Indeed, I had both heard of and seen clear physical evidence of such an old order of aghas and clans in the form of the remains or ruins of mansions (konak) that once existed throughout the eastern Black Sea coast. All the greater aghas from the larger clans were said to have been "valley lords" (derebey), independent rulers of their separate domains. As such, they had constructed large, semi-fortified mansions to serve as their personal residences, seats of government, and reception halls. According to my interlocutors, there had once been at least a score of these mansions in the district of Of alone. During my travels along the eastern Black Sea coast, I was told of the remains of foundation stones or ruined walls of such structures that had once existed on this promontory or that hilltop. All these mansions of the old social order were said to have been razed in the 1830s by the aforementioned Osman Pasha. He was credited with having restored centralized government in the coastal region, but only by resorting to drastic measures. Large numbers of troops invaded and occupied the outlying districts, where they burned the mansions of the aghas and destroyed the villages of their followers.
Inexplicably, a number of the old mansions had somehow escaped these depredations and remained standing. Here and there I had observed these old, dilapidated structures, many times larger than ordinary houses and always situated in a prominent location. They had stone foundations, massive doorways and hearths, spacious storerooms, and pleasingly decorated salons fitted with wood panels and conical fireplaces. Oddly, and contrary to the report of their destruction, these existing mansions were those of the most powerful aghas, that is, just the mansions one would have expected Osman Pasha to have put to the torch.
I concluded, with some prompting from my hosts, that the mansions had been essential architectural instruments of the old social order. In light of their ownership and location in the district of Of, they could be reliably correlated with the aghas, clans, and parties. The mansions had been built by individuals of prominence who were now remembered as the ascendants of large clans. The mansions had all been located near markets, crossroads, routes, or anchorages. So wherever there had been leading individuals from large family groupings, there had also been a mansion. And wherever there had been a mansion, one could be assured that its location was of strategic significance. For its chief residents, a mansion was a necessary physical infrastructure for bringing together relatives, friends, and allies. In this manner, a mansion became a center of political authority that first replaced and then later challenged state officials. The handful of dilapidated mansions appeared to stand as testaments to the existence of a local political system that had once been distinct from the central government during the first decades of the nineteenth century.