When Selim I conquered Syria in 1516, he changed the Ottoman Empire in more ways than simply adding territory. This lecture discusses the effect of the conquest of Syria on two fundamental Ottoman military institutions—the timar cavalry system and the Janissary infantry corps—and demonstrates the use of government documents to critique the representation of these changes in the political literature of the time as illegitimate. These shifts are usually attributed to the military and price revolutions of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However well before these developments, circumstances resulting from the Ottoman presence in the Arab lands caused both military forces to intensify the recruitment of outsiders. The resulting alterations in both military systems were not confined to Syria, but spread throughout the empire and made the Ottoman Empire another kind of state, not just larger but institutionally and ideologically different.
Sponsored by the Departments of History and of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and by the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies