made serious efforts to systematise and reformulate the Ottoman legislation in greater conformity with the Islamic tradition. His efforts were mainly concentrated in the reign of Selim II's father, Suleyman the Lawgiver (1520-66), when the empire was in its prime and required a clear solution to pressing legal problems.41 Some of these related to the life of the non-Muslim subjects of the sultan and Ebu's-su'ud pointed out that Christian monasteries had no legal right to their estates because rural land belonged to the ruler and, as such, it should not be exploited for the benefit of churches and monasteries. Selim II had his own reasons for applying the theological interpretations of his sheikhu'l-islam. By confiscating the monastic properties he could satisfy the budgetary demands being made by his administration. These came at a time when he was preparing an expedition against Venetian-held Cyprus, which necessitated additional financial resources.42
The confiscation was a severe blow to both monastic and ecclesiastical authorities. However, a loophole remained open to them. They were able to redeem their buildings, flocks and any other property that Islamic law deemed suitable for private ownership. The problem of landed property was more delicate because properly it belonged to the sultan; the monks were allowed to keep and exploit it, but on condition of paying a special tax together with various land taxes. They were also permitted to retain their other possessions, but on the understanding that they would use them for charitable purposes and for the support of the destitute and travellers.
As a partial justification of his confiscation of the Athonite estates Selim II adduced the subterfuges employed by the monks both to evade the payment of taxes and to increase their landed property at the expense of the peasantry. In other words, there was a degree of uncertainty about their title to some of their estates. Following the redemption of their estates the monks found themselves unsurprisingly involved in a series of property disputes. These became a major concern of the patriarch Jeremias II (1572-95), who sent the patriarch Sylvester ofAlexandria to Mount Athos to restore order. On the basis of this mission he issued a typikon for the monasteries of Mount Athos in the form of a patriarchal sigillion. It amounted to a programme for the reform of monastic life on the Holy Mountain. It recommended that the leading monastery of the Great Lavra return to the cenobitic life. The patriarch hoped
41 On Ebu's-su'ud see C. Imber, Ebu's-su'ud: theIslamiclegal tradition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997), 8-20,159-62.
42 J. C. Alexander (Alexandropoulos), 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away: Athos and the confiscation affair of 1568-1569', in Mount Athos in thei4th-i 6th centuries, 149-200. Cf.A. Fotic, 'The official explanation for the confiscation and sale of the monasteries (churches) and their estates at the time of Selim II', Turcica 26 (1994), 33-54.
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