A medieval Janissary was an elite infantry solider during the medieval Ottoman Empire.

Medieval janissaries acted as household troops and bodyguards of the Turkish Sultan and thus enjoyed considerable privilege.

They were usually formed from the non-Muslim slaves and were known for their strict discipline and order.

Medieval Janissary History

Medieval janissaries were formed as a distinct group in 1365 during the reign of Murad I.

The Sultan formed this elite group of warriors because of increasing need for a permanent standing army.

Previously, the army mainly consisted of tribal warriors whose loyalty was not always guaranteed.

The importance of medieval janissaries continued to increase even after the end of the medieval times. Young Christians from all parts of the Ottoman Empire were recruited as medieval janissaries.

Ralamb Janissary Medieval Soldier

Ralamb Janissary Medieval Soldier

Medieval Janissary Characteristics

A medieval janissary was known for his peculiar characteristics such as observance of strict discipline and having a life of strict order.

Their military life was characterized by regular salaries, living in barracks, using firearms, and marching to music.

The importance of this elite group can be recognized by the tradition that the Sultan, every time after approving the salaries of the medieval janissaries, went to their barracks dressed in their uniform.

Medieval Janissary Training

The non-Muslims, after being recruited as medieval janissaries, were first taught the culture and values of the Ottoman society along with language and religion.

Young cadets, during their training at the school, would often be selected for different fields according to their talent.

They led very disciplined and ascetic life in the cadet schools and were expected to remain celibate.

Medieval Janissary Corps

The medieval Janissary Corps was the most valuable group of the Ottoman Empire and initially consisted of 165 ortas, where one orta was equivalent to one battalion.

The entire corps was divided into three sub-groups

  • Troops
  • Bodyguards
  • Sekban

Strict hierarchy of command was maintained within each orta and only the commanding officer of each orta could punish the soldiers of that orta.

The corps strength continued to increase throughout the late medieval times and even after that.

Medieval Janissary Weapons

When the medieval janissaries were initially formed, they were expert in archery.

However, soon after their formation firearms became available in 1440s and they began using them.

There were also engineers and people of other profession in the medieval janissaries.

Their expertise with the firearms and other weapons was demonstrated during the famous Siege of Vienna in 1529.

Ottoman Janissaries

Ottoman Janissaries fighting during the Siege of Rhodes

Medieval Janissary Battles

Medieval janissaries played a very important role during many major battles of the Ottoman Empire.

This included the capture of Constantinople in 1453 as well as wars against Hungary and Austria.

Some of the important battles where medieval janissaries played decisive role included Battle of Mohacs, Siege of Rhodes, and Siege of Esztergom etc.

Medieval Janissary Summary

A janissary was a special kind of solider in the Ottoman Empire who went through rigorous training for warfare and the use of weapons.

The janissaries were formed during the late medieval times but their importance continued to grow even after the medieval times.

These medieval janissaries mainly consisted of Christian slaves of the Ottoman Empire.

Share this: