The Janissaries (from the Turkish for ‘new soldier’) were the elite infantry of the Ottoman Empire. The Janissary Corps was founded in 1383 by Sultan Murad I to provide him with well-disciplined and loyal troops for his expansionist campaigns. They were recruited from Christian vassal states of the Ottoman Empire in Europe by the ‘devsirme’ system of taking young boys aged 6-14 years and converting them to Islam. These children were indoctrinated and raised in an environment of harsh discipline and training, ideal for the creation of a fighting force.
The Corps was divided into ‘Ortas’, the equivalent of a battalion, and at the height of the Janissaries’ powers in the late 1500’s there were 196 ortas. These were divided between frontier troops (Cemaat), Sultan’s Household and Bodyguard formations (Beyliks), provincial reserves (Sekbans) and cadet troops (Ajemi). Each Orta was led by a Cobaci or ‘Soup Maker’, a title that indicated humility before the Sultan, and an Asci Usta (Master Cook). Culinary traditions played an important role throughout the Janissary Corps as successful leaders should be able to provide for their men.
Janissaries discipline and impressive war record notwithstanding, they were also at the forefront of many military advances. They wore uniforms and distinctive headgear at a time when army uniforms were practically unheard of. They were the first military units to march to music, and also the first to widely use firearms. The fact they were salaried fighters and lived in organised barracks was also unusual from a western standpoint.
The social status of the Janissary Corps was also noteworthy; being neither free men nor ordinary slaves they created their own social class. The Agha, head of the Corps, was one of the most powerful men in the Ottoman Empire, and over the years the Janissaries came to fill important government roles and trades in society. This increase in power was to prove their downfall as they effectively became kingmakers, killing Sultans who they did not approve of and becoming a corrupt parody of their earlier glories and a law unto themselves. The end for the Janissary Corps came in 1826, when Sultan Mahmud II initiated the ‘Auspicious Incident’ which saw the execution of thousands of Janissaries and the disbandment of the Corps.
This boxed set provides 24 metal miniatures that can represent a Janissary Orta, 12 miniatures with firearms and 12 with melee weapons, that highlight the both the uniformity and diversity of the Janissary formations.
12 metal Janissaries armed with sword and shield (includes a command group of officer, standard bearer, drummer and sergeant).
12 metal Janissaries armed with arquebus, led by an officer.