History Seminar: Zahit Atçıl (Istanbul Medeniyet University)




The Rise of Indigenous Ottoman Viziers in the Sixteenth Century




FEBRUARY 25, 2019       15:30-17:30

FASS 2034


The post of the vizier was filled by men with a scholarly background, the ulema, in the early Ottoman period. This was a continuation of the pre-Ottoman Islamicate tradition of professional elites serving politically inexperienced military emirs. Disturbed by their cosmopolitan and professional outlook, Mehmed II attempted to marginalize the ulema in vizieral positions after the conquest of Istanbul and began to recruit viziers from the Byzantine and Balkan nobility. Emphasizing the fact that the children of former Balkan and Byzantine nobles filled the vizieral positions, the paper argues that, contrary to the existing literature on the subject, the viziers during the reigns of Mehmed II (1451-1481), Bayezid II (1481-1512) and Selim I (1512-1520) were not of kul/slave origin but were rather a group of men with a cosmopolitan and noble professional outlook. In fact the real kul viziers, whom I refer to as indigenous viziers, rose in the sixteenth century. They were of ignoble origins, recruited as devshirmeboys, trained at the Ottoman palace and appointed to several governmental positions in the provinces and the capital. The paper argues that their career from their recruitment to their appointment as grand vizier was shaped solely within the Ottoman system. In other words, they were indigenously grown Ottoman viziers.

Zahit Atçıl graduated from Boğaziçi University in 2005 as a double major in Political Science and History. He received his Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago in 2015 with a dissertation titled “State and Government in the Mid-Sixteenth Century Ottoman Empire: The Grand Vizierates of Rüstem Pasha (1544-1561).” He has published several articles on Ottoman diplomacy, Ottoman-Safavid relations and dynastic succession. Currently he teaches Islamic and Ottoman history at Istanbul Medeniyet University.