Worldwide Holiday


elite group of soldiers known as the Janissaries

Once upon a time, in the heart of the Ottoman Empire, there was an elite group of soldiers known as the Janissaries1. These were no ordinary soldiers. They were the Sultan’s household troops, the first modern standing army, and perhaps the first infantry force in the world to be equipped with firearms1.

The Janissaries were unique, for they were not born into their roles but were chosen. They were Christian children from various ethnic groups, taken from their homes, converted to Islam, and trained to serve the Sultan1. Despite their harsh beginnings, they were not mere slaves. They were paid regular salaries and were forbidden to marry or engage in trade until the age of 40, ensuring their complete loyalty to the Sultan1.

The Janissaries were a formidable force, their unity and discipline making them a terror on the battlefield. Their first major victory was the annihilation of a Serbian army at Kosovo in 13892. But their most shocking achievement was the capture of Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, in 14532.

However, as time passed, the once strict recruitment policy relaxed, and civilians began to buy their way into the Janissaries to benefit from the improved socioeconomic status it conferred1. This led to a loss of the corps’ military character, a process described as “civilianization”1.

Despite their initial prowess, the Janissaries became a reactionary force resisting change as Western Europe modernized its military organization and technology1. When they felt their privileges were being threatened, they would rise in rebellion1. By the time the Janissaries were suppressed, it was too late for Ottoman military power to catch up with the West1.

And so, the tale of the Janissaries serves as a reminder of the transient nature of power and the importance of adaptability in the face of change.