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sipahi

feudal cavalryman of the Ottoman Empire whose status resembled that of the medieval European knight. The spahi (from Persian for "cavalryman") was holder of a fief (timar; Turkish: timar) granted directly by the Ottoman sultan and was entitled to all of the income from it in return for military service. The peasants on the land were subsequently attached to the land and became serfs. The spahis provided the bulk of the Ottoman army until about the mid-16th century. From then on they were gradually supplanted by the Janissaries, an elite corps composed of infantrymen paid regular salaries by the sultanate. In part, this change resulted from the increased use of firearms, which made cavalry less important, and from the need to maintain a regular standing army. The spahis were completely discredited during the War of Greek independence (1821-32), and the timar system was officially abolished in 1831 by Sultan Mahmud II as part of his program to create a modern Western-style army.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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