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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Ottoman Empire 02: Surrounding Constantinople

Ottoman occupation of Asia Minor, Bulgaria, and Greece - liberation from harsh Christian Orthodox Byzantium terror rule

from: Ottoman Empire; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 16

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)




[1326: Bursa: Jews are liberated from Christian Orthodox Byzantium terror - new rights - new tax (kharaj)]

The first Jewish community to come under their protection was that of *Bursa (Brusa), which was captured in 1326 by Urkhan (1326-1359), the son of 'Uthman. In accordance with the pact made between the inhabitants of the town and the captors the Greek inhabitants were removed: the Jews returned to the town by themselves and settled in a special district, Yahudi mahallesi (Jewish quarter).

The conquest was a blessing for the Jews after the experience of servitude under [[Christian Orthodox]] Byzantium, which had decreed harsh laws upon them: the Jews were permitted by the sultan, who issued a firman (royal order), to build a synagogue (Ez Hayyim). They were also allowed to engage in business in the country without hindrance and to purchase houses and land in the towns and villages. On the other hand, they were obliged to pay the government the poll tax, called here *kharaj. Its collection was placed in the hands of a communal board of elders (administrators) who usually paid for the poor. In order to be certain that the number of taxpayers was correct, the officers of the government treasury made the elders take an oath while holding Scrolls of the Law in their hands. At a later period this tax was imposed upon the districts, and the community leaders of every district apportioned it in accordance with the members of each community.

[15th century: Jewish influx from France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal]

The Jews of Bursa were all old inhabitants of the country and were called *Romaniots (or Gregos); during the 15th century they were joined by Jews from *France and *Germany, as well as refugees from *Spain and *Portugal.

[Gallipoli liberated from Christian Orthodox Byzantine terror]

The son of the sultan Urkhan, the vizier Suleiman Pasha, proceeded to Europe, capturing *Gallipoli, which from early times had had a small Jewish community, which, because of persecution by the Byzantine emperors, had not grown. With the beginning of Ottoman rule the community grew, however, through the addition of local Jews.

[Angora and Adrianople (Edirne) - Adrianople as new capital and largest Jewish community - further occupations]

Angora (*Ankara) and *Adrianople (Edirne) were captured by the sultan Murad I (1360-89). In Angora there was a Jewish community from early times. Adrianople, which the sultan turned (col. 1530)

into his capital in 1365 - in place of Bursa - became the largest town in the empire and contained the largest Jewish community in the Balkan Peninsula. Jews from Germany, Italy, and France lived there, as well as Karaites. The Ottomans continued their conquests taking Philippopolis (*Plovdiv), *Sofia, and other towns. Nicopolis (*Nikopol) and Vidin were captured by the sultan Bayazid I (1389-1403). These towns contained various Jewish communities.

[Hungarians expelled to Nicopolis - occupation of Bulgaria - stopped Mongols - tolerance in Smyrna]

Besides the Rumanian [[Romanian]] and Bulgarian Jews, who were early inhabitants, there were also recent settlers from Hungary who had been driven out in 1376 by command of the Hungarian king Ludwig I and admitted to Walachia near Nicopolis. They continued from there, settling in Nicopolis itself and in Vidin.

Bayazid conquered all *Bulgaria and fought the Mongols near Angora [[Ankara]]. The town of *Izmir (Smyrna) was captured by Sultan Muhammad I (1413-21). Before his conquest not many Jews lived there, but afterward Jews from all the surrounding districts concentrated in the town and established a community.

*Salonika and *Ioannina were captured by Sultan *Murad II (1421-51). At the time of the capture of Salonika in 1430 - which had been in the possession of the Venetians - the city had an ancient Romaniot community which had been augmented by refugees from Germany and Italy. Ioannina was captured two years later, together with other places in *Albania where Jews lived. The Jews were well treated. Many were enrolled in the troop of foreigners called ghariba (aliens) which was established.

[Jewish dresses with yellow headwear - Turks with green headwear]

Murad II was the first to introduce special clothes for Jews (ghiyar; see Covenant of *Omar). They were compelled to wear long garments like other non-Muslims (Greeks and Armenians); their headwear was yellow in order to distinguish them from other non-Muslims, while the Turks wore green headwear and were called "green ones" by the Jews.

[Occupation of Peloponnesus]

A large part of the Peloponnesus was captured by Murad; Jews had lived there from earliest times (see *Greece). Murad's attitude toward them was expressed by his appointment of a Jews as personal physician.> (col. 1531)

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