Preface and Acknowledgments

in Ottoman Law of War and Peace
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Preface and Acknowledgments

Historians and jurists have paid scant attention to the Ottoman law of war and peace, and those specialists who have dealt with Islamic Ottoman law ignored as a rule the status of tributary princes. In turn, Romanian scholarship developed a veritable tradition of addressing the issue of “Ottoman–Romanian relations,” focusing particularly on the autonomous status of the principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania towards the Porte.

The purpose of this book is to improve and partially revise these assertions, focusing not on the elements that set the provinces north of the Danube apart from the rest of the Ottoman Empire, but rather on the legal and political methods applied to extend the pax ottomanica system in the area.

Accordingly, two central questions underlie the present study. First, what was the Ottoman legal and political standpoint on the empire’s relationship with non-Muslim individuals, communities and states? Second, what position did the tributary states and provinces of Southeastern Europe occupy vis-à-vis the Ottoman Empire? From the outside, I have to stress the difficulty of providing unambiguous answers to either of these questions, first and foremost due to the dearth of information and the vagueness of available sources. To address these issues, I have firstly tried to decipher and define concepts and rules that underpinned Ottoman notions of war, peace, treaty, custom and protection. Finally, to elucidate the issue, perspectives other than the Ottomans– those of local voivodes, nobles, Christian neighbors and Western Europeans – must be taken into account.

Subsequently, I turned my attention towards the political and legal status of the principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania, which provide us with case studies of tributary status within the Ottoman context. This second stage is by no means an afterthought; on the contrary, it constitutes the crux of the study.

These imperatives shaped the structure of this five-part book. In Part One, I discuss legal and diplomatic sources, focusing on the Islamic tradition as a cornerstone of the Ottoman law of nations. Part Two deals with the impact of Ottoman holy war (cihad and gazavat) on the territories north of the Danube, paying special attention to the period spanning from the end of the fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth century. In Part Three, I shift my attention towards the Islamic–Ottoman law of peace and the ways submission and conquest in Southeastern Europe were acknowledged and recognized. In doing so, I emphasize peculiarities and commonplaces, with regard to both their historical circumstances and legal–political consequences. Part Four focuses on legal sources of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania’s tributary status, investigating Ottoman peace agreements and the procedure of aman – ʿahd – ʿahdname. This topic includes the role of the temporary covenants of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the impact of imperial diplomas and customary norms in outlining the rights and duties of the voivodes, as well as the Porte’s attitude towards the pacta sunt servanda principle when dealing with its tributaries. Part Five, entitled ‘Tribute-payers and Protected Peoples,’ investigates power relations between sultans and voivodes, the latter’s duties towards the Porte and the legal status of Wallachian, Moldavian and Transylvanian subjects as protected-peoples (zimmis). As I argue, a comprehensive examination of these relations between the sultan and his tributaries allows us to depict the place of the three tributary-protected principalities within the system of pax ottomanica, from both a legal and political point of view.

Terminology lies at the heart of my investigation. Developing a coherent terminological grid necessary to define the status of Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania required me to adopt a critical attitude towards both the vocabulary employed in official documents and chronicles of the period (be they Otto­man, European or Moldo-Wallachian), as well as the terms utilized by modern historians and jurists. Moreover, a clear distinction had to be made between the conceptual framework of twentieth-century international law and that of fifteenth–eighteenth century law of nations; between European legal terminology and Islamic; finally, between legal terms and political vocabulary. As an example of this, Dimitrie Cantemir, who realized and criticized the sultans’ tendency to call “tribute” any sum of money received from Christians,1 a purpose of my research has been to determine terminological abuses, which can be constantly found in historical sources, and to correlate the legal and political theory and terminology with the actual power relations.

Although the terms of “tribute-payer” (haracgüzar)and “protection” (himayet) had been employed in fifteenth-century sources, and some legal elements of these concepts were applied in relations with the Wallachian voivodes from 14172 and the Moldavian ones from 1456, it was only during the reign of Süleyman Kanunî (1520–1566) that a coherent Ottoman interpretation of the legal and political position of the princes, inhabitants and territories north of the Danube crystallized. In these circumstances, I believe it would be wrong to adopt the legal vocabulary of early modern sources and to retroactively apply this to the period when power relations between the sultans and Moldavian-Wallachian princes were at their inception, as some chroniclers did – such as Idris Bitlisi and Kemalpaşazade. Only in the third and fourth decades of the sixteenth century did the process of integrating Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania into the pax ottomanica reach its conclusion, defining their status as tributary principalities and buffer protectorates.

To remedy the relative dearth of information regarding Moldavia and Wallachia, particularly prominent until the mid-sixteenth century, I have opted for a comparative approach. The comparison involved a variety of cases, ranging from Ottoman provinces (particularly salyaneli regions), Christian neighbors, as well as other examples of tributary status. The latter included both the blueprints developed in the early Islamic period (like Nadjran) and other Southeastern European polities that temporarily or permanently enjoyed similar status (such as Ragusa and the Crimean Khanate). Adopting this more encompassing perspective is particularly important, since Moldavia and Wallachia were frequently invoked as blueprints, utilized as legal and political frameworks for new additions to the pax ottomanica system.

At the same time, when speaking about vassal or tributary principalities of the Ottoman Empire, many historians tend to lump these together into a single, undifferentiated group. However, despite similarities between them, we should keep in mind the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of each individual case, produced by specific historical circumstances surrounding their entry into Ottoman orbit, such as their geopolitical position, economic features, as well as religious and dynastic identity. Obviously, ignoring these divergences would produce a distorted image of the polities’ relationship to the Porte. Thus, I consider it necessary to take into account the legal and political trajectory between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries, and the distinct political status of Transylvania in comparison to the Danubian principalities. Yet, my main objective throughout the study remains the legal status of tributary states or provinces in the Ottoman Empire; from this point of view, commonalities outweighed differences. Probably this is why French geographer Nicolas Sanson d’Abbeville opted to depict the borders of Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania and Ragusa with the same red line on a map he produced in 1655.3

It would be impossible to mention here all those who through their help or advice have contributed to this book.

Financial support for various stages of the research and writing was generously made available to me by a number of institutions, including the Institute for South-East European Studies of the Romanian Academy, the Faculty of History of University of Bucharest, the Soros Foundation, Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes in Istanbul, the Europa Institute in Budapest, Maison des Science de l’Homme in Paris, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars in Washington, the Fulbright Commission in Washington and Bucharest, American Research Institute in Turkey and Mellon Foundation. They each allowed me to enrich my documentation in Bulgarian, Hungarian, Turkish, Polish, French, British, Italian and American archives and libraries, besides my usual research in the Romanian libraries and archives. My warmest thanks go to these organizations and institutions.

At the same time, I would like to express my gratitude to all who helped me in the archives and libraries in Sofia, Istanbul, Budapest, Warsaw, Krakow, Paris, London, Venice, Florence, Princeton and Washington. The list is too long to permit individual mentions. I wish to thank all those who generously placed their time and knowledge at my disposal and to acknowledge the facilities provided by the National Archives and the Romanian Academy Library in Bucharest; the “Cyril and Methodius” Library in Sofia; the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Hungarian National Archives in Budapest; the Archives of Old Documents in Warsaw and Czartoryski Library in Krakow; Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Archives du Ministere des Affaires Étrangers in Paris; the State Archives of Venice; Princeton University Library and the Library of Congress in Washington; The Prime Minister’s Archives, Süleymaniye Library, Topkapı Palace Library and Archives, Libraries of the American Research Institute in Turkey, Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes, Centre for Islamic Studies and Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, all in Istanbul.

While writing this book, I have tried not to assume an exclusively critical tone. I feel indebted to all the scholars whose findings and ideas – even if I disagreed with them – opened my eyes to many pleasant vistas. In the course of researching and writing my earlier books and articles, as was also the case with this book, I had the good sense to consult with colleagues specializing in areas outside my primary research field. I am grateful to all colleagues and friends from whom I received comments, guidance, encouragement, or admonition. Each of them offered valuable criticism that helped me refine the argument and stay on course where I might otherwise have gone astray. For the defects that remain, I alone am responsible.

It has been nearly twenty years since the first edition of the Ottoman Law of War and Peace. The Ottoman Empire and Tribute Payers (Boulder, 2000). Ever since its publication, it has been noticed that this book was in need of a good and careful editor. Meanwhile, my documentation of this issue has become enriched, and with it the interpretations have gained a clearer outline, and some dilemmas have become certainties. During this period of time several studies dedicated to the political and legal status of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania towards the Porte appeared in specialized journals or were included in volumes of Islamic and Ottoman history.4 It was therefore necessary to publish a new edition of the 2000 book, but a deeply revised and augmented one.

I do not want to end this foreword without expressing my gratitude to Michał Wasiucionek, who significantly improved the English text and made valuable historical comments, to David-Linus Neagu and Radu Dipratu, who helped me with bibliographical list and index, and to George MacBeth, who copy-edited the manuscript. I also owe my warmest thanks to Maurits van den Boogert, who found a way to publish this book at Brill.

Viorel Panaite, December 2018


1. Demetrius Cantemir, The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire. Translated by N. Tindal, London, 1734, 276, n. 2.

2. The dates throughout the book are given in the Gregorian calendar. In footnotes, I have also indicated the dates in the Hijrah calendar in certain cases, such as extensively quoted Ottoman documents, collections of documents in archives and libraries, and publishing years of Ottoman books.

3. Estats de l’Empire des Tvrqs en Evrope; et Pays circomvoisins; entre lesquels sont Hongrie, Transilvanie, Valaqvie, Moldavie, Petite Tatarie. Sujets, ou tributaires des Turqs. Par N. Sanson d’Abbeville, Geographe ordinaire du Roy, Paris, Chez Pierre Mariette, 1655 (BAR, Bucharest, Maps Division).

4. I note here the most recent papers: Viorel Panaite, “The Legal and Political Status of Wallachia and Moldavia in Relation to the Ottoman Porte,” in G. Kárman and L. Kuncević, eds. The European Tributary States of the Ottoman Empire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Leiden–Boston: Brill, 2013, 9–43; idem, “The Danubian Principalities,” in K. Fleet, G. Krämer, D. Matringe, J. Nawas, and E. Rowson, eds. The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Three, Leiden: Brill, 2014, 85–89.