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by Archaeology Newsroom

Towns and villages in the early period of Ottoman rule

The study of towns and villages in the first period of Ottoman rule (c. 1450-c. 1650) contributes to the Greek historiography of a period our knowledge of which is both incomplete and fragmentary. This article focuses on certain sectors of social and economic history and is based on data that has been drawn mainly from Ottoman archival sources, some of which are published here for the first time. Due to the conditions created by the exercise of Ottoman feudal power and the new terms of landowning, the towns and villages experienced a strong burst of development. This can be seen not only in the positive demographic changes – which are, as a matter of fact most impressive – but also in the magnitude of production, both agrarian and manufactural of the time. Towns as well as villages are examined, both in context of different regions and as entities that complement one another – constituting local-regional districts Given the relation of the town with its rural hinterland, for the interpretation of the developmental changes attention must also be given to the conditions of the division of labour between urban and rural areas, and to the obligatory transfer of population from one city or region to another practised by the Ottomans.

However, after the middle of the sixteenth century the favourable climate for the development of towns and villages was progressively replaced by negative factors, such as extra taxes being levied.This had a negative effect on the productive population, exacerbated by the generally adverse circumstances, such as wars, epidemics, currency devaluation. Under such circumstances certain towns and villages experienced a decrease of population, the hierarchy of the settlement network was reversed and the unity of town and village was destroyed. The changes in the built space of towns after the Ottoman conquest are remarkable, not only because the towns were extended outside the limits of the late Byzantine – Frankish period, but also because the urban tissue, especially in the large towns, was radically remodelled. The organisation of the dwelling areas in machalades (neighbourhoods), the formation of the town centre as a strong urban entity, with a significant number of public buildings and the introduction of principles regulating the relation of urban functions and also the network connecting the town with its rural hinterland are characteristics of a new urban reality. The latter was created during the first decades of Ottoman rule and affected all the relevant developments thereafter.