Armenians in Adıyaman in the 16th Century

The Armenian population in the region increased with the introduction of Byzantine rule in the Adıyaman region in 958. In the following years, there had been conflicts between certain Armenian emirs and the Byzantine government, and as a result of this, some Armenians were deported to ancient Greek regions of Sivas, Kayseri, Marash, Antep, and Cilicia (Demirkent, 1979: 235).

With the doors of Anatolia opened to the Turks after the Battle of Malazgirt, the Turkmen masses coming to the region settled especially in the eastern and southern parts of the peninsula. For this reason, the link of Armenians with Byzantine was mostly cut. After taking the control of the Armenian princedom, the Adıyaman region came to be within the borders of the Turkish Seljuk Empire (Merçil, 1991: 108). However, after 1098 it was again captured by the Armenians and remained within their dominion until 1144.

There had been many struggles between Memluks, Turkmen emirs, and Armenians in the later periods in Adıyaman and its surroundings. Until the region was conclusively conquered in the period of Yavuz Sultan Selim, it came under the dominion of the Akkoyunlu and Memluks, as well as the Dulkadir Principality.

Following the conquest of the region by the Ottomans, the first population census was made in 1519. This was followed by the censuses in 1524, 1530, 1540, 1547, and 1560. Rich archive records display that the Adıyaman region was rich and deep-rooted in socio-cultural respects. Both in census notebooks and in other documents, there are important details that can be used to determine the socio-economic conditions of the Armenians in Adıyaman.

The County of Behisni (Besni)

In Besni, which has been among the important settlement areas since the first periods of history, Turkish influence started to increase with the settlement of migrant settlers after the battle of Malazgirt. While there was an Armenian neighborhood in the center of the county, there were also Armenian residents in some of the villages. As well as Armenians mostly living in county centers were occupied with artistry and trading, services in castles were specially performed by Armenians until 1524 (Taşdemir, 1992: 540-543). Those serving in the castle were held exempt of taxes. Armenians who were not able to perform this duty appropriately were passed to the status of subjects and their exemption was removed.

Armenians who completely were in castle duty in 1519 were made up of 84 households, 10 singles and 1 widowed. Their exemptions were removed in the census of 1524 and they fell to 46 households. At the same year, there was one chamberlain and one boilermaker. The fall in number continued in the following censuses. For instance, 49 households in 1530 and 40 households in 1547 were observed. Also in this date, there were 3 singles, 2 abbots, 1 chamberlain, 2 tradesmen, 1 carder, and 1 druse. It is seen that they were made up of 70 households, 2 monks, 2 tradesmen, and 1 painter in 1560.

There were a total of six neighborhoods in Behisni (Besni) county during the 16th century and Armenians were residents in one of these. While the total Armenian population was 181 in the beginning, 157 people in 1519, 230 people in 1524, 245 people in 1530, 235 people in 1547, and 350 people in 1560 were counted. Apart from these, there were Armenians also living in sub-districts and villages.

The County of Hısn-I Mansur (Adıyaman)

In the central county of Adıyaman, Armenians resided only in one of the 13 neighborhoods during the 16th century. In 1519, there were 70 households, 10 singles, 9 widowed, 2 saddle makers, 1 blacksmith, 1 tanner, 3 painters, 1 glass maker, and 1 bow-maker; in 1524, there were 80 households, 10 singles, 9 widowed, 1 monk, 1 blacksmith, 2 saddle makers, 1 tanner, 1 glass maker, 2 painters, 1 bow maker, 6 from Gerger, 2 from Çermik, 2 from Malatya, and 1 from Kahta; in 1540, there were 64 households and 8 singles; in 1563, 104 are recorded in the Armenian neighborhood.

While the non-Muslim population constituted 28.96% of the total population in 1519, this rate fell to 10.89% in 1563. This difference was not because of a fall in the Armenian population, but because of an increase in the Muslim population. The number of neighborhoods rose to 7 in 1540 and to 9 in 1563.

In the villages of the county of Hısn-I Mansur (Adıyaman), the majority of the population was Muslim. While there is not a non-Muslim population in the villages in the censuses of 1519-1524, the non-Muslim population is seen only in Pirin Village after this date (Yinanç, Elibüyük, 1988: 386-387). There were 7 households and 2 singles in 1540, and 25 households in 1563 in the village.

The County of Kahta

Being one of the important settlement places, Kahta had a fortified castle which preserved its significance until the Ottoman period. In the first population census in 1519, there is no information about the castles and its attendants. In the census in 1524, it is seen that castle attendants are Armenians. These were among the groups exempt from taxes. However, as they did not perform their duty or misused it, their exemption was removed at some date.

It is determined that 231 Armenians in 1519, 280 Armenians in 1524, and 521 Armenians in 1547 lived in the neighborhood described as “Mahalle-i Gebran” in the archive documents. In this respect, it is possible to say that the Armenian population was 19.58% of the total population in 1519 and 10.58% in 1560. As it is apparent, the Armenian population gradually increased like the Turkish population, but their percentage in the general population decreased.

In the villages of Kahta, differently from the situation in other counties, the existence of Armenians is drawing attention. Armenians had a percentage among the total population of the village of 6.91% (284 people) in 1524, 6.08% (235 people) in 1530, and 3.82% in 1560.

The County of Gerger

Being one of the important settlement areas since ancient eras, Gerger maintained its significance throughout history with its fortified castle. After coming under Ottoman rule, it naturally lost this significance. While no information was given about the castle in the census done following the conquest, it is seen that there were 2 castle attendants in the census dated 1524 and that the number of castle attendants increased in the censuses later on.

In the county which constituted of five neighborhoods during the 16th century, there was one Armenian neighbourhood. In the neighbourhood named “Gayrı Müsllim,” the population is seen to be 677 in 1519, 877 in 1524, 877 in 1630, 1386 in 1547, and 1414 in 1560.

If we make a general evaluation, among the counties of Adıyaman, the one with the most Armenian population is Kahta. The percentage of Armenian population here among the total population is 36.04% in 1519, 39.79% in 1524, 39.99% in 1530, 44.30% in 1547, and 48.87% in 1560.

The largest Armenian population among the sub-districts of Kahta county is in Taş-İli. While few Armenians lived here, the villages of the sub-district Venk-i Ermeniyan, Keferdeho-i Ermeniyan, Menzorrir-ı Ermeniyan, and Tebesyas-ı Ermeniyan were completely resided in by Armenians.

The population of Armenians and their percentages in the total population in the counties Behisni (Besni), Hısn-ı Mansur, Gerger, and Kahta during the 16th century are as follows: 2403 in 1519 (7.22 %), 2672 in 1524 (7.82%), 2594 in 1530 (7.84%), 373 in 1540 (2.12%), 2544 in 1547 (6.10%), and 3897 in 1560 (6.04%). These results show that the population change in this period had a natural development.

The population movement in Adıyaman is also similarly seen in the shopkeepers and artisans of the city. However, it is observed that Armenian shopkeepers in country centers are more compared to the total population. This situation is like this in general in Ottoman geography. When it comes to the number and rate of the shopkeepers in the settlement areas of Adıyaman and its counties, there were 22 Armenians towards 81 Muslims in 1519, and 12 Armenian shopkeepers towards 36 Muslims. There are no Armenian shopkeepers in 1530. There was 1 Muslim and 5 Armenian shopkeepers in 1540. It is seen that there were 13 Armenian shopkeepers towards 21 Muslims in 1560.

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