Pashas and Deys
The Ottoman Maghrib was formally divided into three regencies--
at Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. After 1565 authority as regent
in Tripoli was vested in a pasha (see Glossary) appointed by the
sultan. The regency was provided a corps of janissaries (see Glossary),
recruited from Turkish peasants who were committed to a lifetime
of military service. The corps was organized into companies, each
commanded by a junior officer with the rank of dey (literally,
"maternal uncle"). It formed a self-governing military guild,
subject to its own laws, whose interests were protected by the
Divan, a council of senior officers that also advised the pasha.
In time the pasha's role was reduced to that of ceremonial head
of state and figurehead representative of Ottoman suzerainty,
as real power came to rest with the army.
Mutinies and coups were frequent, and generally the janissaries
were loyal to whoever paid and fed them most regularly. In 1611
the deys staged a successful coup, forcing the pasha to appoint
their leader, Suleiman Safar, as head of government--in which
capacity he and his successors continued to bear the title dey.
At various times the dey was also pasha-regent. His succession
to office occurred generally amid intrigue and violence. The regency
that he governed was autonomous in internal affairs and, although
dependent on the sultan for fresh recruits to the corps of janissaries,
his government was left to pursue a virtually independent foreign
policy as well.
Tripoli, which had 30,000 inhabitants at the end of the seventeenth
century, was the only city of any size in the regency. The bulk
of its residents were Moors, as city-dwelling Arabs were known.
Several hundred Turks and renegades formed a governing elite apart
from the rest of the population. A larger component was the khouloughlis
(literally, "sons of servants"), offspring of Turkish soldiers
and Arab women who traditionally held high administrative posts
and provided officers for the spahis, the provincial
cavalry units that augmented the corps of janissaries. They identified
themselves with local interests and were, in contrast to the Turks,
respected by the Arabs. Regarded as a distinct caste, the khouloughlis
lived in their menshia, a lush oasis located just outside
the walls of the city. Jews and moriscos, descendants
of Muslims expelled from Spain in the sixteenth century, were
active as merchants and craftsmen, some of the moriscos
also achieving notoriety as pirates. A small community of European
traders clustered around the compounds of the foreign consuls,
whose principal task was to sue for the release of captives brought
to Tripoli by the corsairs. European slaves and larger numbers
of enslaved blacks transported from the Sudan were a ubiquitous
feature of the life of the city.
Data as of 1987