He presented the work to Murad IV in 1630.
(German translations: W. F. A. Behrnauer, “Koğabeg’s Abhandlung über den Verfall des osmanischen Staatsgebäudes seit Sultan Suleiman dem Grossen”, “Das Nasîhatnâme. Dritter Beitrag zur osmanischen Finanzgeschichte”, in ZDMG 15 (1861), 272-332 and 18 (1864), 699-740.)
Koçi Bey starts his treatise by stating that long ago he tried to find a chance to submit his advice to the Sultan, since he was perceiving the steady deterioration of the state affairs, as sedition and disorder (fesad u fitne) was prevailing. To start with, he claims that the foundation of the order of the kingdom (intizam-ı mülk ve millet) is the Shari’a; but then he somehow hastily adds that what the Sultan must do is to care for his subjects, to be generous towards the pious ulema and the valiant warriors, to respect those that do good and to reprimand those that do wrong, whichever class do they belong. He is to pay attention to the values and characteristics of the rules laid upon in the laws of the past Sultans and behave accordingly.
After this programmatic statement, Koçi Bey starts his treatise with a sort of introductory chapter concerning the Sultan in person and the way he should govern. Until Suleyman’s time, Sultans were present in the imperial councils and conducting the affairs of the state in person; Suleyman may have stopped being present in every council, but he kept leading in person the military campaigns and was always in control of the government affairs, since he was informed about all important matters and access to him was free and unprohibited to any one of his subjects. Indeed, Sultans had wise and experienced counselors (nüdemâ ve mukarrebân) till the beginnings of Murad III’s sultanate. As long as Sokollu Mehmed Paşa was Grand Vizier, eunuchs or other companions of the Sultan did not interfere with state affairs (umur-ı devlet-i aliyyeye müdahale etmezlerdi) and order reigned in the world. Grand Viziers, argues Koçi Bey, should be kept in their post for a long time and rule independently in their entire jurisdiction, free especially from any interference from among the Sultan’s boon companions.
All the more so, all the servants of Grand Viziers and other high state officials were bought slaves of theirs, rather than salaried peasants or tradesmen (reaya kısmından ve ehl-i sukdan ulûfeli hizmetkâr). There are two reasons why this second case is harmful: first, that such servants would stop paying their taxes (rusûm-ı ra’iyye) and thus reduce the income of the treasury and of the timariots; second, that a peasant who tastes riding horses and carrying weapons gets used to these habits and cannot return to agriculture any more. Koçi Bey notes that most of the Celali rebels belonged to that sort. Moreover, high officials such as sancakbeys or beylerbeyis were kept in their posts for twenty or thirty years, and were not dismissed unless they were guilty of bribery or other crimes. These officials of old were all experienced men that would take initiative and beat the enemies of the Sultan even before news reached the capital, as illustrated by numerous examples. Similar qualities were expected from all other state officials, such as government scribes or palace officers. Every class knew its limits and did not part from them (her zümrenin hadd-ı muayyeni olup). Moreover, strict limitations were observed concerning each group’s timars; the Sultan’s boon companions were salaried, rather than granted timars.
Koçi Bey proceeds then (Aksüt 1939: 24-26; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 32-36) to the ideal conditions that prevailed in the past and led to the glorious victories of the bygone Sultans. He states that the fundamental factor for these victories was the timariot sipahis. There were no outsiders among them, no peasants or “city boys” (şehir oğlanı, cf. Sariyannis 2005); they all were soldiers (sipahis or slaves, kul) and sons of soldiers, with the latter ones’ ancestry having to be proved by two to ten witnesses. Moreover, they were not promoted in rank and fief unless their services in the campaigns were outstanding; they had to stay in their provinces and keep always ready for battle. This system worked because neither Istanbul would grant a timar without proposal from the provincial governor, nor could a governor give timars to people that were not entitled to them. To illustrate his point, Koçi Bey gives various examples and quotes the numbers of timars and timariots in each province, adding that sipahis would never dig trenches or take care of firearms, since these were jobs for the infantry (piyadegân).
Next come the salaried military classes, whose numbers in 982/1574, in Murad III’s accession, Koçi Bey gives in detail. He describes the function of the devşirme system, noting that the veledeş (apprentice) practice was prohibited, that janissaries were collected only from among Albanians, Bosnians, Greeks, Bulgarians and Armenians, and that they only lived in the triangle Istanbul – Edirne – Bursa. They used to be bachelors (marriage being permitted only after retirement) and live in barracks. Their sons would start as acem oğlanları, while their officers served for at least seven or eight years.
After having described the rules of the military as kept in the times of glory, Koçi Bey sets out to explain the causes and features of decline (Aksüt 1939: 30ff.; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 41ff.). Up to Murad III’s ascension to the throne (1574), he claims, Grand Viziers were undisturbed from any interference whatsoever and had to deal only with the Sultan himself. But afterwards, the Sultan’s companions started to gain official posts and to intervene in state affairs, causing the fall of virtuous viziers. This was the fate of Ferhad Paşa, Yemişçi Hasan Paşa, Derviş Mehmed Paşa or Nasuh Paşa, executed in 1595, 1603, 1606 and 1614 respectively. Gaining thus power, these companions (iç halkı) started to take timars and other revenues for themselves, and then to distribute posts in the provincial administration to unworthy people who bribed them. This led to the destruction of the sipahi class and their oppression by the salaried slaves (ulufeli kul); the sipahis came to be dependent on the vekils (ministers). But, notes Koçi Bey, who has a fief from the emperor has no place in the household of a slave vekil; slaves befit to slaves (hünkâr dirliğine mütesarrıf olanlar vükelâ kapısında neyler? Kul kul gerektir). Moreover, Turks, Yörüks, Gypsies, Jews and “city boys” have been permitted to the Imperial Harem, contrary to the rules.
Decline was not confined to the military and administrative branch, however: the noble ulema class was inflicted as well. Koçi Bey first repeats that Shari’a was in the foundation of Ottoman glory; but Shari’a is kept with knowledge, and knowledge kept with the ulema. In old times, the high post of the ulema were occupied by the wisest and most honest among them; once an ulema became şeyhülislam he could by no means be discharged, and the same was valid for other high officials of the branch who served for ten or fifteen years before retiring in honour. As a result, they were all pious and devout men who had no inclination for pomp and made many charitable acts and works of knowledge. From 1003/1594 on, however, things started to change: first, Sunullah Efendi, then şeyhülislam, was dismissed from his office a number of times, and the same happened with the kazaskers. That is why ulema started to befriend the state vekils in order to secure their posts; moreover, in order to benefit from their short tenure, they were hasting to appoint worthless people to lesser posts in exchange for bribes. This led to a sharp decay in the medrese education and in the judicial system. Koçi Bey relates that when he arrived to Istanbul as a child, all ulema were dervish-like in their behaviour, and they used to stay at home writing or reading wise treatises. Now one cannot distinguish the wise from the fool. Koçi Bey stresses that the only way to judgeship must be knowledge, not age or family ties, because in the latter case justice is lost and the subjects left unprotected to oppression. He argues that the number of mülâzemets, i.e. candidacies for judgeship, should be reduced and strictly controlled, so that a candidate must not wait long before obtaining a post.
After this digression, Koçi Bey returns to his favourite issues, that is timars and the military organization (Aksüt 1939: 38ff.; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 51ff.). It was in 992/1584 that Özdemiroğlu Osman Paşa granted timars to some outsiders, who had fought valiantly in the Iranian front, and thus opened the way to all kinds of peasants and “city boys” to gain timars without being worthy of them. Even salaried troops started to be collected from among commoners (vazifelü asker esafil-i nasdan devşirilüp). From provincial governors to the viziers’ officers, from scribes to mutes and dwarves, everybody started to grant timars to their servants and even to their slaves, sometimes many a person. This way, the army was led astray: timariots started to wear luxury clothes instead of armouries, and in times of campaign those soldiers ready for battle constitute only a very small percentage of the timariots called. Real sipahis became workers (ırgad işin işleyüp), and this is no way to win any war.
On the other hand, salaried army has almost reached threefold the numbers of 1574 (as enumerated above), now being 92,206 instead of 36,153. If we add those that use the name of [the Sultan’s] slave without being one, claims Koçi Bey, the number reaches 200,000; and how can the treasury meet their cost? Moreover, the intrusion of every sort of outsider in the janissary corps and the existence of people enlisted who never show up, with the use of tricks like the veledeş system (cf. Aziz Efendi), led to the loss of any discipline; instead of living in the triangle Istanbul – Edirne – Brusa, as they used to, janissaries now roam towns and villages of the borders oppressing both administrators and peasants.
Koçi Bey locates the beginning of this intrusion of outsiders to the corps in the early 1580s, when some people who were kept under control, with the help of skin bags, the crowds at Mehmed III’s circumcision festival, were accepted into the ranks of the janissaries as ağa çırakları. Further innovations (sipahi oğulları, becayiş) increased even more the number of such outsiders, with the result of a multitude of ignorant and good-for-nothing being paid from the treasury, including “city boys of unknown origin, Turks, Gypsies, Persians, Kurds, outsiders, Laz, Yörüks, camel drivers, porters, robbers and pickpockets” (millet ve mezhebi namalûm şehir oğlanı ve Türk ve çingâne ve Tat ve Kürd ve ecnebi ve Laz ve Yürük ve katırcı ve deveci ve hammal ve ağdacı ve kutta-ı tarik ve yankesici). Koçi Bey notes that were this number of soldiers needed by Sultans past, they would recruit them in times of campaign and dismiss them afterwards (“the tailor, the grocer, the barber, back to each one’s job”), instead of giving them timars and steady pay. And yet this would not be an army proper: an army consists of soldiers and sons of soldiers, not labourers and the scum of the world (asker ebaanced olanlardır, ve ocak ocakzâdelerdir; bakkal çakkal ile iş bitmez).
The situation affected not only the army discipline and the treasury, but also the reaya. Till 1582 every poor subject paid 40-50 akçe as poll-tax, 40 akçe as hâne-i avârız and one akçe for every two sheep he owned. But as the salaried slave army increased, the same happened with the expenses of the treasury, and so the tax burden of the peasants increased several times. All the more so, the janissary cavalry (altı bölük halkı) took over tax collection, only to result in more oppression. Contrary to the law, imperial fiefs (havass-ı hümayun) were given as private property, vakf or honourable fiefs (paşmaklık). Koçi Bey states that no other date, country or kingship saw such a terrible oppression as the one imposed to the reaya of nowadays. And it is the Sultan that will be judged responsible, not his representatives. The woes of the oppressed destroy dynasties, because “world can be maintained with blasphemy, but not with tyranny” (küfr ile dünya durur, zülmile durmaz), concludes grimly Koçi Bey (Aksüt 1939: 48; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 63). And indeed, as from 1582 onwards the imperial posts were granted according to bribery rather than merit, while timars started to be given to other than their natural holders, the fighting sipahis, the Ottomans started to experience serious losses in all fronts, from the West (from 1591 onward) to the East (from the Celali uprising, from 1595 onwards); Kossacks started raiding the Black Sea coast, while possessions like Baghdad, Yemen or Basra were lost. The “Circle of Justice” has been totally disrupted, states Koçi Bey, as peasants, treasury, and army all are in a desperate position.
What, then, is to be done? Koçi Bey argues that the janissaries cannot be regulated with advice: even if they took all their salaries in advance, even if the treasury covered all their needs, even if the ulema and sheikhs spoke to them against rebellion, they would not be brought to discipline; they, as mankind in general, only can be controlled through subjugation, not clemency (Aksüt 1939: 51; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 67: beni âdem kahrile zabtolunur, hilmile olmaz). The past sultans used the standing cavalry (altı bölük) in order to control the janissaries and vice versa, while the timariot army was used to control those two kul groups together; now the timariots have decayed and the kul disproportionately grown. The solution, thus, is simple: the timariot army must be looked after and grow in numbers, while the salaried janissaries must be diminished: the army should be small in number and strong in quality (az ve öz), as shown by historical examples as well. Those that prevent timars to be given to the sipahis (Koçi Bey seems to imply those non-military who take timars for themselves, or who distribute timars to their dependents) are not more than thirty or forty persons; is it proper for such a state to go astray because of them?
The first step is to inspect those unassigned timars held by the powerful as sepet, in order to redistribute them; this cannot be done in Istanbul, as it will result only to new injustice and favours. Instead, the governor of each vilayet must be supplied with the appropriate orders and make the inspections in situ, since in this local level the sipahis, their sons, and the usurpers would be well-known. In this way, the number of the sipahis may reach again 40-50,000 men or more; even then, though, they will still be less than their predecessors of old, because the peasants, the basis of the timar system, have declined in number, some having become salaried soldiers, others having fled to the cities because of the overwhelming oppression. In addition to the sepet timars, villages from among the imperial hass could be granted as timars to salaried troops in place of cash; thus, not only will this money stay in the treasury, but the janissary class will also lose power. Besides, not all vakf endowments comply to the Holy Law; a proper vakf must be made for charitable reasons and from land given due to conquests or other services to the state, while now magnates take villages and land as gift just because they are close to the sultan, and then proceed to name these lands vakf in order to ensure a steady income for their children. Income from these properties, however, belongs to the warriors of the faith; thus, concludes Koçi Bey, all private (temlik) and vakf villages must be inspected. Those that do not comply with the legal requirements must be given as timars to janissaries, transforming them to timariots. Koçi Bey estimates that the salaries of 40 or 50,000 janissaries might thus be saved for the treasury (Aksüt 1939: 55-56; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 71-73).
Here Koçi Bey inserts an excursus on the alleged query of Shah Abbas of Iran about the reasons of the Ottoman supremacy. His counselors explained, he says, that these reasons were the following: one vizier was raised above all others, and no one else but him interfered to the state affairs; officials were not dismissed without reason; the army was kept in discipline, with no outsiders among its ranks, and no wish for ostentation or wealth; the subjects enjoyed security, and no money belonging to vakfs or orphans entered the treasury. The Shah followed this advice and thus Iran managed to have all the military successes it had during his rule.
Another measure to be taken concerns the practice of bribery, which is the root of all evil and corruption. Koçi Bey argues that the first step toward its abolishment is the independence of the Grand Vizier; no official of the palace should be able to interfere with his business, and moreover his own servants should not belong to the ranks of neither the sipahis nor the janissaries (dirlikli ve defterli kimesneleri olmıya). Provincial governorships (eyalet ve sancakları) should be given for life to experienced military officers, and not be taken away except in cases of proven grave mistakes; but even their retinue must be purchased slaves and by no means have timars. The arpalıks and paşmaklıks, i.e. fiefs given to courtiers or retired ulema, should not be given from among the timars registered for the military. Moreover, the allotment of positions in the ulema and bureaucracy must be free from bribery; the number of all these positions should be defined and those that surpass it should be given timars and serve as sipahis. As for those who are unfit for military service, such as dwarfs or buffoons, they must be deprived from their timars, if any, and given a pension instead. All timariots, wherever they originated from, must be registered with detail and given berats accordingly, so as to facilitate the control of timariots in the future. In the past, notes Koçi Bey, no such measures were needed, because people used to be pious and reliable, while now tricks, lies and fraud abound. But if all positions and fiefs are given with honesty and uprightness, nobody would either give or take bribes (Aksüt 1939: 59-60; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 77-78).
In the next two chapters, Koçi Bey tries to recapitulate his viewing of the Suleymanic era as the “Golden Age” of the state. However, as a matter of fact, this commonplace assumption is to be revised: After stating that during Suleyman’s reign the Empire had reached its utmost expansion and might and that the treasury was fuller than ever, he observes that the roots of its decline (“the corruption of the world”) also appeared first in the same period. This explains why, the title of the chapter notwithstanding (“On the perfection of the late Sultan Suleyman’s era”), its content is a eulogy not of Suleyman but of his father, Selim I. As with the Prophet, Selim I was attending in person the imperial council: he knew his servants, and his servants knew him. He had worthy viziers, unmolested by any interference, who had proven their abilities through all the stages of administrative and military career. When Selim married his daughters to some magnate, the latter was not staying in Istanbul; rather, he was given a distant governorship in order to avoid his mingling with palace affairs. Furthermore, Selim paid attention to meritocracy and justice, and respect to the Holy Law was absolute: everybody was subject to the old Ottoman laws and abstained from any innovation (bid’at).
Suleyman, on the contrary, proceeded to five steps that brought forth decline and corruption. First of all, he stopped attending in person the imperial councils, and consequently he became alienated from his viziers and governors. Secondly, by appointing his private servant İbrahim Paşa as Grand Vizier, he initiated a series of viziers who were not the product of a long administrative career and thus were inexperienced and arrogant. Thirdly, he married his daughter Mihrimah to Rüstem Paşa, appointed the latter as Grand Vizier and granted him fields and villages as private property (temlik); Rüstem Paşa, on his part, made them vakfs and thus alienated them permanently from state control. The fourth reason of corruption was that Rüstem Paşa, again, farmed out state revenues contrary to the Holy Law; all the more so, the tax farmers were dishonest Jews who brought the farmed-out villages to segmentation and ruin. Last but not least (according to Koçi Bey, “there is no innovation more destructive than this”) the viziers and their retinue started to practice excessive decoration and pomp, exhibiting their wealth with kiosks, furs and gardens instead for using it for the army. (Perhaps it is to be noted that Koçi Bey’s attack against ostentation and excessive pageantry does not mention at all the concept of one’s transgressing his “limits” or hadd, as later authors would do –cf. Sariyannis 2011: 140-1).
The last chapters seem to aim to a recapitulation of the author’s points. A chapter promises somehow misleadingly to dwell on the moral requirements of a ruler (Aksüt 1939: 65-67; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 83-86); instead, Koçi Bey explains that he only wishes well for the state and the Sultan; that “in the last year” several ill omens, such as a thunderbolt that stroke near the Sultan’s seat, the fall of a wall of the Kab’a in Mecca, or the lack of sufficient male offspring of the dynasty, all point to divine warnings that have to be understood. And then again the author summarizes his advice: if the illegitimate vakfs, fiefs and private properties were given back to valiant sipahis, the Sultan would have a huge and invincible army; war would not be necessary, since the foreign ambassadors would report that the Ottomans “just woke up from their sleep and started to mend their mistakes”. The Ottoman state has rich resources not only in minerals and gold, but also in men; especially if the Albanian soldiers are taken into account. If only the measures proposed were implemented, he states, the might and glory of the Ottoman ruler would expand beyond expectation.
Next, Koçi Bey sets out to describe practical ways of implementing the reforms he has already proposed. In order to make sure that timars are given only to those entitled to them, regular inspections should be made by local governors; the non-military and the royal companions and buffoons must be deprived of their fiefs, allotments must be made according to the special registers, explicit diplomas (berat) must be given to the timariots, and so forth. As for the janissaries, the old rules should be strictly obeyed; their number should not be raised; those expelled should not be admitted back; every seven years a number equal to those dead should be entering the ranks; and so on. In the last chapter (Aksüt 1939: 72-75; Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 91-95), Koçi Bey reiterates his views, explaining that in history those states prospered that granted high positions to worthy people and did not dismiss the latter from time to time. If a faithful officer of the Sultan loses his position with no reason, his whole family becomes destitute, since he knows no other art than administration (and even if he does, he should not practice it as if he were a reaya: san’ata kadır dahi olsa padışah kulları reaya san’atına karışmak münasib değildir). If he tries to rise again to his position by bribery, he will inevitably become an oppressor and thus an enemy of the state. On the contrary, no one would oppress the people if he knew that positions are given according to merit and kept in the same way. Bribe, on the other hand, is the root of all evil; after all, insists Koçi Bey, what was the use of all this bribery practiced in the last decades? Only good and prosperity can be gained if the reforms proposed are implemented; that is, if bribery is abolished, if posts and offices are given to worthy persons and for a long time, and if the timar system serves exclusively the sipahi army.
 On this dating, which is written 909/1503 in the ms., see Koçi Bey – Çakmakcıoğlu 2008: 58 fn. 1. Mustafa Ali (Ali – Demir 2006: 142) is also of the same view, giving the date 1582.
 These three chapters, i.e. on the perfection and decline of the Suleymanic era and on the “moral requirements” of a ruler (Aksüt 61-67) are missing in almost half of the mss of the treatise, showing that Koçi Bey wrote two versions (Murphey 1981: 1097).