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The subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire were administrative divisions of the state organisation of the Ottoman Empire based on military administration but with civil executive functions as well. Outside this system were various types of vassal and tributary states. There were two main eras of administrative organisation. The first was the initial organisation that evolved with the rise of the Empire and the second was the organisation after extensive administrative reforms of 1864.


Initial organization

The initial organization dates back to the Ottoman beginnings as a Seljuk vassal state (Uç Beyliği) in central Anatolia. The Ottoman Empire over the years became an amalgamation of pre-existing polities, the Anatolian beyliks, brought under the sway of the ruling House of Osman.

This extension was based on an already established administrative structure of the Seljuk system in which the hereditary rulers of these territories were known as beys. These beys (local leadership), which were not eliminated, continued to rule under the suzerainty of the Ottoman sultans. The term bey came to be applied not only to these former rulers but also to new governors appointed where the local leadership had been eliminated.

The Ottoman Empire was, at first, subdivided into the sovereign’s sanjak and other sanjaks entrusted to the Ottoman sultan’s sons. Sanjaks were governed by sanjak beyis, military governors who received a flag or standard – a "sanjak" (the literal meaning) – from the sultan. As the Empire expanded into Europe, the need for an intermediate level of administration arose and, under the rule of Murad I (r. 1359-1389), a beylerbeyi or governor-general was appointed to oversee Rumelia, the European part of the empire. About the same time a beylerbeylik was also established for Anatolia, excluding however the Rum area around Amasya, then the seat of the Empire, which remained under the sultan’s direct control (usually through his grand vizier). Following the establishment of beylerbeyliks, sanjaks became second-order administrative divisions, although they continued to be of the first order in certain circumstances such as newly conquered areas that had yet to be assigned a beylerbeyi. In addition to their duties as governors-general, beylerbeyis were the commanders of all troops in their province.


First-order administrative units

Eyalets in 1299-1609

From the mid-14th century until the late 16th century, only one new beylerbeylik (Karaman) was established.

Eyalets disappeared before 1609

The eyalets that existed before 1609 but disappeared and eyalets created after 1609.

  • Abkhazia (Abhaz) (1578-?) (also called Sukhum [Sohumkale] or Georgia [Gürcistan] and included Mingrelia and Imeretia as well as modern Abkhazia – nominally annexed but never fully conquered)
  • Akhaltsikhe (Ahıska) (c. 1603-?) (either split from or coextensive with Samtskhe)
  • Dagestan (Dağıstan) (1578-?) (also called Demirkapı – assigned a serdar [chief] rather than a beylerbeyi)
  • Dmanisi (Tumanis) (c. 1584-?)
  • Ganja (Gence) (c.1588-1604)
  • Gori (Gori) (c. 1588-?) (probably replaced Tiflis after 1586)
  • Győr (Yanık) (1594–1598)
  • Kakheti (Kaheti) (c. 1578-?) (Kakhetian king was appointed hereditary bey)
  • Lazistan (c. 1574-?)
  • Lorri (Lori) (c. 1584-?)
  • Moldavia (Boğdan) (1595 only; the rest of the time Moldavia was a separate autonomous province)
  • Nakhichevan (Nahçivan) (c. 1603) (possibly never separate from Yerevan)
  • Poti (Faş) (1579-?) (may have also been another name for Trabzon)
  • Sanaa (San'a) (1567–1569) (temporary division of Yemen)
  • Shemakha (Şamahı) (c. 1583) (may have also been another name for Shervan)
  • Szigetvár (Sigetvar, Zigetvar) (c. 1596) (later transferred to Kanizsa)
  • Shervan (Şirvan) (1578–1604) (overseen by a serdar [chief] rather than a beylerbeyi)
  • Tabriz (Tebriz) (1585–1603)
  • Tiflis (Tiflis) (1578–1586) (probably replaced by Gori after 1586)
  • Wallachia (Eflak) (1595 only; the rest of the time Wallachia was a separate autonomous province)
  • Yerevan (Erivan) (1583–1604) (sometimes also included Van)
  • Zabid (Zebid [Zebit]) (1567–1569) (temporary division of Yemen)

Eyalets in 1609

Ottoman Empire, 1481-1683

Conquests of Selim I and Suleyman I in the 16th century required an increase in administrative units. By the end of the latter half of the century there were as many as 42 eyalets, as the beylerbeyliks came to be known. The chart below shows the administrative situation as of 1609.

Province Name Ottoman Turkish Name and Transliteration (Modern Turkish) Year Established Current Location
Abyssinia Habeş c. 1554 Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia Included areas on both sides of the Red Sea. Also called "Mecca and Medina"
Adana آضنه Ażana (Adana) c. 1608 Turkey
Aegean Archipelago Cezayir mid-1500s Greece Domain of the Kapudan Pasha (Lord Admiral); Also called Denizi or Denizli, later Cezayir Bahr-i Sefid
Aleppo حلب Ḥaleb (Halep) c.1516-1521 Syria, Turkey
Algiers جزاير غرب Cezâyîr-i Ġarb (Cezayir Garp) 1519 Algeria
Anatolia Anadolu c. 1365 Turkey
Baghdad بغداد Baġdâd (Bağdat) 1535 Iraq
Basra بصره Baṣra (Basra) c. 1552 Iraq, Kuwait
Bosnia Bosna c. 1520s Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro
Buda Budin 1541 Hungary, Croatia, Serbia
Cyprus قبرص Ḳıbrıṣ (Kıbrıs) 1571 Cyprus, Turkey c. 1660-1703 and 1784→ part of Aegean Archipelago Province
Diyarbekir دياربكر Diyârbekir (Diyarbakır) 1515 Turkey, Iraq
Eger اكر Egir (Eğri) 1596 Hungary, Slovakia
Egypt مصر Mıṣır (Mısır) 1517 Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia
Erzurum Erzurum c. 1514-1534 Turkey
Al-Hasa Lahsa c. 1579 Saudi Arabia Seldom directly ruled
Kefe (Theodosia) Kefe c. 1581 Ukraine, Russia
Kanizsa Kanije 1600 Hungary, Croatia
Karaman Karaman c. 1470 Turkey
Kars Kars 1579 Turkey, Georgia Merged with Samtskhe in 1604. Finally bounded to *Erzurum in 1845.
Maraş Maraş, Dulkadır c. 1522 Turkey
Mosul Musul c. late 1500s Iraq
Ar-Raqqah Rakka c. late 1500s Syria, Turkey, Iraq Also called Ruha (Urfa)
Rumelia Rumeli c. 1365 Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Turkey With Anatolia, one of the original two eyalets
Samtskhe Çıldır c. 1579 Georgia, Turkey Also called Meskheti, later possibly coextensive with Akhaltsikhe (Ahıska) Province. Most of eyalet passed to Russia in 1829. Remained parts of eyalet bounded to Erzurum in 1845.
Shehrizor Şehrizor c. mid-1500s Iraq, Iran Also Shahrizor, Sheherizul, or Kirkuk. In 1830, this eyalet bounded to Mosul province as Kirkuk sanjak.
Silistria Silistre c. 1599 Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine Later sometimes called Ochakiv (Özi); First beylerbeyi was the Crimean khan
Sivas Sivas c. early 1500s Turkey
Syria Şam 1516-17 Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Jordan, part of present Turkey and part of present Iraq.
Timişoara Tımışvar (Temeşvar) 1552 Romania, Serbia, Hungary Also called Temesvar Province
Trabzon,Lazistan Trabzon c. late 1500s Turkey, Georgia Also called Trebizond Province
Tripoli (Tripoli-in-the-East) Trablus-ı Şam (Trablusşam) c. 1570s Lebanon, Syria
Tripolitania (Tripoli-in-the-West) Trablus-ı Garb (Trablusgarp) 1551 Libya
Tunis Tunus 1574 Tunisia
Van Van 1548 Turkey
Yemen Yemen 1517-18, 1539 Yemen, Saudi Arabia


  • Colin Imber. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: The structure of Power. (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.)
  • Halil Inalcik. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300–1600. Trans. Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973.)
  • Donald Edgar Pitcher. An Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J.Brill,1972.)

Eyalets established 1609–1683

  • Crete (Girid [Girit]) (1669/70– )
  • Morea (Mora) (1620–1687) and (1715–1829) (originally part of Aegean Archipelago Province)
  • Podolia (Podolya) (1674–1699 only) (overseen be several serdars [chiefs] rather than a beylerbeyi)
  • Sidon (Sayda) (1660– )
  • Neuhäusl (Uyvar) (1663–1685)
  • Oradea (Varad) (1661–1692)

Eyalets established 1683–1864

Second-order administrative units

The provinces were divided into sanjaks (also called livas) governed by sanjakbeys and were further subdivided into timars (fiefs held by timariots) and zeamets (also ziam; larger timars). Some, such as the Mutasarrifate (Sanjak) of Jerusalem, were not part of a province. Sanjak governors also served as military commanders of all of the timariot and zeamet-holding cavalrymen in their sanjak. Some provinces such as Egypt, Baghdad, Abyssinia, and Al-Hasa (the salyane provinces) were not subdivided into sanjaks and timars.

Administrative reform, 1864

As the Ottoman Empire began to decline, the administrative structure came under pressure. After 1861 there existed an autonomous Mount Lebanon with a Christian mutasarrif, which had been created as a homeland for the Maronite Christians under European pressure. As part of the Tanzimat reforms, an Ottoman law passed in 1864 provided for a standard provincial administration throughout the empire with the eyalets becoming smaller vilayets governed by a vâli or governor still appointed by the Porte but with new provincial assemblies participating in administration. The vilayets were subdivided into sanjaks, mutasarrifates and vassal states such as Serbia, Romania, and Montenegro remained separate from the provincial system.

Vilayets, 1877

1885- Western vilayets

Vilayets, 1915

1915 Vilayets

After 1885, with the governing reforms of Tanzimat, the control of the Ottoman land in Asia Minor divided into 15 vilayets, one sanjak and one mutersaflik of the vilayet of Constantinople (both being on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus).

Every vilayet was further divided in a number of sanjaks.

More specifically the political division of Asia Minor in 1915 was as follows;




Also the

Vilayets, 1918

  • Istanbul

See also

References and further reading

  • Colin Imber. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: The Structure of Power. (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.)
  • Halil Inalcik. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600. Trans. Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973.)
  • Paul Robert Magocsi. Historical Atlas of Central Europe. (2nd ed.) Seattle, WA, USA: Univ. of Washington Press, 2002)
  • Nouveau Larousse illustré, undated (early 20th century), passim (in French)
  • Donald Edgar Pitcher. An Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire. (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J.Brill,1972.) (Includes 36 color maps)
  • Westermann, Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte (in German) (includes maps)
  • Map of Europe in year 1500 with the subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire
  • WorldStatesmen Turkey; see also other present-day countries


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