In 1669, the Ottoman army, after a 24-year war with the Venetians, completed the conquest of the island of Crete. On the island, as a new Ottoman province (Eyalet-i Girit), various Ottoman institutions were installed. Among these institutions, justice was crucial to the firm establishment of Ottoman rule on the island.
The Ottoman judge (kadı) was the backbone of the Ottoman judicial and administrative system. The kadi and his court (mahkeme) were the institutions that allowed communication between the political and religious imperial centre and the provinces. However, kadi courts also had another function within the Ottoman system. Kadis set the rules of law-abiding behaviors and accepted principles and ways of living by aiding the establishment of Ottoman moral and religious principles and the dominance of Ottoman norms of social behavior. Thus the kadi’s court emerged as the institution principally responsible for characterizing a behavior as delinquent and exerting means of social control and discipline.
The Sultan’s subjects lived in a predetermined and continuously controlled environment of accepted legal and social boundaries. However, some Ottomans crossed those boundaries, moving from the area of legality to illegality and delinquency. Criminals like murderers and thieves, moral wrongdoers like adulterers, rapists and prostitutes, and political renegades and rebels like the hains were identified and prosecuted.
In this article, we will discuss the issue of delinquency in Crete, and especially delinquent behaviors in the eastern part of the island (modern prefectures of Heraklion and Lasithi) during the early Ottoman period. The archives studied come from the kadi court of Kandiye (Kandiye Şeriye Sicil Defterleri) and concern its first 29 years (1670-1699) of operation.