Janizaries, a body of Turkish infantry now extinct. The name is derived from yeniskeri, or yeni and askari, " new troops." They were first assembled in 1329 by Sultan Orkhan, but were not regularly organized until 1362, when Amurath I., after conquering the southern Slavic kingdoms, claimed one fifth of the captives, including the able-bodied youth, to be converted to Islamism and educated as soldiers. This was done with extraordinary care, the recruits being distributed at first among the peasantry of Asia Minor, that they might become hardened by rural life and familiar with Mohammedanism. They manifested all the enthusiasm of proselytes; and as this spirit was warmly encouraged, and as privileges were granted them, they soon became a formidable means of defence. They were divided at first into 80, afterward into 162, and finally into 196 ortas, each numbering in Constantinople nominally 100 men, and elsewhere 200 or 300, in time of peace, but 500 in time of war. Besides the aga, or commander-in-chief of the whole body, six officers were attached to each orta, the chief being called the orta-hashi. The lowest officer was the cook, who also performed various other duties, and for whom the soldiers manifested great reverence.

They never appeared without a wooden spoon in their turbans, and on extraordinary occasions' always assembled around their soup kettles; their revolts were proclaimed by reversing these kettles, and to lose one of them in battle was looked upon as a disgrace equivalent to the loss of colors in other armies. Under Solyman the Magnificent they formed the best disciplined force in Europe. After his death, when the sultans ceased to lead their armies in person, the organization fell into decay. It was no longer recruited exclusively from young Christian prisoners of war, or from levies on the Slavic provinces, but from any persons who could obtain appointments in it by intrigue, until finally it consisted in a great measure of menials and vagabonds, many of whom followed no military exercises and were permitted to engage in trade or mechanical and other occupations. But they still supplied something like an organization to the turbulent mob of the Turkish cities, and were long really formidable to society and government itself. They mutinied repeatedly against the sultans, and in some cases deposed them or put them to death. They frequently pillaged the cities which it was their duty to guard.

In 1798 Selim III. attempted to form a better army by instituting the nizam-jadid or disciplined troops. This caused a revolt, the abdication and death of Selim (July 28, 1808), and terrible outrages in Constantinople (Nov. 14). Mah-moud II. was obliged on reaching the throne to pardon the janizaries; but, impressed with the danger of such troops, he quietly matured during several years a plan for ridding himself of them. Having gained over some of their officers and the Mohammedan priesthood, he resolved to exterminate them, and on May 29, 1826, published a decree ordering that 150 janizaries of every regiment should be formed into a regularly disciplined militia. This, as was expected, led to a revolt (June 15, 1826), the janizaries committing horrible excesses. The next day they assembled and reversed their kettles. But the mufti displaying the sacred standard of Mohammed, all the better class of the population joined the regular troops. Artillery had been long prepared in anticipation of this event, and great numbers of galiongis or sailors, and bostangis or imperial private guards, were also ready for attacking the janizaries. " Burned alive in their barracks, cannonaded in the At Meidan, where they made their most desperate defence, massacred singly in the streets during three months, the remainder were condemned to exile." About 25,000 janizaries were thus killed, and they have never been reorganized. - See Macfar-lane's "Constantinople in 1828," and Precis historique de la destruction du corps des ja-nizaires, translated from the Turkish by Caus-sin de Perceval (Paris, 1833).

Janizaries   Officers



Janizaries - Officers.