The Powerful & Dangerous Janissaries and the Secret Plan to Destroy Them: The Auspicious Event—Part I

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Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wearing the traditional Janissary uniform (Public Domain), and ornament from a Janissary's Cap, 17th century Turkey

The Powerful & Dangerous Janissaries and the Secret Plan to Destroy Them: The Auspicious Event—Part I

The Janissaries (yeni-cheri, or “new troops”) were a small elite branch established by the Ottoman military sometime around the 14th century by Orhan Ghazi, second bey (chieftain), of the Ottoman Beylik or Emirate. The Janissaries corps was made up of Christian children who were either bought or captured and forced to convert to Islam.

A 15th-century Janissary drawing by Gentile Bellini.

A 15th-century Janissary drawing by Gentile Bellini. (Public Domain)

Devshirme (devşirme) was the forcible recruitment of young boys, begun in the mid-1300s by Sultan Murad I as a way to countercheck the growing power of the Turkish nobility. This “blood tax” came in the form of military officers of the Ottoman Empire ranging afield to take boys, ages eight to 18, from their families to be raised as soldiers. They were taught Turkish language and customs, and were trained under strict, near-monastic conditions. They served as an elite bodyguard to the sultan but also fought in battle if necessary. (This practice of devshirme was abolished in the early 1700s).


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