All agricultural lands in the Empire that were considered state property (or miri) could be granted as timars. Timariots could be removed and transferred when the sultan deemed it necessary. However, timariots were expected to collect taxes and manage the peasantry. The kanunname of each sanjak listed the specific amount of taxes and services that the timariot could collect. [8] The central government enforced these laws rigorously, and a sipahi could lose his timar for violating regulations. The timar-holders took precautions to keep peasants on their land and were also owed certain labor from peasants, such as building a barn. [9] The maximum amount of income from one timar was 9,999 akce per year, but most timariots did not make anywhere close to that. In the 1530s, 40 percent of timariots received less than 3,000 akce in revenue. [10] Higher ranking officers could receive a ziamet (up to 100,000 akces) or a has (over 100,000 akce), depending on importance. The number of men and equipment the timariotes had to provide was dependent on the size of his land holdings. When the annual income of the holding was above 4.000 akçe the sipahi had to be accompanied by a soldier in a coat of mail, for income above 15.000 akçe by additional soldier for each additional 3.000 akçe. Above a certain income of the timar the sipahi horse had also to be equipped with armor of very thin steel. Tents for different purposes e.g., for treasury, kitchen, saddlery store, etc. had to be provided. This ensured that all equipment and troops for campaigns was determined in advance and Ottoman commanders knew the exact number of their forces for mobilization. [11]

When the Ottomans conquered new territory, it was common practice to grant timars to the local aristocracy of conquered lands. [12] The Ottomans co-opted the local nobility and eased the burden of conquest. The first group of timars in the Balkans had a strong Christian majority (60 percent in Serbia and 82 percent in Bosnia in 1467-69), but the Christian sipahis gradually disappeared due to dispossession or conversion to Islam.

Timar-status could be inherited, but the pieces of land were not inheritable to avoid the creation of any stable landed nobility. Timars were not hereditary until a decree was passed in 1585. Those who vied for timar status were fiercely competitive and the barrier to entry was high. The sipahis were also in constant competition for control of the Ottoman military with the janissary class.

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Ottoman Empire Former empire centered about modern Turkey

The Ottoman Empire was a state that controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Turkoman tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.


Sipahi were professional cavalrymen deployed by the Seljuks, and later two types of Ottoman cavalry corps, including the fief-holding provincial timarli sipahi, which constituted most of the army, and the regular kapikulu sipahi, palace troops. Other types of cavalry which were not regarded sipahi were the irregular akıncı ("raiders"). The sipahi formed their own distinctive social classes, and were notably in rivalry with the Janissaries, the elite corps of the Sultan.

Bashi-bazouk Irregular soldier of the Ottoman army

A bashi-bazouk was an irregular soldier of the Ottoman army, raised in times of war. The army chiefly recruited Albanians and Circassians as bashi-bazouks, but recruits came from all ethnic groups of the Ottoman Empire. They had a reputation for bravery, but also as an undisciplined group, notorious for looting and preying on civilians as a result of a lack of regulation.

Sanjaks were administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire. Sanjak, and the variant spellings sandjak, sanjaq and sinjaq, are English or French transliterations of the Turkish word sancak, meaning "district", "banner" or "flag". Sanjaks were also called by the Arabic word for banner or flag: لواء liwa.

Administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire

The administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire were administrative divisions of the state organisation of the Ottoman Empire. Outside this system were various types of vassal and tributary states.

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Beylerbey or Beylerbeyi was a high rank in the western Islamic world in the late Middle Ages and early modern period, from the Seljuks of Rum and the Ilkhanids to Safavid Persia and the Ottoman Empire. Initially designating a commander-in-chief, it eventually came to be held by senior provincial governors. In Ottoman usage, where the rank survived the longest, it designated the governors-general of some of the largest and most important provinces, although in later centuries it became devalued into a mere honorific title. Its equivalents in Arabic were amir al-umara, and in Persian, mir-i miran.

Mukata’a, in the history of the Ottoman Empire, describes the parcels of hass-ı hümayun that were distributed not according to the timar system of in-kind distribution farming and tax collection, but rather via the iltizam auction system, where rights to collect revenue on the land were sold to the highest bidder, eventually for duration of the life of the buyer. As the Ottoman Empire began to move into the early modern period, “vacant timars, instead of being reassigned, were often added to the iltizam system”, paving the way for a fundamental change in the Ottoman fiscal system into a monetized system, and allowing various power-brokers to involve themselves in the Ottoman bureaucracy that had previously been limited to the kul. This served to both open up the echelons of power to those previously excluded, while also serving to move power away from the sultan and into a larger group of nobles who now held more permanent grasps on power, and the ability to perpetuate their wealth.

A timar was land granted by the Ottoman sultans between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, with a tax revenue annual value of less than 20,000 akçes. The revenues produced from land acted as compensation for military service. A Timar holder was known as a Timariot. If the revenues produced from the timar were from 20,000 to 100,000 akçes, the timar would be called zeamet, and if they were above 100,000 akçes, the land would be called hass.

Ziamet was a form of land tenure in the Ottoman Empire, consisting in grant of lands or revenues by the Ottoman Sultan to an individual in compensation for their services, especially military services. The ziamet system was introduced by Osman I, who granted land tenure to his troops. Later, this system was expanded by Murad I for his Sipahi.


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