A medieval Janissary was an elite infantry soldier 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 non-Muslim slaves and were known for their strict discipline and order.

Ralamb Janissary Medieval Soldier

Ralamb Janissary Medieval Soldier

Janissary Military 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 the 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 medieval times. Young Christians from all parts of the Ottoman Empire were recruited as medieval janissaries.

Ottoman Janissaries

Ottoman Janissaries fighting during the Siege of Rhodes

Janissary Soldiers 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.

Battle of Nicopol Final Battle 1398

The battle of Nicopolis was fought between the military of the Ottoman Empire and the allied military might of European nations.

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


Janissary Training

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

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

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

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

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 roles included the Battle of Mohacs, the Siege of Rhodes, the Siege of Esztergom, etc.

Medieval Janissary Summary

A janissary was a special kind of soldier 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.