Slaves in the Ottoman Empire.

Essay by MandyTheFreakHigh School, 10th grade December 2003

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Slaves in the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire existed from year 1453 to 1918 and was one of the largest and most well organized empires in world history. The Ottomans were very successful and conquered enormous territories with their large and professional standing armies. The Ottoman Empire was a slave society and slavery was very popular among the Ottomans. As much as one-fifth of the population in Istanbul were slaves, but there were not as many in the more remote areas. The sultan owned all property and had enormous power, and that was partly because he had so many slaves. That gave him much more control than if he had hired freemen, since slaves were always loyal but freemen could not be trusted in the same way. I am going to write about male and female slaves in the Ottoman Empire; what their status and rights were, what work they had to do and who they were.

Most male slaves did military service. They were either bought from Spain, North Africa or Venice, captured in battle or acquired through devshirme. Devshirme was a system by which young Christians were recruited for the army or the imperial civil service. The sultan had agents that searched for promising Christian children who they then converted to Islam and trained to be janissary soldiers. But the best of these children, in terms of physique, intelligence and other qualities, were selected for education in the palace school, where they instead were trained for civil service. There were also some slaves who were personal servants or bodyguards.

The sultan had slaves called "agents" who took care of his administrative and financial affairs, and these agents were actually the ruling class of the Ottoman society. They had the authority to collect revenues and their main function was...