Who are the janissaries? Ottoman Armed Forces

The Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire are part of the regular army, namely the infantry. The word "Janissaries" is translated from Turkish as "new warrior". Such warriors appeared because of the need for changes in the army. The one that was previously, could not fully perform its functions - outdated methods have become obsolete. Initially, the Janissaries had few rights. But by the beginning of the 17th century, they had become a powerful force, which had led to discord and riots in the empire, for which reason they were disbanded by decree of Sultan Mahmud II. Who are the janissaries? When did they appear? What was their responsibility? All this is in the article.

who are the janissaries

Who are the Sipahs and Janissaries

Over the years, the Ottoman Empire has seen many battles. Before you consider in detail who the Janissaries are, it is worth knowing in more detail who, apart from the Janissaries, was the basis of the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire and what their functions were.

  • Akinci- non-permanent light cavalry. Used primarily for reconnaissance or raids on various areas who did not want to obey the Sultan. Their pay for the work were trophies.There was no special uniform or weapon. Most often they had simple armor made of durable fabric or leather, and bows were used as weapons. In 1595 the goal was disbanded.
  • Sipahisome sources are referred to as spagi - heavy cavalry. The sipahs in the Ottoman Empire were the basis of the strength of the army, along with the janissaries, thanks to good weapons and training. Initially, they were armed only with maces. But from the 15th century, the sipahi in the Ottoman Empire switched to firearms, and in the 17th century they used sabers and pistols and shields. The rider’s ammunition was usually armor (ring-lamellar), a helmet, and bracers.

How did the Janissaries appear and disappear?

Who are the janissaries? Their history begins in the distant 1365. It was Sultan Murad I who created them as the main striking force of the army. The reason for this was that in the army of the Sultan there was only light and heavy cavalry, and the infantry for wars was recruited temporarily, from the people or mercenaries. These people were unreliable, could refuse, flee or even flip over to the other side. Therefore, it was decided to create infantry, which will be completely devoted to their country.

Towards the XVII century, the gradual abolition of the Janissaries began.They had all sorts of rights that gave them some kind of freedom and strength. However, this power was not always aimed at the protection or well-being of the Sultan. A brief history of the Ottoman Empire indicates that in 1622 and in 1807 there were riots under the leadership of the Janissaries, which led to the demise and displacement of the rulers. These were no longer obedient slaves, but conspirators.

In 1862, the Janissaries Corps was abolished by decree of Mahmud II. Of course, this led to the next Janissaries riot, which was brutally suppressed by the loyal forces of the Sultan's army.

Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire

Who could be a janitor?

The reader is already aware of who the janissaries are. And who could be them? In the infantry army did not take anyone. There were selected exclusively young boys 5-16 years old, of different nationalities. The reason for such an early draft age was most likely the fact that small children are easier to retrain than adults. The older the person, the stronger his faith. And children can be turned into any religion and belief by proper upbringing. Such was the task of those in whose hands the selected boys fell.

At first, only Christian children were called for such a service. It was from this part of the people that blood tribute was taken (devshirme) - parents were forcibly taken away children, so that in the future they would be personal slaves of the Sultan.Every fifth male child was taken away. But in 1683, after this “position” gained its advantages (the Janissaries could achieve a high position in society), many Muslim families asked the Sultan to give their children to be reincarnated as Janissaries. And they got official permission for it.

But in order to become a Janissary, it was necessary to meet certain criteria.

  1. Parents were supposed to be from a noble family.
  2. The child had to be moderately modest and not very talkative, so as not to chat again.
  3. A desirable feature was the appearance of rigidity. Guys with gentle features could not frighten the enemy.
  4. Growth also mattered, as everyone in the army should have been about the same height.

sipahi in the Ottoman Empire


After they were taken away from their parents, the boys were ordered to forget their whole past: religion, family, affection. Then they were sent to the capital, where they examined and selected a certain number of the strongest and most capable. They were separated and trained separately according to certain rules, so that they could serve in the palace or personally guard the sultan. The rest were sent to the janissary corps.

It was important for the Janissary to not only be strong and know his business, but also to be submissive and obedient. Therefore, education was the basis of training. In order to instill in children the basic norms of Islamic law, traditions, customs, as well as to teach the language, they were sent to Islamic families. Here children were deliberately subjected to physical and moral deprivation in order to develop resistance to everything that they would have to endure in the future.

After that, those who survived the first stage did not break down, they were sent to training corps, where they had been studying military affairs for six years and were engaged in difficult physical work. They taught children and some other subjects, such as languages, calligraphy, all that they might need in the future.

The only opportunity to "let off steam" for young janissaries was presented during the Muslim holidays, when they were allowed to mock at Jews and Christians.

The training ended when the warrior turned 25 years old. At this point, the young men either became janissaries or not. Those who did not pass the 6-year trial were called "rejected" and were forever excluded from military service.

Ottoman military forces

Features of life Janissaries

The life of the Janissaries was not easy, but it had its privileges. They were officially considered slaves of the Sultan and he could do with them everything that the soul wished. Janissaries lived in barracks, which were most often located near the Sultan's palace. Until 1566 they did not have the right to marry, have children, a household. Life took place in the battle and service of the empire. It is worth noting that in the absence of all sorts of amenities, such as women, family, crafts, they could fully devote themselves to only one joy of life - food. Cooking was a kind of ceremony. Above cooking worked a lot of people. There was even a separate position - the person responsible for cooking soup!

After a serious injury, when the service could no longer continue, or because of his old age, the Janissaries retired and received benefits from the empire. Many of these retirees made a good career, which is understandable, given their knowledge and education. When the Janissaries died, all his property passed into the hands of the regiment.

The janissaries could only be judged or assessed by their superiors headed by the Sultan. If the janissary was seriously guilty, he was sentenced to the honorable penalty - suffocation.

a brief history of the Ottoman Empire


In addition to the various military and military services, the Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire also performed other functions:

  • acted as a people's police;
  • could put out fires;
  • punished instead of executioners.

But, in addition, they were part of the guard of the Sultan, considered his personal slaves. Only the best became guard, who were ready for the sultan anything.

Janissary corps


Janissary corps consisted of odzhakov (regiments). The shelf was divided into Horta. The regiment had about a thousand warriors. The number of ojaks in different periods of the history of the empire was not uniform. But during the heyday of the empire, their numbers reached nearly 200. The regiments were not the same, they had different functions.

The regiment consisted of only three parts.

  • Belyuk - the personal guard of the Sultan, consisting of 61 orths.
  • Dzhemaat - simple warriors (the sultan himself was recorded here), included 101 units.
  • Sekban - 34 orty.

The head of all these regiments was the Sultan, but the actual control was carried out by aha. The main ones close to him were the sekbanbashi and kul kyayasi - the highest corps officers. The adepts of the Dervish Order Bektash were regimental priests for the Janissaries, the chief of whom was the Ojak Imams.Istanbul’s agas led the training units and the garrison of Istanbul. And for the educational work with the boys answered talimhanejibashi. There was there and the main treasurer - beytyulmaldzhi.

The shelves also had different ranks, and there were quite a lot of them. So, for example, there was a person responsible for cooking soup, for water, the head of the barracks, the chief cook, his assistants, and so on.

Uniforms and weapons

Janissaries as a separate part of the military forces of the Ottoman Empire had their own weapons and uniforms. They could be easily recognized externally.

Janissaries wore a mustache, but completely shaved off the beard. Clothing was made mostly of wool. The senior officers had a fur trim on their costumes to stand out among the other janissaries. Belts or sashes also emphasized the high status of the owner. Part of the form was a felt cap, from which a piece of matter hung from behind. He was also called the berk or yuskyuf. During the campaigns and wars, the Janissaries wore armor, but were later abandoned.

The armed forces of the Ottoman Empire liked to use various technological innovations in wars and battles, but they also never completely abandoned traditional weapons.Initially, they very skillfully shot a bow. In addition to these weapons, they had small spears. Later they armed themselves with pistols, although the bow was not completely out of use. It was used as a ceremonial weapon. Some Janissaries changed bows to crossbows. In addition, swords and other piercing-cutting weapons were mandatory weapons. Sometimes mace, axes and the like were used instead.

Who are the Sipahs and Janissaries

Interesting Facts

Now you know who the Janissaries are, which was their responsibility in the Ottoman Empire. In conclusion, some more interesting facts:

  • Despite the fact that the Janissaries, among other things, were slaves of the Sultan, and some were originally born into Christian families, loyalty to the Sultan was immaculate at first. These warriors were famous for their cruelty, and were ready for any sacrifices for their homeland.
  • Shaving vegetation on the face was unusual for Muslims, so it was easy to see these people in the crowd.

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