Wednesday, 21 October 2009
After the fall of the Roman Empire fighting units both in the Christian and Islamic Worlds were created when conflict was about to erupt. Fighting men fought for their liege Lord.
This situation did not change in the Islamic World until the fourteenth century when Sultan Murad I, created the Jannisaries, as an elite infantry corp of household troops, who were also the Sultan's bodyguard.
Unique at the time in wearing uniforms and being salaried.
The Jannisaries were created by abducting the sons of families from conquered Christian territories. Thus for the first few centuries of their existence they were predominantly Greeks and Albanians.
Since Christians were forbidden to bear arms in the Ottoman Empire, up until the nineteenth century, Jannisaries were required to convert to Islam.
Whilst under training and during their time in the corp, they lived a monastic existence, which required them to be celibate.
Upon retirement however they were permitted to marry.
Well organised and fanatical in battle they reached their peak during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.
In later times however they declined as a fighting force; they dropped their traditional method of recruitment and this was replaced by a grace and favour system, which became a reflection of the growing corruption within the Ottoman Empire.
Successive Sultans lived in fear of the corp until in 1826, Sultan Mahmud II attacked their barracks with artillery fire, killing 4000 Jannisaries.
The survivors when then executed by decapitation.
They were in short a litmus test for the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Their legacy lives on in their martial music which influenced both Mozart and Beethoven.