After the Ottoman conquest of Syria in 1516, the Janissaries of Damascus were employed to meet the manpower needs of further campaigns in Iran, Cyprus, and particularly Yemen. The recruitment of the necessary troops beyond the devşirme dramatically changed the character of the Janissary corps and eventually the empire as a whole. It transformed the Janissaries from an elite military unit of slave soldiers into an assemblage of men from diverse origins, slave and free, who performed a variety of functions for the empire in addition to waging war. This transformation affected the role of the Janissaries in Ottoman politics as well as their own concept of themselves and their role, generating shifts among social groups and changes in the way Ottomans regarded their empire. This study examines the change in military recruitment in Syria through the documents of the Ottoman government, showing how the actual beginning of this transformation differed from its description by contemporary writers of nasihatnameler.
Linda T. Darling is Professor of History at the University of Arizona, where she has taught since 1989. After two advisors with whom she had hoped to study Syrian history left the University of Chicago, she pursued a PhD in Ottoman History with the doyen of the field, Professor Halil İnalcık. It was the best decision she ever made. She has authored two books, Revenue-Raising and Legitimacy: Tax Collection and Finance Administration in the Ottoman Empire, 1560–1660 (1996) and A History of Social Justice and Political Power in the Middle East: The Circle of Justice from Mesopotamia to Globalization (2013). In the present publication she returns to her initial interest in Syria. Meanwhile, she has served as President of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, General Secretary of the International Association for Ottoman Social and Economic History, Secretary of the American Research Institute in Turkey, and Organizing Committee Member for the Arizona Center for Turkish Studies.