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“Neither in the Muslim world nor in the Byzantine empire
did towns have the autonomy that they had in classical times
or in the medieval West. For one thing, Muslim law
recognized no corporate bodies or collective organizations
standing between the state and the individual. This does not
mean that towns possessed no corporate spirit; it is merely
that towns, serving as centres of culture and administration,
were considered as integral parts of the state structure.
Without civic institutions and without citizenship, the town
was governed through two groups of men, the civic-military
and the religious. The civil and military officers exercised an
authority deriving from the sultan’s power, and were mainly
responsible for general public security, fire fighting, and
police duties. 

The members of the religious learned group
were concerned with matters of Islamic law, which also
included such police obligations as watching over public
morality.
The lack of autonomy of the Ottoman town served to
enhance the position of the Ottoman capital. The city was
divided for administrative purposes into four units-the
ancient Constantinople, or Istanbul proper; Galata, lying on
the opposite shore of the Golden Horn; Eyyub, situated at
the northern end of the Golden Horn; and Uskidar, nestled
on the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus. In Istanbul, the centre
of power was the complex of Topkapi, which served as
palace, court, household, and residence of the Ottoman
sultans from about 1478 to the nineteenth century. Among
the officials serving at Topkapi were several officers who had
important police duties. 

At the top of the managerial structure was the grand vizier,
who was generally responsible for all security and police
matters along with his many other obligations. No fewer than

five palace officers served under him to supervise the policing
of the four areas of the capital-the supreme admiral
(Kapudan Pasha), the chief of the armourers (Jebeji Bashi),
the chief of the gunners (Topchu Bashi), the leader of the
elite fighting unit, known as the Aga of the Janissaries, and
the head gardener (Bostanji Bashi), whose title was not
completely indicative of his real influence in the empire. 

The Aga of the Janissaries controlled the most powerful
military force in the Ottoman empire and served as chief of
police for most of the capital. He was a member of the
council of state and held a position over all other generals
and all ministers below the rank of vizier. His responsibilities
included the protection of property and the maintenance of
order in most of Istanbul. Twice a week he inspected the
capital to see personally that everything was in order. The
Sekban Bashi, or Segmen Bashi, was the Janissary officer who
substituted for the Aga when the latter left the capital. In
time of peace, when the Aga would be present in the city, the
Sekban Bashi was responsible for the defence of the capital.
Another Janissary officer, the Muhdir Aga, provided
protection for the grand vizier and acted as intermediary
between the grand vizier and the Aga of the Janissaries. He,
with the grand vizier, ruled over judicial questions concerning
the Janissaries and was responsible for punishing Janissaries
found guilty of infractions.

The Janissary influence in police matters was evident at the
non-officer level as well. Janissary units stationed at the
capital performed many police duties, with each district
having a unit stationed there for one year. Patrols went from
the district posts into all the streets and markets of that
district, preventing or punishing crimes, and executing the
decisions of the religious authorities on matters relating to
the laws of Islam and the rulings of the sultan. When these
Janissary units were outside the capital on campaigns, other
military units filled in for them. 

Other officers, too, participated in the police system. The
commander of the gunners had jurisdiction over Beyoglu or
Pera, and the area adjoining the arsenal. The chief of
armourers had similar responsibility for Aya Sofya, Hoja

Pasha, and the Stable Gate. The admiral of the fleet was
responsible for maintaining public order at the naval base and
arsenal at Kasim Pasha, the district of Galata, and other
districts situated on the bank north of the Golden Horn. The
intermediary between the government and police officers was
the court official known as the Chavush-Bashi, who
introduced ambassadors to the presence of the sultan and
served as an administrator of justice and as envoy. When a
man was convicted, a chavush was sent with a commission to
the nearest official having the power to execute the sentence.
He sometimes waited for tangible proof, often the head of
the condemned man, that the mission was accomplished. 

A highly influential official was the sultan’s chief gardener,
the Bostanji-Bashi, who was the only person permitted to
wear a beard in the interior of the palace. He was responsible
for the surveillance of all the residences of the sovereign and
the lands where they were situated, particularly the banks of
the Bosporus. Over two thousand men were under his
command, and it was he who directed the questioning or
execution of delinquent officials. Although some bostanjis
actually did gardening work, most served as guards at the
sultan’s palaces or as watchmen on the palace grounds.
Jurisdiction extended from the Dardanelles to the mouth of
the Black Sea as well as over many towns on the coast. In the
ports located on the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, and the
Golden Horn, the bostanjis controlled the shipping and
served as local police. Another group of bostanjis served as
bodyguards to the sultan and had the honour to row his
private boat. A description of what occurred when the
Bostanji-Bashi made his evening rounds on the Bosporus is
contained in an edited account of an eighteenth-century
traveller:

All the parties on its shores disperse, and the women, in particular,
retire precipitately to their homes. One evening … the
bostanji-bashi appeared in his barge, manned by twenty-four
rowers; he had inflicted punishment on some drunken persons, and
ordered some females who were rather too merry to be secured; he
then ran, without noise, alongside the kiosk of a Greek lady, and
after listening for a few minutes to the conversation that was
passing, he climbed over the balustrade with several of his men.

The lady and her paramour were quit with the sacrifice of all the
diamonds, jewels, and money they had about them: and they durst
not hesitate a moment; for the bostanji-bashi, who had surprised
them, would have apprehended them, carried them on board his
barge, and conveyed them to prison, had not his avarice at length
rendered him tractable.

In the matter of punishment, the same writer describes how
the Bostanji-Bashi listened to complaints entered against his
agents and rendered strict justice to both the errant bostanjis
and any inhabitants whom he caught in a wrongful act:

Should any inhabitants whom he caught in a wrongful act:
If this officer hears a noise in any house, or sees a light in it at
unseasonable hours, he orders stones to be thrown at the windows;
on the slightest suspicion, he breaks open the door, searches it all
over, and frequently punishes the master with a fine and the
bastinado. He tries in a summary manner the offenders seized by
his people, whatever may be their crimes; and in cases of robbery,
if those who have lost anything recover it by his means, he charges
them ten percent. He is likewise . . superintendent of the
fountains and water conducted into the seraglio or distributed over
the city. If his people catch persons sporting and can secure them,
they take away their arms and bring them before him to be
punished.

Special tasks of surveillance and detective work were given to
two groups known as the Bojek Bashis and the Salma Tebdil
Chokadaris. The Bojek Bashis were responsible for the
punishment of thieves and the prevention of robbery. Their
agents-some of whom were women-possibly acted as
plainclothes detectives and were recruited from the ranks of
repentant thieves and criminals. The Chokadaris, numbering
between twenty to forty men, were concerned with the
neglect of religious duties, such as children who were making
a noise in the mosques during the Muslim month of fasting,
the prevention of gambling that might cause a public
disturbance, and the improper behaviour of Janissaries in
public places. The chief of the Chokadaris had agents, also
disguised, to frequent the markets, bazaars, cafes, taverns,
and public baths, watching that the Janissaries caused no

scandal and prohibiting the prostitutes from plying their
trade in public places or in cemeteries. Each day the chief
reported to his superiors on the state of popular feeling in the
city.

The two police officers closest to the civil population of
the capital were the Asas Bashi and the Subashi. They went
on rounds of inspection, arresting persons apprehended in the
act of committing a crime, and inflicting punishments as
decreed by the authorities. The main prison, named after the
patron saint of prisoners, was under their joint control. The
Asas Bashi was a Janissary officer in charge of the public jails
and supervisor of all public executions. Because of these two
jobs it was his duty to appear at all meetings in the Saray as
well as at the Porte. He was also responsible for clearing
crowds from the streets during ceremonial occasions. 

Another hat worn by the Asas Bashi was that of chief of
the night patrol. During the hours of darkness it was
permitted for persons to be out of doors only if they had a
lantern. The Asas Bashi seized the violators of this and other
regulations and applied a punishment which could consist not
only of imprisonment or application of the bastinado but
also work tasks such as carrying wood for the public
bathhouse furnaces. As part of his remuneration the Asas
Bashi received one tenth of the fines imposed for
drunkenness and similar offences committed at night. 

The general responsibility for policing the city during the
daytime was shared by a chief of the local Janissaries, known
as the Subashi, and by the market superintendent, the
Muhtesib. In the sixteenth century the Subashi of Istanbul
brought the persons summoned before the judge and carried
out the sentences he handed down. As the police magistrate
affiliated with the Chavushes, the Subashi had jurisdiction
over everyone except Janissaries. He apparently had a terrible
reputation for his harsh treatment of wrongdoers as he went
about keeping order during the day and working with the
Muhtesib to see that the regulations concerning merchants
and artisans were respected. 

Although municipal institutions were lacking in the strict
sense, corporations or guilds did exist in the capital and did
require special attention. The seven hundred or more guilds were divided into sections. The second section, under the
supervision of the police provost, contained a strange mixture
of guilds: watchmen, horse-jobbers, hangmen, grooms,
press-gang men, lictors, thieves and footpads, and policemen.
Responsibility for normal surveillance of guild affairs in
matters of measures, weights, and prices theoretically rested
with the religious judge, but was in fact shared by the grand
vizier, who was responsible for all governmental affairs, the
Aga of the Janissaries, who was in charge of the general
policing of Istanbul, and the Muhtesib. They made periodical
rounds to check that the shopkeepers were acting properly in
commercial transactions. Accompanied by intendants and
soldiers, the Muhtesibs inspected the markets and patrolled
the streets. If the law had been broken, they punished the
wrongdoer at once, either physically or financially. 

The
Muhtesib specialized in the repression of fraud committed by
merchants and artisans, and saw that the laws on commerce
were applied correctly, that merchandise imported into the
capital was equally distributed, and that the fixed prices for
goods were maintained. He inspected the premises, controlled
weights and measures, and collected special taxes from the
members of the corporations.
The Muhtesib, the Aga of the Janissaries, the
Bostanji-Bashi, and the other police officers apparently
accomplished their task well because what scant evidence
there is indicates that serious crimes were rare in Istanbul and
that public tranquillity usually prevailed. Murders were few,
possibly because of the code of responsibility for such a
crime. If the perpetrator was not found, the inhabitants of
the quarter where the crime was committed would have to
pay blood-money. As for unrest in the city, although there
were Janissary and guild rebellions, the civil population
remained quiet. It seemed to recognize the risks it would
incur if it acted against the power of the sultan, especially
when that power was protected by a well-established police
force.”

  

– 

Glen W. Swanson, “The Ottoman Police.” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 7, No. ½ (Jan. – Apr., 1972). pp. 244-250.

Art is: 

Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Turkish Patrol. Oil on canvas, 1831. 

Wallace Collection, London

 

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“Constantinople
has three main
divisions,
Stamboul
on the
peninsula washed
by
the
waters
of
the Bosphorus,
the Golden
Horn
and
the Sea
of
Marmara— Galata
and Pera,
on
the
European side
of
the Bosphorus,
and Scutari
on
the
Asian
side, with
suburban
villages along
the Bosphorus
and along the
street-car and
railway
lines,
running
out
respectively from Pera and Stamboul and Scutari.
The towns
of
the islands are
also considered
within the city
precincts. The
larger
factories lie
on
the
outskirts of the city.
The
Golden
Horn, both on the
Stamboul
and the
Galata
side, handles
the commerce;
depots
are gradually creeping up the
Bosphorus.
The shipping
agencies and
banks,
for the most
part, are centered
in Galata;
the
wholesale houses, in
Stamboul.
Certain of
the Galata
houses
have
branch banks in
Stamboul.
The
bazaars
occupy the
first
slope
of Stamboul
up from the
outer bridge across the Golden
Horn. Hand
trades
are generally grouped
and are
located for the most
part
in Stamboul,
and in the
section of
Galata
between the
outer and
inner
bridges which
span the
Golden
Horn. Small shops are
usually clustered in
the
various defined quarters of Constantinople, though
they
are also found
promiscuously scattered over
the
city.

Most of the streets in Constantinople are narrow.
There is
one
main street from
Galata
winding up the
hill
to Pera, and
passing
through
that
quarter, which
must accommodate
a
street-car line and
vehicle
traffic,
besides
the sidewalks, actually
far
too inadequate for the throngs of pedestrians. Another
artery
even narrower
runs
the length of Galata. following the shore line.
Another
main street
runs
from
the
end
of
the outer Golden
Horn
bridge
up
to
and
along
the ridge of Stamboul;
on the
ridge it
becomes
the
most
commodious
street
in the
city.
The
street-car
system
follows
these
three main
streets
with
branches
towards the
outskirts.
Including
the street-car
line that
runs up
the
Bosphorus
six
miles
to
the
suburb Bebek,
the
lines
measure
in
all
about
seventeen
miles.

To the
uninitiated,
Constantinople
addresses spell confusion; they may bear
the
name of
the street, or
in lieu of
this,
so
often missing, especially
in Stamboul,
an address
may
simply
refer to the
district, or
to a Han;
the
latter corresponds
to the
American business
term
“building,”
as “Singer
Building,” etc.
The complexity
of streets and
business
blocks would
worry to despair
any
postal
service; for this reason postal service is less used by business firms than messenger service.  The Hans
and
other
business houses and
apartment houses
in Galata
and Pera,
as also in Stamboul,
are
of stone or
brick. These
buildings
average
two or
three stories; some
are
taller; and
recently
a few
six and
seven
story blocks have
been erected. An
inquiry
was recently
made of
an American
society, concerning
a contracting
firm that would undertake the erection of a fifty story building.
The
customer
wanted a building
“like in
America!”
for
an
apartment house.
The estimate was finally cut down to six
stories.

Dwelling houses
in Stamboul
for
the greater part were, until
recent
years, of wood.
Since
1908
devastating
fires
have
razed about 25,000 structures
in the
city,
and
it
is reported
that
no
wood
constructions
will
be
allowed on
the
burned
areas.
It is
also
reported
that the municipality intends
more
scientific
modifications
in
the
street
plans
of these areas.
A
few
frail
two
story
brick structures have
already
been
erected
in
these
seared spots.  

Needless to say, fire escapes are almost universally lacking. The large buildings, stone structures, are seldom the origin of fires. The wooden structures are small and there is seldom loss of life in a fire, though large districts of the city are destroyed in one sweep of flame, because fire fighting provisions are so largely lacking. The irregular firemen with their diminutive hand pumps are still the vanguard in the fire-fighting to the more deliberate regulars with their modern equipment. Since the war, the powerful apparatus of the allied armies has had telling effect in diminishing fire disasters.

Among
the
native business firms
overhead
expense
is
cut down
to the
minimum, and
the
capital and
activity of
a firm
can in nowise
be
judged
from the
office
space
and
accommodations. A
telephone
is
the
first
sign of
modernity.
Electric
lighting is
the
second step,
progressing
more slowly,
especially in
the
small shops of Stamboul, where
sun
time still
largely
regulates hours
of
work.
There are
not more than
a dozen
elevators
in
the
entire city including
the hotels, and
the running
of these is
qualified. Heating
is
primitive;
only a few
of
the larger hans and
hotels
are installing
central
heating plants. The
brazier,
partly displaced
by
the
small stove about the time of the Crimean
War, is
still
largely
used. Ventilation is
sacrificed to the
conservation of heat in
the
cool seasons.

The great
influence of
tradition in
the Orient
is
patent.
Adet,
custom,
has strongly resisted
foreign
influence. People
and government alike
are
permeated
with
the conservative spirit,
though
for
different reasons. The
system
of
government
in
Turkey
until 1908
was an absolute
monarchy;
the
fiat
of
the ruler
often
reinforced tradition,
rarely
set
it
aside;
there have
been only
spasmodic
and limited
periods of liberalness
and
development. The business world felt the despotic control.
The non-Moslem
subject
races especially
have
been affected
by
this,
and
large
enterprises have
in
general
not developed
normally through fear
of extra exactions; for the same
reason
the possessing of riches
has
been
made
as
unostentatious
as
possible
among
these
peoples, with
the
resultant lack of business accommodations
and
facilities
at the
present time.

Foreign
influence has
played
an important role in
the
development
of
the business life
in Turkey.
The
Capitulations, a political
modification
of Byzantine
economic policy,
which
have been the
special protection
of foreigners in
Turkey,
have assured
larger rewards
to foreign
than to other
capital, with
the
result that
the most considerable
firms in Turkey
to-day,
with
certain
exceptions, are foreign firms.
It is even stated that Russian refugee street vendors
have claimed
the tax exemption
accorded in an
eighteenth
century Russian
commercial treaty
with
the
Sublime
Porte.

The
three
factors enumerated
above,
custom, government, and foreign
influence in business
life,
are
not as such
peculiar to Turkey,
but
they have
a peculiar
relation here in most
illogically
reinforcing
or opposing
each
other in
business enterprises.
It is hardly necessary to state that, as
capital has
been
affected, there
has been
a reaction
on
the
condition of employees
of
capital.

Previous to 1908, under Sultan Abdul Hamid II especially, inventions and industrial improvements were looked on with suspicion by the Government. There was no electric lighting system, save for a few suburban steamers recently imported and for the Sultan’s palace and the Khedival palace on the Bosphorus. There was no telephone system, no local telegraph save for messages in Turkish, and no letter collections. Local mail service was not used by foreigners; business communications were carried on by messengers, and this method still largely prevails in the city. There were no electric street cars, though even before the underground service in New York there was a tunnel funicular between Galata and Pera. There were no automobiles in the city. The introduction of machinery was generally surreptitiously effected. Small shops and hand trades predominated. Since Turkey has been either at war or threatened with war every year since the revolution in 1908, these last two characteristics persist in the business life of the city to-day. The foreign commercial life has progressed more rapidly, yet still most of the actual labor of caring for cargo is performed by hand. Cranes for loading and unloading are few, and quay space and commodious depots are not adequate in normal times.

Constantinople
is
a cosmopolitan
city.
While on
a small
scale, in business
life,
racial distinctions
are
becoming
effaced
in the
labor organizations that are being formed,
and the
relation of employer
with employee is
largely
controlled by
the
dollar and
cent
reckoning of service,
a lingering
sense of paternalism, especially
in the
smaller shops, is
at times
evident. This
is
seen
either in greater
financial consideration of
employee,
or
in inadequate
compensation
for
service.

Baksheesh,
tips,
play
such a
large
part in
the
reward
of unskilled labor in Constantinople, as elsewhere in the Orient, — that
it
loses here
its
Western
signification of "gratuities,“ and
becomes in many
fields almost
synonymous with
"pay."”

–  Laurence S. Moore, “Some Phases of Industrial Life,” from Clarence Richard Johnson, ed., Constantinople to-day; or, The pathfinder survey of Constantinople; a study in oriental social life.  New York: MacMillan Company, 1922. pp. 167-172

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