Janissaries were the infantry units of the Ottoman army, officially the sultan’s body guards. They became the first Turkish elite corps of the standing army. The sultan himself lead them into battle. Their troops appear in the 14thcentury and were established as a reminiscence to the Mameluks –  the Arab troops of captured young men. The janissaries were recruited from Christian families and war prisoners, but soon a special toll was introduced – the “blood levy”, which was actually taking the young boys and sending them to the sultan. Young boys between 7 and 14 years of age were taken from the Serbian, Bulgarian, Albanian and later Hungarian regions. One (or sometimes more) out of five sons was take, at first just at random, but later on they were carefully selected. The handsomest, the strongest and the brightest Christian boys would be taken away so that – after years of schooling and training in severe discipline and after being converted into Islam – they could become the best soldiers in the Turkish army. They did not marry and could number between a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand men. In their way of live they were not unlike the Christian orders of knighthood such as for instance, the Knights of St John on Rhodes. later on they were allowed to marry and go in for trade, so they got rich, enjoying a high social status in general. As a result, Turkish families started sending their sons to be the janissaries in great numbers. Like Mehmed-Pashe Sokolović, many individuals became politically powerful, while the whole body of organisation was so powerful that they often removed sultans from their throne and actually governed the country. So in the 19th century, they were forcefully dissolved.


Turkish word, yeniceri – new army


Mehmed-Pasha Sokolović