Great Jelālī Revolts

Landholders who were branded deserters by the Ottoman government for failing to serve the empire as soldiers revolted after imperial officials confiscated their lands and the sultan condemned them to death. The Jelālī forces, first organized in 1596 with the help of a rebel Ottoman soldier, were joined by other disaffected persons in the empire’s Anatolian provinces in 1602. In 1606, the revolt gained momentum, but within three years, the Ottoman army eradicated Jelālī leaders, ending the revolts.

Summary of Event

Seeds of the Great Jelālī Revolts were planted in late October, 1596, just after the resounding Ottoman Ottoman Empire;Habsburgs and victory against the Habsburg Dynasty at the Battle of Mezö Kerésztés in central Europe. The battle was part of the Fifteen Years’ War against the Habsburgs Habsburgs that began in 1591 along the Hungarian border and continued through 1606, ending with the Treaty of Zsitvatorok Zsitvatorok, Treaty of (1606) . Military leader and future grand vizier Kuyucu Murad Paşa Kuyucu Murad Paşa ordered that all the sipahi
Sipahi (landholders) who had not been present at the roll call before the 1596 battle be hunted down and killed as deserters. Their land was confiscated and then reverted to central government control, and then it was doled out to court favorites. [kw]Great Jelālī Revolts (Sept., 1606-June, 1609)
[kw]Revolts, Great Jelālī (Sept., 1606-June, 1609)
[kw]Jelālī Revolts, Great (Sept., 1606-June, 1609)
Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Sept., 1606-June, 1609: Great Jelālī Revolts[0430]
Middle East;Sept., 1606-June, 1609: Great Jelālī Revolts[0430]
Ottoman Empire;Sept., 1606-June, 1609: Great Jelālī Revolts[0430]
Great Jelālī Revolts (1606-1609)[Great Jelali Revolts (1606-1609)]

In response to these brutal disciplinary measures, the sipahi fled to Anatolia and formed the Jelālī forces, rebel groups that also had unemployed and dissident Ottoman soldiers, including sekhans, musketeers who were unpaid in peace time, and brought together by soldier Kara Yaziji Kara Yaziji . Also part of the Jelālī forces were nomadic Kurds and Turkmens, and suhtes, unemployed madrasa (religious school) graduates. Often, peasants joined the Jelālī rather than flee or face the wrath of Ottoman officials. Even provincial army forces sent to suppress the Jelālīs sometimes joined the rebel forces. By December of that year, the first rebellions had begun, and Anatolia was thrown into anarchy.

The first major Jelālī uprisings in 1598 were not attempts to overthrow the Ottoman government, but rather reactions to the social and economic crises in Anatolia. This changed in 1606, as new groups of Jelālīs formed under the leadership of Janbuladoglu Janbuladoglu in Aleppo and Kalenderoglu Mehmed Kalenderoglu Mehmed in western Anatolia.

Initially, Janbuladoglu was considered the more serious threat by the Ottoman government. His family had controlled land along the Syrian border for generations. As he gathered forces in September of 1606, he seemed poised to initiate the first secession from the Ottoman Empire. Instead, he requested the military governorship of Aleppo and continued to consolidate power in the area, installing his own men in local government positions. Kuyucu, realizing what Janbuladoglu was up to, was determined to stop him.

In January of 1607, Kalenderoglu’s Jelālī forces moved into western Anatolia. They spread the Jelālī Revolts throughout Anatolia, initiating the Great Flight. Peasants abandoned their villages in confusion and terror. Fleeing from the Jelālīs, they sought refuge in fortified cities. The rich, who could afford it, fled to Constantinople, Rumeli, and even the Crimea to escape the Jelālīs and the Ottoman troops.

In June, Grand Vizier Kuyucu Murad Paşa moved his troops into Anatolia and began his campaign to eliminate the Jelālīs. He refused to incorporate them into the Ottoman army as had been earlier policy. Kuyucu offered Kalenderoglu a governorship if he would stop fighting, but Kalenderoglu refused. In March, Kuyucu offered a second governorship, but Kalenderoglu’s troops continued their fighting, and the offer was soon retracted.

Kuyucu turned his attention to Janbuladoglu. As he poised his troops to attack Janbuladoglu, he wrote to all the other minor Jelālī leaders, offering them government positions and eliminating them as allies for Janbuladoglu. He wrote to Kalenderoglu once again and offered him the governorship of Ankara, but Kalenderoglu had found nothing but trouble there. While Kuyucu was busy in Aleppo, Kalenderoglu had problems subduing Ankara. He faced great opposition from the residents, who requested Ottoman troops to drive off the Jelālīs. Other Jelālī bands came to aid Kalenderoglu and help him defeat the government troops in Ankara. When all else failed, the residents of Ankara bought off the Jelālīs with 200,000 ducats. Kalenderoglu then took his troops and headed toward Bursa and Constantinople, the empire’s capital, which made the Ottoman government feel the Jelālī threat as real and far too near. Kuyucu was still in the eastern part of Anatolia fighting Janbuladoglu, so the government called out forty thousand citizens and a small number of regular troops to protect Constantinople and Bursa.

Kalenderoglu’s forces reigned havoc on the mixed army, so that only six thousand men returned to Constantinople. Kalenderoglu then turned south and set up a winter camp instead of finishing off Constantinople. As he was leaving the area, Kalenderoglu sent a message to the sultan, asking for a good government position as a reward for turning away from Constantinople.

In October of 1607, Kuyucu pounced on Janbuladoglu’s Jelālīs. The two forces met north of Aleppo, and the Ottoman forces slaughtered the mercenaries. Kuyucu had tens of thousands of men beheaded, and wells were sunk to contain the heads. This action earned him the title Kuyucu (the well-sinker). He sent the heads of forty-eight Jelālī leaders back to Constantinople.

By November, Aleppo was firmly under Ottoman control once more. Kuyucu had managed to buy off all the other minor Jelālī leaders with governorships or other government positions, while continuing his battle with Janbuladoglu. The buy offs also eliminated any other potential allies for Kalenderoglu. After defeating Janbuladoglu, Kuyucu aimed his sights at his other audacious Jelālī nemesis, Kalenderoglu.

In January of 1608, Kalenderoglu’s Jelālīs defeated an Ottoman force and ambushed troops carrying Kuyucu’s treasury. Kuyucu suddenly faced huge problems trying to muster his campaign against the remaining Jelālī leader. The harsh winter and spring of 1608 delayed supplies, the farmlands devastated by battles were not supplying food, and his treasury and additional troops failed to arrive. Kuyucu’s advance was stalled and remained so until summer. When supplies and reinforcements finally arrived, the Ottoman army hunted the Jelālīs.

In August of 1608, Kuyucu’s Ottoman forces defeated Kalenderoglu’s Jelālīs at Alacajayir, and in September, Kuyucu’s troops finished off the Jelālīs at Şebinkarahisar. Kalenderoglu fled east after his final defeat and joined the Persian troops of the Ṣafavid shah. Once the Ottoman troops had crushed the forces of the supreme Jelālī commander, Kalenderoglu, the Ottoman army moved quickly through the rest of Anatolia, suppressing further revolts and eliminating Jelālī forces.

By December, Kuyucu had returned to Constantinople. With the two major Jelālī leaders defeated and out of the way, Kuyucu could put the rest of his master plan to work. One by one, he recalled all those minor Jelālī leaders from the government posts he had offered them while fighting Janbuladoglu. One by one, he had them murdered, as they reported to his camp like the loyal underlings they were. By June of the following year, Kuyucu’s elimination of the remnants of the Jelālī leaders was complete and the Great Jelālī Revolt was put to rest.


The Great Jelālī Revolts affected the Ottoman Empire profoundly. They weakened the Ottoman response to an invading Persia, devastated Anatolian agriculture, and eliminated separate provincial authority. By using violence, political subterfuge, and his army, Grand Vizier Kuyucu Murad Paşa successfully consolidated power in the central Ottoman government, eliminating any provincial independence by purging the Jelālīs.

Unfortunately, the battles left Anatolia and its farmland in ruins. The Anatolian peasants had abandoned their small holdings, and they did not return. The land remained uncultivated and famines swept the Anatolian plateau. Military leaders who settled in the Anatolian provinces after the revolts created large private ranches. They ran livestock rather than plant crops, which further disrupted the agrarian tradition.

The long-lasting effects on rural life left the Ottoman provinces defenseless against an encroaching Persian army. The Ottoman government had to spend its resources quelling the Jelālī Revolts that it had little left to create an imperial army to send against Persia. In 1603, Persia had launched an offensive against the Ottoman Empire. By 1608, Persia had regained many of the provinces it had previously lost to the Turks, including the Caucasus, thereby taking away from the Turks an agricultural region. By 1612, Persia imposed a peace settlement that forced the Turks to relinquish most of the territory they had gained in 1590. Eradicating the revolts caused the Ottoman Empire to lose many inhabitants as well. The empire was just beginning its long and painful decline.

Further Reading

  • Barkey, Karen. Bandits and Bureaucrats: The Ottoman Route to State Centralization. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994. An in-depth look at the dynamics of Ottoman state centralization and the roles played by the Jelālīs.
  • Faroqhi, Suraiya. Coping with the State: Political Conflict and Crime in the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1720. Istanbul, Turkey: Isis Press, 1995. A collection of previously published articles by Faroqhi that outline the impact of the Jelālī Revolts on the Ottoman government and the people of Anatolia.
  • Kinross, Lord. The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. New York: Morrow Quill, 1977. Kinross explains the circumstances that brought the Jelālīs together and their devastating effects on Anatolian agriculture and society.
  • McCarthy, James. The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 1997. McCarthy supplies extensive background information on the Jelālī Revolts and their effects on the Ottoman Empire.

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