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Emin, an Ottoman customs officer


    Emin, an Ottoman customs officer, collected customs duties in Ploče for goods arriving from the Ottoman Empire. The first emins came to Ploče at the end of the 15th century, which points to the fact that caravan traffic was already active at the time.

    The Ragusans also collected customs duties, and their Customs House was located in the Sponza palace. Today the palace houses the State Archives, which are, according to French historian Fernand Braudel, the richest archives in the Mediterranean. All our knowledge of the Ploče Lazarettos is kept in the records of the Ragusan archives.

    Emins have always lived in the Tenth lazaretto. Until the end of the 17th century, a single emin lived here, but later there were often two of them. Their terms lasted for either six months or a year, and they always had a scribe and servant with them.

    Both emins and their assistants were local men from the Ragusan hinterlands, familiar with Dubrovnik and its people.

Emin: Unofficial Ottoman Consul


    The emin was an important person, not as a customs official, but rather an unofficial Ottoman consul in Dubrovnik. The Tenth lazaretto was an unofficial Ottoman consulate, a world within a world, in the full sense of the word. The Ragusans maintained it with care, painted it regularly, cleaned the lavatory and the hearth, and fixed the roof, windows, floors and the bathroom.

    The Ragusan authorities found it vital that emins keep Ottoman travelers in the Lazarettos under control. The authorities often complained that emins weren’t doing a good job, because Ottoman travelers didn’t respect quarantine rules, would often break through the locked doors of the lazaretto at night, attack sanitation soldiers, and run from Ploče. Much like the soldiers themselves, in such cases the emins were powerless.

Accepting to be Quarantined


    Emins faced the most problems with Bosnian and Albanian travelers from Alexandria. Among them were hadjis, Islamic pilgrims to Mecca. After a prolonged absence from home, it was very difficult for them to be put into isolation, as the quarantine often lasted for 40 days because of the plague raging in Alexandria. That is why the emins made them sign statements about adhering to quarantine regulations. In 1798, fifteen travelers signed this statement using seals and fingerprints:

    “…we traveled on a Ragusan ship from Alexandria to the port of Dubrovnik… We guarantee that, in keeping with the tradition of old, we will stay until the end of the quarantine, and pay in full the customs duties, levies, ship costs and everything else, all of which belong to the Ragusan beys. That way, if any of us resist or pick a fight, half of our personal belongings and trade goods will be confiscated by the Ottoman treasury, and the other half by the Bosnian governor. This document is written for that very purpose, and is confirmed by seals.

Confirmation by Hüdaverdi Bey


    The unofficial Ottoman consul’s list of duties was fairly lengthy, because he was, naturally, involved in all aspects of cooperation between Ottoman and Ragusan subjects.

    For example, Hüdaverdi Bey, a citizen of Elbasan, came to Ploče in 1792 in the hopes that the Ragusan surgeon Lorenzo Giromella would cure him of the disease that has been plaguing him for years. The Bey signed a statement in front of the emin that “he forfeits his body and soul to Giromella,” and that he will, if the operation is a success, God willing, pay him his agreed-upon fees. If, God forbid, he fails and the Bey dies, his heirs mustn’t accuse nor harass the surgeon.