Friday, March 18, 2011

Ioannis Tzernotas (Tsernotabey)

Sultan Selim I
During the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Selim I(1515-1520), the Ottoman empire expanded towards the muslim world and annexed the Mamelukan territories of Syria and Egypt.
Ioannis Tzernotas,a Greek soldier of the Christian Spahis(timariot cavalry) of the Ottoman army, along with other christian Spahis  participated in the Egyptian campaign. The sultan himself highly esteemed Tsernotas and sources mention that he trusted his opinion about various issues.
Tzernotas was descended from Morea( Peloponnesos). Probably he owned a timar(fief) there as an exchange for his military service to the Sultan. It is reported that he rebuilt a church in a town near Patras which was burnt to the ground in 1500 and he contributed to the building of other constructions that bear his name. His name is also attested  in various oral traditions.
During the reign of Selim I the relations between the christians(predominantly Greek) and muslims in the empire were at very good level.This period of tolerance was mainly encouraged by the sultan himself. Selim was recorded to have reduced the incidents of christian oppression and intolerance.
Morea(Southern Greece)

However the next sultan Suleyman I, was not as tolerant as his predecessor . There were uprisings reported in 1533 in southern Greece against Ottoman rule which meant that the situation had changed. Suleyman the magnificent as his historical nickname was, had a hostile attitude towards the non-muslim populations of the empire such as the Christians and the Jews.For instance in Greece he attempted to take by force the timars that were given to Christian Spahis  and likely this triggered some rebellions which are recorded in this time.
During Suleyman's reign Tzernotas may have presumingly lost a significant part of his property that he acquired serving as a Spahi .
Ottoman era Sipahis
Ioannis Tzernotas was born in the area of Kalavryta in Achaia which is in northwestern Peloponnese. Little is known about his family.He got in contact with the Sultan when one day as he was plowing his field, he found such a large trasure that he couldn't keep it for himself so he had to offer it to the sultan. According to sources the treasure was used partly for the expenses of the Egyptian campaign.
Tsernotas along with 2.500 more christian spahis participated in the campaign in Egypt and he was attested to be the flag carrier of the battalion of the christian cavalry. The ottomans envied him for his valor in the battle cause in the crucial battle of Ridaniya(1517) while the Ottomans couldn't break the Mameluk lines Tzernotas took the initiative and charged with his battalion carrying his flag and succeeded to break the lines of the Mameluks opening the way for Cairo the capital.Eventually the city was sacked and the last Mameluk sultan was hanged at the gate of Cairo.
After the campaign Tzernotas was awarded the title of bey and acquired timars in Peloponnese.As it is aforementioned he rebuilt a whole church and he founded two villages in Achaia.He is also  reported to have built many public constructions like bridges wells etc. He was buried in a monastery in Peloponnese.
Flag of the Greek sipahis

The only historical reference about his descendants is about Ioannis Tzernotabeys(probably his grandchild) who participated at the battle of Lepanto in 1571.The same person is also recorded to have participated in the organisation of a rebellion against the weakened Ottoman empire after its  heavy casualties from the battle of Lepanto. Eventually the uprising was unsuccesful  Ioannis Tzernotabeys was arrested by the Ottomans and suffered a death by torture.

source: Based on:  translation made by me

1 comment:

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