Greeks paid a land tax and a heavy tax on trade, the latter taking advantage of the wealthy Greeks to fill the state coffers. Greeks, like other Christians, were also made to pay the jizya, or Islamic poll-tax which all non-Muslims in the empire were forced to pay instead of the Zakat that Muslims must pay as part of the 5 pillars of Islam. Failure to pay the jizya could result in the pledge of protection of the Christian’s life and property becoming void, facing the alternatives of conversion; enslavement or death.
Like in the rest of the Ottoman Empire, Greeks had to carry a receipt certifying their payment of jizya at all times or be subject to imprisonment. Most Greeks did not have to serve in the Sultan’s army, but the young boys that were taken away and converted to Islam were made to serve in the Ottoman military. In addition, girls were taken in order to serve as odalisques in harems.
These practices are called the “tribute of children” (devshirmeh) (in Greek παιδομάζωμα paidomazoma, meaning “child gathering”), whereby every Christian community was required to give one son in five to be raised as a Muslim and enrolled in the corps of Janissaries, elite units of the Ottoman army. There was much resistance to this. For example, Greek folklore tells of mothers crippling their sons to avoid their abduction. Nevertheless, entrance into the corps (accompanied by conversion to Islam) offered Greek boys the opportunity to advance as high as governor or even Grand Vizier.
Opposition of the Greek populace to taxing or paidomazoma resulted in grave consequences. For example, in 1705 an Ottoman official was sent from Naoussa in Macedonia to search and conscript new Janissaries and was killed by Greek rebels who resisted the burden of the devshirmeh. The rebels were subsequently beheaded and their severed heads were displayed in the city of Thessaloniki. In some cases, it was greatly feared as Greek families would often have to relinquish their own sons who would convert and return later as their oppressors. In other cases, the families bribed the officers to ensure that their children got a better life as a government officer.