A Visit to Ali Pasha, Part 2

The main attraction in Ioannina is still the Kastro, the Turkish fortress that served as the Ottoman capital of the territory of Epirus, ruled for 30 years by Ali Pasha, a dashing Albanian warlord who accidentally helped to spark the Greek Revolution.

The one thing most Americans think they know about the Ottoman Empire is that it was a stable institution that brought peace to the Balkans and the Middle East.  Like most things most Americans think they know about history, the Ottoman peace is not only a myth but a very great lie.  The Turks, having no capacity for business or government, had to rely on conquered peoples for their management and leadership, and their provincial rulers were always at war with one another or with Constantinople.  Even a powerful governor or warlords would often have to deal gently with brigands and tribal chieftains.  Visitors with official permission from the sultan would find themselves waylaid, robbed, and kidnapped as they made their way across Ottoman territory that was more like a rolling gang war than an empire.

Things went from bad to worse in the later stages, as local warlords in Greece, Serbia, and the Middle East were able to defy any reasonable laws the sultan might pass for the protection of his subjects.  The violence of the Serbian Muslim renegades set off the first uprising under Karadjordje, and Ali Pasha’s bid for independence gave Greek bandits...

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