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ARMATOLES (Gr. ἀρματωλός, a man-at-arms), the name given
to some Greeks who discharged certain military and police
functions under the Turkish government. When the Turks under
Sultan Mahommed II. conquered Greece in the 15th century, many
of the Greeks fled into the mountainous districts of Macedonia
and northern Greece, and maintained a harassing warfare with the
conquerors of their country. These men were called Klephts
(modern Gr. κλέφτης, ancient κλέπτης, a thief, a brigand), and
during the 16th century the Turkish pashas came to terms with
some of them, and these men were allowed to retain their local
customs, and were confirmed in the possession of certain districts,
while in return they undertook some duties, such as the custody
of the highroads. Those who accepted these terms were called
armatoles, and the districts in which they lived armatoliks.
Strengthened by a considerable number of Christian Albanians,
they rendered good service in defending Greece, and to some
extent repressed the ravages of the Klephts; but their power and
independence were disliked by the Turks. After the peace of
Belgrade in 1739 (between Austria and Turkey), the Turkish
government sought to weaken the position of the armatoles.
Their privileges were restricted, Mahommedan Albanians were
introduced into the armatoliks, and towards the end of the 18th
century their numbers were seriously reduced. Irritated by this
policy the armatoles rendered considerable service to Ali Pasha of
Iannina in his struggle with the Turks in 1820-22, and afforded
valuable assistance to their countrymen during the Greek war of
independence in 1830.
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