View Full Version : Historical Information needed

08-13-2003, 16:29
Greetings dear Monks of the Monastary

I am doing some research on the Turkish military machine during (approximately) the Medieval period. I am looking for some specific sources of information on Seljuk combat troops. Of interest:

-Troop divison
-Armor and Weaponry
-Command & Control
-Provisions & Logistics
-Numbers i.e how many men at what dates

Anyone know any sources ? preferably direct sources from that era. i.e from observers and strategists of that period.

I know this is a bit demanding for source criteria, but I am sure someone would know direct sources. I have already found direct (or as close as can be) on the Ottoman military.

Any other web or media sources are also welcome.

Many thanks for your help.

http://www.totalwar.org/forum/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif http://www.totalwar.org/forum/non-cgi/emoticons/pat.gif http://www.totalwar.org/forum/non-cgi/emoticons/wave.gif

08-13-2003, 17:29
The Ottoman family belonged to the Kayi clan of Oguz Turks. They were one of the many Turkic peoples who entered Asia Minor through Persia. Initially settled in what is now eastern Turkey, the family was granted land by the Rum Selcuks near the Byzantine frontier.

Ertugrul, the father of Osman (who would establish the dynasty, Osmanli - or Ottoman) settled in Sogut and waged war against the Byzantines. His son Osman declared independence from the Selcuks in 1299, gaining territory to the north and west.

As you know, there were dozens of Turkish states in Asia Minor at the time. Some of them the Ottomans annexed by force, others peacefully through diplomacy. One important state, Germiyan, was given to the Ottomans as the ruling bey had no heir. Some cities and territories were purchased.

Ironically, Ottoman`s first European territory was granted to them by the Byzantines themselves During a civil war in Constantinople, Ottoman troops helped one of the factions to gain the upper hand and were awarded a fortress on European soil. From there they rapidly expanded into Macedonia and Bulgaria. Genoan ships ferried them across the channel (Ottoman navy wasn`t impressive back in 14th century)

08-13-2003, 17:30
Ottoman History: 1281 - 1299
The founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman Gazi (or, as he is known, Osman Khan or Osman Bey) was descended from a line of great leaders who had, in turn, led the Kayi Tribe, the most famous of all the 24 Turkish tribes.

Osman Khan's father, Ertoghrul Gazi, had been appointed Uchbey on the Byzantine Frontier by the Seljukian Sultan, Alauddin. The land was given to him to control and lay along the boundaries of Brusa, Kutahya and Biledjik. Ertoghrul Gazi captured the town of Saegut from the Byzantine Empire and made it the capital city of the region. The duties of the Uchbey were to defend the frontiers of the Empire and to fight against the attacks of the Crusader Knights.

On the death of Ertoghrul Gazi in 1281, his son Osman Gazi, despite being the youngest member of his family, was elected Uchbey to succeed his father.

Osman Gazi, through a clever mixture of diplomacy and warfare, gained large tracts of land from the neighboring Byzantine Emperors. Faced by an alliance of the Byzantine Emperors of Brusa and Nice on the one hand, and Yarhisar and Karadjahisar on the other, Osman Gazi declared war. He attacked Nice and in 1291 captured Karadjahisar. He changed the Castle Church into a mosque and assigned a judge to rule the area.

After further victories at Biledjik and Yarhisar in 1299 he married his son, Orkan Gazi, to the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor of Yarhisar.

In 1299 Osman Gazi declared independence, granting fiefs to his Moslem army veterans and appointing wardens, judges and magistrates to take charge of castles and strong points.

08-13-2003, 17:33

08-13-2003, 17:35

08-13-2003, 17:43
(1040 - 1157 AD)

Prof. Stanford Shaw, from "The History of Modern Turkey, Vol. 1"

Most important in terms of their influence over the Ottomans were the Seljuks, a group of Oguz warriors that apparently entered the Middle East in the tenth century. The Seljuks rose originally as mercenary guards in the service of the Karahanids. Later they acted to defend towns in Horasan and Transoxania against nomads and military adventururs. And, finally, they assumed the role of protectors of the later Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad against threats to their dominions. In 1055 the real founder of the Seljuk dynasty, Tugrul Bey, forced the Abbasid caliph to make him protector of orthodox Islam and to recogniz him as sultan, or temporal ruler. The Seljuks were not the first military protectors of the powerless later caliphs, but they were the first to complete the process of regularizing and institutionalizing the relationship.

With northern Iran entirely under Seljuk control and Iraq professing submission, the Seljuks were confronted with the problem of consolidating their rule and restoring order and prosperity in the Middle East while providing their nomadic vassals with the booty and grazing lands they demanded. Were the Seljuks still leaders of nomadic Turkomans, or were they now rulers and protectors of the civilization they had conquered? It was the latter role that came to dominate, leading to conflicts between the Seljuk rulers and their nomadic commanders and followers, who were dissatisfied with the restrictions imposed on them to save the settled populations of the area. The Seljuk leader, as sultan, assumed most of the caliph's authority to legislate and rule in matters concerning administrative, military, and secular questions not directly regulated in the Muslim law. The caliph remained more as a spiritual leader with the power to regulate matters of personal behavior and individual relationships. As temporal rulers of the Islamic state the Seljuks took over, restored, and elaborated the traditional Perso-Islamic administrative apparatus developed in late Abbasid times, relying largely on Persian ministers who emphasized their own culture, reviving the Persian language and largely eliminating Arabic in government and culture alike, using Persians in most of the administrative positions of the empire, even those in areas inhabited mainly by Arabs.

In return for caliphal recognition the Seljuks became champions of orthodoxy in the Islamic world and leaders of the movement to eradicate the political, military and religious influence of Shiism. Shias were routed out of administrative positions and replaced by orthodox officials. To provide the latter in sufficient quality and numbers the Muslim educational system was reorganized and centered in the mosque schools and higher medrese schools, which strengthened the orthodox religious institution. The sufi mystic movement, which was fulfilling the popular need for more personal religion, was reconciled as orthodox and spread all over the empire to counteract the efforts of the heterodox Shias to capture the masses.

What was to be done with the Turkoman nomads who were driving out the settled populations of eastern Iran and Azerbaijan to the northwest and establishing their own pastoral economy? As long as the nomads formed the main element of the Seljuk army, their demands for booty and fodder could not be entirely ignored. But controlling them was very difficult. The Seljuk solution provided the key to the sultans' success in maintaining power and organizing their administration. They first used their position as sultans to institute a new regular salaried army of mamluk slaves brought from the highlands of the Caucusus and of prisoners taken in conquests. Once the new army gave the Seljuks a sufficient military alternative to the Turkomans, they solved the remainder of the problem by using it to drive the Turkomans out of Iran and Iraq into the territories of their enemies.

But these solutions created a new financial problem. How were the bureaucrats and soldiers to be paid? Clearly, the booty that had satisfied the nomads could no longer be relied on. But the state was not yet strong enough to establish direct rule and levy sufficient taxes to meet its obligations. The solution was a system of indirect revenue assignment (ikta), developed originally in Iran by the Buyids as a means of tax collection and now used also as the primary unit of administration. The essential premise of the system was the idea that all wealth (though not necessarily all property) belonged to the ruler. To exploit it he acted not through salaried officials of state, but rather by superimposing ikta units, each of which gave its possessor the right to administer a source of wealth and to collect its revenues. Officers of the new army and officials of the administration were given these iktas in return for performing their duties, thus as the equivalent of a salary. This relieved the treasury of the problem of finding money to pay its soldiers and civil servants and also gave the ikta holders and interest in preserving the prosperity of agriculture and trade. They could no longer ravage the land and move on as nomads had done in the past.

With the new army and bureaucracy organized and financed, the Turkomans could be and were pushed out of the settled areas of Iran and Iraq as rapidly as possible. At the end of the eleventh century the Seljuks acutally seem to have wanted the nomads to move against the Fatimids in Egypt as a further means of ending the heterodox threat against Islamic orthodoxy. Bu the more natural road for the Turkomans was to the north and west. The plateaus of Iran and Iraq running into the highlands of eastern Anatolia seem to have been far more convenient conduits to pastures than were the mountains of southwestern Iran and the deserts of Syria and Sinai. In addition, the Byzantine and Armenian states in Anatolia appeared to be much weaker and offered the prospect of much more booty than did that of the Fatimids. The Seljuks opposed the Turkoman pushes into Anatolia because of their own efforts to ally with the first Crusaders and even with the Byzantines against the Fatimids, and they made little effort to follow up on the early Turkoman onslaughts with formal occupation. Eventually, however, the momentum of the Turkomans carried the Seljuks along.

Indeed, times were propitious for a Seljuk move into Anatolia. The Christian defenses there were extremely weak. The regular Byzantine army was weakened by internal political dissension and military revolts. The Armenian vassal chiefs who defended much of the southeastern frontier also were fighting among themselves and generally were unwilling to accept Byzantine direction. Moreover, the Byzantine derense system consisted of a few large garrisons stationed in widely separated forts, and it was not too difficult for the Turkomans to slip past them. The Christians relied mainly on heavy armour, pikes, and axes and found it almost impossible to compete successfully with the mobile nomadic cavalrymen who used the bow and arrow with deadly effectiveness. And, finally, Byzantine economic policy and religious strife left the populace largely unwilling to support the efforts of their masters against invaders, whoever they might be.

The Turkoman raids began in 1048, pillaging Armenia, Erzurum, and Trabzon to the north and the valley of the Murat Su to the south. The Seljuk sultan Tugrul Bey led a campaign into the same areas in 1054 while the Turkomans raided farther and farther west each year. The centralizing policies of Sultan Alp Arslan (1063-1072) caused more Turkomans to flee Seljuk rule in Iran. Since most of them entered Anatolia in flight, they were willing to hire themselves out as mercenaries, helping Armenian and Byzantine feudal nobles and princes against each other as well as against Turkoman raids, but this situation made the Christians even more vulnerable.

as soon as Alp Arslan settle his position in Iraq, he undertook a new campaign (1065) in eastern Anatolia to consolidate his control over the frontier Turkomans as well as te Christian princes in the area. Byzantine efforts to stop the invasion by raiding along the upper Euphrates into Syria were beaten back (1068-1069) while the nomads raided farther and farther into western Anatolia. Alp Arslan still hoped to make a truce with the Byzantines so that he could concentrate against the Fatimids; but when he heard that Emperor Roman Diogenus was leading a new offensive to the east, he moved north for a direct confrontation with the Byzantine army, the first time that the Turks had risked such a battle. The two armies came together at Manzikert, north of Lake Van (August 19, 1071), where one of the great momentous battles of history took place. Turkish maneuverability and superiority with the bow and arrow, combined with dissension in the Byzantine army, caused the latter to flee while the emperor was captured. Because Alp Arslan still considered the Fatimids as his primary objective, he did not use the victory to make further organized attacks into Anatolia. But whether he intended to or not, the victory destroyed the old Byzantine border defense system and organized resistance against the Turkomans, opening the gates for the latter to enter in increasing numbers as they sought to evade the organized governmental controls being extended by the Seljuks. The Turkomans, therefore, stepped up the attack, devastating agriculture and trade and paralyzing Byzantine administration. Within a few years all of Byzantine Anatolia east of Cappadocia was occupied by the nomads except for a few forts in the Taurus mountains and Trabzon, on the Black Sea, which was to hold out for centuries. Continued Byzantine internal disputes and feudal anarchy also enabled the Turkomans to raid westward all the way to Iznik (Nicaea) and the Bosphorus, though here they were unable to settle down to the extent that they had in the east.

At this point some of the Turkomans were led by their own hans. Others submitted to the authority of individual Seljuk princes, mililtary commanders, and others who sought to make their fortunes on the western frontiers rather than accepting the authority of the sultan of in Iraq. Some of these established their own small states and left them to heirs, thus founding their own dynasities. In Cilicia one of these, Suleyman, son of Tugrul's cousin Kutlumus, led a group of Turkomans that helped several Byzantine emperors and princes and in return was recognized as ruler of much of south-central Anatolia, forming the base of the Seljuk Empire of Rum, which later rose to dominate most of Turkoman Anatolia.

While Anatolia was gradually transformed into a Turkish dominion, the Great Seljuk Empire, now centered at Isfahan, reached its peak. Alp Arslan was killed a year after Manzikert during a campaign against the Karahanids and was succeeded by his son Maliksah (1072-1092), whose reign inaugurated the decline. Because of his youth the new sultan had to rely heavily on his father's trusted chief minister, Nizam ul-Mulk. The establishment of the Seljuks of Rum posed a threat to Maliksah, who responded by establishing his dominion in northern Syria and reaching the Mediterranean. With the help of the Byzantines he also extended his power into Anatolia, gaining the allegiance of most of the Turkomans against the Rum Seljuks, who were left in control of only a few areas of central and eastern Anatolia from their capital, Konya.

These activities prevented Nizam ul-Mluk from consolidating the Seljuk Empire as he had hoped to do. The Fatimids remained in Egypt and southern Syria and extended their disruptive Shia missionary activities throughout the sultan's dominions. The Seljuks were also undermined by the activities of a new Shia movement that arose within their own boundaries, that of the Ismaili Assasins founded by Hasan al-Sabbah from his fortified center at Alamut, south of the Caspian Sea. He began a successful campaign of assassination and terror against political and religious leaders of the Seljuk state. In addition, the Seljuks were weakened by the old nomadic idea that rule had to be shared among all members of the ruling dynasty. The sultan gave large provinces to members of his family, and they began to create their own armies and treasuries. Maliksah also compensated his mamluk officers with similar feudal estates where they built autonomous power and thus prepared for the day when a weakening of the central authority would enable them to establish independent states. Finally, divisions between the orthodox establishment of the sultans and the heterodox Turkoman tribes became increasingly serious. Alp Arslan had solved this problem by pushing the tribes into Anatolia. But this outlet was cut off when the Seljuks of Rum rose in Cilicia along with petty Armenian states and the Crusaders in northern Syria. The Turkomans, therefore, now remained in the Great Seljuk possessions, continuing their attacks on the settled populations and resisting Nizam ul-Mulk's efforts to strengthen orthodoxy as the basis of the Seljuk Empire. As long as Maliksah and Nizam ul-Mulk lived, these disruptive tensions were controlled. But with their deaths in 1092 anarchy and dissolution soon followed. The Middle East fell into a new era of anarchy and foreign invasion that lasted through most of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the east the Great Seljuks were replaced by a number of small Turkoman states, some ruled by tribal chiefs with nomadic armies, others by Seljuk princes under the tutelage and domination of military chiefs approinted as regents (atabegs) by the decaying sultanate. In Anatolia, the Seljuks of Rum managed to extend their rule though they were cut off from their kingdoms in Cilicia and at Antioch and Edessa. The last Great Seljuk ruler was Sultan Sancar, son of Maliksah, who gained control (1096) of the province of Horasan, in the northeast, shortly after the death of his father. To him fell the bleak task of defending the Middle East against the Mongol hordes that now threatened it from Transoxania, but after his death in 1157 there was little left to stand in their way. At the same time, a strong and able caliph, al-Nasir suppressed many of the independent Turkomans in Iraq and established direct caliphal rule once again, even getting the Assassins of Alamut to refrain from their terroristic policies in return for recognition of autonomy. He also continued the Seljuk's work of reviving Islamic orthodoxy through the sufi mystic orders, using the futuwwah borhterhoods originally formed by lower-class artisans in the large cities as guilds and mutual-aid organizations, absorbing them into the sufi system, giving them religious ideals into which they could channel their energies, and making them into a kind of chivalric society and an instrument through which Islamic society could revitalize itself in the age of political disruption.

With the death of al-Nasir and the extinction of the Great Seljuk line the Middle East fell mostly to two new Mongol invaders from the east. In the mid- and late twelfth century most of the Mongols were driven out of northern China. Those Mongols who fled westward formed the Kara Hitay Empire, which took much of Transoxania in the late twelfth century in succession to the Seljuks. Other Mongols stayed in China, forming confederations and alliances against the continued attacks of their enemies from north and south. In 1205 the united Mongol confederation came under the leadership of one Temugin, who took the title Genghis Han (Great Han) to manifest his claim and ambition of uniting all the Mongols and, perhaps, all of the Ataic peoples under his leadership. Between 1206 and 1215 he incorporated most of the Asian steppes between northern China and Transoxania into his empire, in the process adding large numbers of Turkomans to his army while building a society devoted almost entirely to war. He next aimed at moving back into China, but when he was unable to establish a peaceful relationship with the Hvarezmsahs who had displaced both the Great Seljuks and the Kara Hitays in Transoxania, he responded with and attack that overwhelmed the Middle East in a relatively short time. In the end the invasion was stopped not by the Middle East's military defenses, but rather by periodic crises within the Mongol Empire caused by the deaths of Genghis Han and his successors. In 1242 the Mongols defeated the Seljuks of Rum and forced them to recognize the Mongol Great Han as suzerain.

08-13-2003, 17:47

08-13-2003, 17:48
ghazi warriors

Although the Seljuks largely succeeded in settling and unifying the Turkish nomads in their territory, there remained a distinct difference between the Seljuk aristocracy that administrated the realm, and the Turkish people who inhabited it. Much of the population came from the warrior tradition that had made the Turks both a feared and prized military force throughout the Islamic world. We already saw in Chapter 3 how Turks were used as slave soldiers in many Islamic dynasties, and even managed to establish their own military state under the Mamluks in Egypt.

In Asia Minor, these Turkish warriors were known as gazis, meaning "warriors of the faith." Gazi warriors believed that it was their sacred duty to extend the territory controlled by Islamic rulers, particularly if it was done at the expense of non-Muslims. In addition to their religious motivation, gazi warriors were also lured by the booty available to them following a victory. The principle strategy of gazi warriors was to conduct gaza, or raids, into non-Muslim territory. During the Mongol rule over the Seljuks in Asia Minor, the gazi warriors conducted frequent raids into Byzantine lands. As the Seljuk administration disintegrated along with that of the Mongols, it was the gazis who took power for the Turks. The Ottoman Empire was in fact founded by gazis, and as a gazi state its major mission was military conquest.

08-13-2003, 17:55

here we go enough spaming from me for today

08-13-2003, 18:01

One of the main factors of the Ottoman Empire, which was founded in 1299 by Osman Begh, was it’s military organization. My subject is the Ottoman military organization of the 16th century, yet I have to give some information about the previous centuries.


When the Ottoman Empire was founded in 1299, it was made up of a small Turcoman tribe and it’s army was relatively small. During Osman Begh’s reign, the Ottoman army was consisted only from light riders called “Ghazi” and later “Akinji”, who were recruited only in times of war. When the war was over, these warriors returned to their everyday lives. These light Turcoman riders later formed the basis of Ottoman Akinji corps, who were one of the best troops of the 16th century Ottomans. Their weapons incluided sabres, lances, arrows, composite bows and sometimes small bucklers for protection; altough they didn’t generally wear armor. Since they were recruited only in times of war, they didn’t also have a uniform and wore their daily clothes; even tough they sometimes wore helmets. Their main tactics were ambushing the slower troops of their enemies, raining arrows on them and then charging to break the enemy lines. During sieges, they got off from their horses and fought as dismounted.

When the small beghlik of Osman expanded, this military organization became insufficiant, and during Orkhan Begh’s reign, after the Siege of Nicomedia, the first permanent Ottoman army was formed. This army was divided into “Yaya” infantries and “Müsellem” cavalries, who were recruited from the local people. They wore a kind of uniform, whose examples can be seen in Ottoman miniature books like Hünername. Their armaments were similar to those of used by Osman’s forces. They were organized insmall divisions made up of 30 men and these divisions were called as “Ocak”. The yayas and müsellems were moved to background service in the 15th century, and they were used in bridge consturctions and road clean-ups. During the 16th century, the müsellems had turned to infantries, rather than cavalries of the 14th century. During 15th-16th centuries, the müsellem divisions were formed from local Christians in Rumelia, while in Asia Minor, Turcoman peasants were chosen. The müsellems of Asia Minor were also called as “Yörük”, a name used to define the nomadic Turcoman tribes of the Taurus Mountains.

During Murad I’s reign, several important changes were made in the organization and unit structure of the Ottoman army. While yayas and müsellems lost their importance, new units like azebs (also called as azap), sipahis and Kapikulu Palace Corps were formed. You will find more information about these units in the following pages.

The Classical Ottoman Military Organization greately shaped during Mehmed II the Conqueror’s reign. During the 15th-16th centuries, the size of the army increased greately, while new weapons like firearms were beginning to be used. During the 17th century, the corruption of Kapikulu Corps, the loss of importance of the Toprakli cavalries (sipahis), the newly-developed European military tactics and the Ottomans to keep their obsolete tactics caused the Ottoman military to decline rapidly. This decline speeded up in the 18th century and even tough reforms were made during the 19th century, the Ottoman military couldn’t recover. This situation continued until Mustafa Kemal Atatürk expelled the Greek Army from Asia Minor in 1922 and declared Turkey a republic.

In the Classical Ottoman Military Organization, the army was divided into two main parts just like the Roman armies: The Kapikulu Corps and the Eshkinji Provincial Troops. While the Kapikulu Corps served as Palace Regiments (like the Roman Praetorians), the Eshkinjis were consisted of provincial troops and auxiliaries summoned during war time. This organizations was first formed during the 14th century, was greatley shaped up into a good organization during the 15th century, began to corrupt and decline during the 17th century and was replaced by a more modern-looking army in the 19th century.

The Kapikulu Corps were founded by the Grand Vizier Chandarli Kara Halil and Kara Rüstem of Karaman during Murad I’s reign. These corps were the Ottoman version of the Seljuk Ghulam Guards, who were founded by the Abbasids and were in use since the 8th century. “Kapi”, originially used as Kapu, meaned “The Gate” in Turkish but represented the Palace, while “Kapikulu” meant “Palace Guard”. The Kapikulu Corps were the first permament army of Europe, and they got regular monthly payments called “ulufe” or “mevajib” in three months. The Kapikulu Corps were divided into Kapikulu Infantries and Kapikulu Cavalries; while the size of these corps increased as time passed. During the 16th century, the total number of Kapikulu guards were barely 30.000; during the late-16th-17th centuries, the number rose up to 75-80.000. Since the number of janissaries rose up so rapidly that during the early-19th century, there were more than 150-160.000 Kapikulu troops.

a) Ajemioghlan Corps: Ajemi Oghlans were the young children raised up to become either Kapikulu guards or Enderun Palace students. In earlier times, the Ajemi Oghlans were recruited from 1/5 of all captives, a system called as Penchik system. The recruits were also called as Penchik Oghlan. As the empire grew in size, this system became insufficiant in supplying recruits, and was replaced by the famous Devshirme System.

According to the Devshirme System; an officer had to visit Christian villages each year, and had to collect children with the help of the local Sanjak Beghi, a "kadi" (judge) and a Christian priest. These children were registered in the palace and sent to the Turkish villages in Anatolia and Rumelia. They were trained in the Islamic and Turkish traditions and after their educations were completed in the villages, they were sent to the barracks in Istanbul. There, they were trained in a very disciplined manner (their trainigs incluided, archery, marksmanship, and cold steel using) and after a ceremony called "Kapiya Chikma", they were registered in the Kapikulu Corps. More intelligent Ajemi Oghlans were sent to Enderun, the Imperial Palace School, and were trained in literature, horseback riding, writing, reading and such stuff. These guys were called as "Ich Oghlan" and the best of these rose up to become Viziers or Grand Viziers. The Devshirme System was implied in a very strict manner during 14th-16th centuries; however, after 1568, this way of recruitment began to lose favor and the last Devshirme was made in 1648. After this, the Kapikulu Corps were opened to all kinds of men and soon, many jobless peasants and criminals began to fill the corps. The Ajemioghlan Corps were also abolished after 1648, since no Devshirme could be recruited after that year.

The size of these corps were no more than 10.000 at all, and was around 7.000. The commander of these corps was the Agha of Istanbul, who was also the General-In-Chief of the capital.

The Devshirme recruits were sent to these places: Ajemioghlan Corps, Bostanji Palace Guard Corps, Tophane Artillery Corps, Kapikulu Corps, Imperial Workshops and Imperial Palaces in Topkapi, Galata and Edirne.

Uniforms and Weaponry: When the ajemi oghlans were first recruited from the villages, they were given a red head gear and a red coat. After their educations in villages ended, they were given a uniform consisted of a yellow "külah" (head gear in the shape of a cone) and a blue coat. Daggers were the only weapons they were allowed to carry.

b) Yenicheri Janissary Corps: The Yenicheri Janissary Corps were the largest corps of the Kapikulu. These corps, founded in 1362 during Murad I's reign, contained one of the best units of the Ottoman armies.

Organization: The Yenicheri Corps were divided into units called "Orta", which were divided into units called "Oda". Each orta was consisted of 60 men, and all the 196 ortas formed the "Ojak". Each orta had it's own symbol, called "Nishan", which were tatooded on tents, goods and arms and were considered as sacred. Besides nishans, the yenicheri ojak had it's own standarts and "Tugh"s, which were made from horse hair. The most common of those standarts carried the Surah of Conquest written in Arabic. The other important symbol of the ortas were their "Kazan"s, or cauldrons. Kazans were also considered as sacred, were respected and if a kazan was lost to the enemy, that orta was punished. While rioting, the yenicheries always overturned their cauldrens, which was a sign of mispleasure.

The Nishans of Yenicheri Corps (top left: nishans of Jemaat Ortas from ortas 1 to 41; top right: nishans of Jemaat Ortas from ortas 42 to 81; bottom left: nishans of Jemaat Ortas from 81 to 101 and Bölük Ortas from 1 to 20; bottom right: nishans of Bölük Ortas from 21 to 61)

Some of the Ottoman Banners (1: Banner of the sultans; 2: Cavalry Lance; 3:Banner of the sultans; 4 & 5: Ottoman Tughs; 6:Banner of pashas; 7:Banner of Toprakli Cavalries; 8: Banner of Kapikulu Cavalry Corps; 9: Banner of Silahdar Corps; 10: Banner of Topchu Corps; 11: Banner of Yenicheri Corps; 12: Banner of Gönüllüs; 13: Banner of Delil Cavalries; 14: Banner of Kapikulu Sipahi Corps; 15: Banner of Humbaraji Corps)

The first ten ortas were called as Agha Bölüks, from 11 to 101 as Jemaat Bölüks and from 102 to 134 as Sekban Bölüks. Each orta was commanded by a "Chorbaji" and all the 196 ortas were commanded by the Yenicheri Aghasi (Agha of the Janissaries). The other officer ranks were these (from the highest to lowest): Yenicheri Aghasi, Sekbanbashi, Kul Kethudasi, Zagharjibashi, Saksonjubashi, Turnajibashi, Haseki, Bashchavush, Bashdeveji, Deveji, Bashyayabashi, Muhzir Agha, Kethüda Yeri and Bashbölükbashi.

During the battles, a band of musicians were formed called Mehteran, who played military marches to encourage the friendly troops, demolorize the enemy and to carry off orders to the soldiers. The Mehterhane was a part of the Ojak and went to the campaigns with the yenicheries. The marches of Mehterhane usually struck fear into the hearts of the enemies, who were demolorized.

When the yenicheri corps were first founded in 1362, there were only a thousand yenicheries. Their numbers were around five thousand until the mid-15th century, and their numbers were rised to eight thousand after the Conquest of Istanbul in 1453. During their peak, their numbers never exceeded 12.000, but began to rise after Suleiman I's death. In 1595, their numbers became 45.000, in 1789 110.000 and rose up to 140.000 in 1808.

The famed discipline of the yenicheries began to decline after the corps were opened to all types of men, and they began to run away from the battles during the 17th century. They did not keep up with the modern tactics, began rioting, began looting towns and kept stopping the reforms from being done. This continued until 1826, when the corps were wiped out with cannon fire by Mahmud II, in an event called "Vaka-i Hairiye".

Uniforms: The yenicheries wore a white head gear called "Börk", which was some 45 cm. long. Börk were the same in most of the units; however, a smaller version was also worn by some troops. Their uniforms consisted a blue or dark blue dress and a red or yellow robe called "Dolama". The officers had to replace their uniforms two times a year, while the ordinary soldiers replaced once in a year. Boots were red for High-ranked officers and black for low-ranked officers. The uniform of the Solaks and Peyks (elite of the yenicheries) were different than ordinary yenicheries; they wore a yellow uniform and a bronze helmet. The Bostanjis, guards of the Palace, wore a red head gear called "Battara" and a red robe. While in parades, all the yenicheries placed plums and grotesque feathers on their börks, as mentioned by Western visitors to Istanbul.

Weapons: Yenicheries were divided into many different units: Zirhli Nefer armored soldeirs, Tüfekchi musketeers, Okchu archers, Solaks, Peyks and Bostanji palaca guards. Zirhli nefers wore chain armors supported by small iron pieces and helmets; carried a variety of swords, battle axes, pole arms, hooked spears, maces, lassoes, daggers and a variety of shields ranging from small round shields to rectangular Balkan-style shields. Solaks and Peyks wore helmets but never wore armor; carried halberds called, gaddaras and daggers or composite bows and spears.

Some of the melee weapons used in the Ottoman army were "Pala" curved swords, "Kilich" broad swords, "Yataghan" short swords, "Gaddara" and "Mech" straight swords, lassoes, maces ("Sheshper" and "Kochbashi" are examples), battle axes ("Balta" and "Teber"), "harba" halberds, pole arms, "Mizrak" spears, hooked spears like "Tirpan" and "Zipkin" and "Hancher" daggers.

Tüfekchi musketeers were armed with a variety of muskets, swords, axes and daggers. During the 15th century, arquebuses were more common but their musket varieties increased rapidly during the 16th century. Muskets incluided giant trench muskets, flintlock muskets, matchlock muskets, carbines for cavalries and many more musket types.

The armaments of Okchu archers were similar to those of the musketeers; the only difference was their composite bows, which replaced muskets. The number of archer ortas were rather small, and most of them were turned to musketeers in the 15th century. Bow types incluided short composite bows, "Chagra" crossbows and "Zemberek" heavy crossbows, which shot bolts as thick as a human thumb.

Tactics: The yenicheries were usually placed behind the Yerlikulu provincial infantries and in front of the cannons during battles. While the yerlikulu were withdrawing, zirhli nefer yenicheries usually embroided the enemy heavy cavalries and brought them in to the range of the cannons. After the cannons were fired, musketeers usually opened fired and the shocked enemies would be wiped off by both the zirhli nefers and yerlikulu infantries. The protection of the sultan was responsible to the Solaks, Peyks and Kapikulu cavalries.

During sieges, artilleries, archers and musketeers would try to weaken the enemy and zirhli nefers would assault the fortifications. Missile troops were usually protected by huge wooden siege mantlets.

c) Jebeji Armorer Corps: The Jebeji Corps were founded by Mehmed II before the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. Jebejis were the armorers of the army; they were responsible from the production of the weapons of yenicheries; they stocked those weapons into armories called Jebehane (Jebe meant arms in Ottoman Turkish) and distributed them to the yenicheries in times of war. The jebejis were commanded by a Jebejibashi and were organized in 37 ortas and 59 squadrons. In earlier times, they were recruited from the Ajemi Oghlans.

The jebejis had a uniform, which was consisted of a large turban and a blue coat. They didn't carry arms and didn't fight in battles; altough there were always a couple of jebejis garrisoned in forts. During the late-16th century, their numbers were barely 650; altough their numbers rose up to 5.700 in 1609.

d) Topchu Artillery Corps: The Topchu Corps were founded by Murad II in mid-15th century; altough there was a similar organization which used catapults before. Their main missions were to manifacture artilleries (especially cannons) in Tophanes (Artillery Workshops) and use them in battles. They had a distinguishing uniform, which incluided head gears in Balkan styles as depicted in many Ottoman miniatures. Since they were background units, they didn't carry arms and were commanded by a Topchubashi. The topchus were divided into two units: Dökümjüs (the ones who manifactured the artilleries) and the ones who used them in battles. The recruitment of Topchus were more complex then the other Kapikulu units because the Topchubashi had to ask the Divan-i Hümayun (Ottoman Grand Council) in order to recruit topchus from Ajemi Oghlans. If a topchu served well, he was either promoted or given a Timar (fief) land. The size of the Topchu Corps were around 1.100 topchus at most of the times.

The Ottomans acquired firearms, especially cannons, from Hungary, Venice or Genoa during mid-14th century (when cannons were not used that widely in Europe). According to some sources, the Ottomans used cannons at the Battle of Kosovo in for the first time (tough, just to scare the enemy horses) but the first real useage of cannons were in the early-15th century. During Mehmed II's reign, the Ottoman artillery technologies were greately improved, partly due to the help of the Hungarian engineers like Urban; and bronze cannons were used in many sieges like Istanbul in 1453. The largest of the tophane manifacturies were located in Istanbul, Belgrade, Buda and Temeshvar (Timisoara) and the Ottomans had great uses of cannons in battles like Chaldiran and Monacz. The Ottomans contiuned to manifacture bronze cannons even in the late-17th century, when the European nations had already begun developing light field artilleries, which were much more efeective than the heavy Ottoman cannons. The Ottomans didn't use them until late-18th century, but it was too late to revive the strenght of Ottoman cannon useage.

e) Top Arabaji Gun-Carriage Corps: The Top Arabaji Corps were founded by Murad II just after the foundation of the Topchu Corps, altough these corps were actually a part of the Topchu Corps. The Top Arabaji gun-carriers were responsible from the production of carriage carts and the transport of cannons into the battlefields. The Top Arabajis were commanded by an Arabajibashi but they didn't have a uniform (or they had but we don't know). Recruitments were made from the Ajemi Oghlans and their numbers were between 400 and 700 at all times.

f) Humbaraji Grenadier Corps: Altough it's foundation date is unclear, the Humbaraji Corps must have been founded in late-15th century. Humbarajis were consisted of grenadiers who were used for throwing grenades into the besieged forts; and their another duty was to manifacture Humbaras (grenades) and mortars. The Humbaraji Corps were reformed by Comte De Bonneval, a French officer in Ottoman service, during Mahmud I's reign. The Humbarajis were commanded by a Humbarajibashi and even tough the humbarajis were a part of the Kapikulu Topchu Corps, there were some fief-holding humbarajis in garrisons.

The armaments of humbarajis were consisted of a humbara, a small mortar and a melee weapon (usually a short sword or a dagger). Humbara was a grenade, it's inner parts hallowed out and filled with gunpowder and some flammable stuff. Altough mortars were the earliest firearms to be used in history, they did not reach the Ottoman Empire until Mehmed II used a giant mortar during the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. Another weapon the humbarajis used was the Trench Mortar, a giant weapon similar to both a musket and a mortar. It threw grenades and were used behind the trench in sieges. The uniforms of the humbarajis were similar to those of the topchus, but were replaced in the 18th century with a new uniform, which contained a black cylinder-looking head gear.

g) Laghimji Sappers Corps: The Laghimji Sappers Corps were founded by Mehmed II just before the Siege of Constantinople in 1453; altough these Kapikulu Laghimjis were under the commander of Jebejibashi. The Laghimjis' missions were generally consisted of digging tunnels under the enemy fortifications, placing explosives and demolishing them. While the army was marching, they also had to construct bridges on the route of the army. They didn't have a distinctive army; or they had but no example survives today.


The Kapikulu Cavalry Corps were the mounted arm of the Kapikulu Palace Corps. Even tough there was only one type of corps during Murad I's reign, the Silahdars; new corps were added during Mehmed II's reign like the Sipahis, Right Ulufejis, Left Ulufejis, Right Garibs and Left Garibs. The Kapikulu Cavalries were either selected from the students of the Enderun Palace School or from promoted janissaries. They always got higher salaries, as well as higher status from the Kapikulu infantries These cavalries were also called as People of the Six Units, because there were six Kapikulu cavalry corps. The cavalry officers were composed of Aghas of Bölüks (Divisions), Beghs of Kethüda, Pirs of Kethüda, Katips, Kalfas, Bashchavushes and Chavushes. The unfiorms of the Kapikulu cavalries were very similar to the janissaries; and their armaments were usually composed of a pala, a lance or a gaddara.

a) Sipahi Corps: The Sipahi Corps, founded by Mehmed II, were the most crowded corps of the Kapikulu cavalries. Due to the color of their banners, they were also called as "Kirmizi Bayrak", meaning Red Banners. In peace time, their duty was collecting taxes; but in campaigns, they were ordered to guard the constructions of small man-made hills called "Ordu/Sanjak Tepesi" (which were used for signalling) and trenchs in sieges. During battles, however, they were usually positioned on the right side of the sultan. The Sipahis were organised in units of 300 bölüks, each composed of 20 or 30 cavalries. During the 16th century, there were no more than 2.200 sipahis; yet their numbers rose up to 7.000 at the end of the century, and became 8.000 in the early-17th century.

b) Silahdar Corps: Called "Sari Bayrak"-"Yellow Banner", the Silahdar Corps were the oldest of the Kapikulu Cavalries. During campaigns, they used to collect the background service units like müsellems and yörüks. In battles, they were positioned on the left side of the sultan and were ordered to protect the Imperial tent of the sultan. The personal bodyguards, who always followed the sultan whereever he went, were selected from the Silahdars. The Silahdar Corps were divided into 250 bölüks; and their numbers were 2.200 in the 16th century. Just like the other Kapikulu troops, their numbers rose also thereafter: 5.000 in the late-16th century and 7.500 in the early-17th century.

A Silahdar Agha, personal guard of the sultan

c) Right and Left Ulufeji Corps: Also called as Orta (Medium) Bölüks, these Ulufeji cavalries were used to protect the treasuries of the army (ulufe was the salary paid to the Kapikulu troops; the ulufejis got their name from there). The Right ulufejis were called as "Yeshil Bayrak" (Green Banner) and the colors of the banners of the Left Ulufejis were composed of white and yellow. These corps were consisted of 120 Right and 100 Left bölüks; and their numbers were between 800 and 3.500 throughout Ottoman history.

d) Right and Left Garib Corps: Also called as Ashaghi (Lower) Bölüks, the Garib corps were the smallest of the Kapikulu cavalries. The garibs were used in the carriage of the army's treasures and goods; and in battles, they were responsible from the protection of the Sanjak-i Sherif (Prophet's Banner) and other standarts/banners. The garibs were organized in 200 bölüks, each composed of 100 men; and their numbers were between 800 and 1.900.


All the non-Kapikulu units of the Ottoman army were called as Eshkinji, who were mostly provincial troops who were summoned in times of war (Eshkinji meant "Soldier who joined the campaigns"). The Eshkinjis always formed the majority of the army, and were recruited from the provinces outside of the capital.

TOPRAKLI CAVALRIES (SIPAHIS) The Toprakli Cavalries (also called as Sipahi; don't confuse them with the Kapikulu Sipahis) formed the majority of both the Ottoman army and the Eshkinjis. These toprakli cavalries were composed of two types of soldiers: timar (fief) holding Timarli Sipahi heavy cavalries and Jebelü light cavalries. In battles, they used to charge at the weakened enemy ranks and break the enemy defences; this charge was usually succesful, and most of the Ottoman's foes couldn't expel such a charge. The toprakli cavalries were first introduced durind Murad I's reign, who was famous from his reforms in the army. For many centuries (14th-17th), they formed the backbone of the ermy and were by far the strongest among the other units (partly due to their numerical superiority). In the late-17th century, however, they lost their importance, became obsolete and were switched to background service troops (just like the müsellems and yayas). After the Tanzimat Reforms in 1839, they were abolished and replaced by Redif Divisions, who served on the countryside.

a) Timarli Sipahis: Timarli Sipahis were the experienced soldiers, who were awarded by a piece of land for their contributions in battles or sieges. After they got the land, they were ordered to train Jebelü light cavalries according to their incomes from that land. At times of war, they had to join the army with their jebelüs; and at times of peace, they were responsible from the protection of their district. This way of recruitment was called as Timar System, which was similar to the Sui Chinese Fu and Seljuk Iqta Systems. The timarli sipahis can be considered as the equivalent of a Medieval European knight, and jebelüs as their men-at-arms.

Timarli sipahis never got monthly payments like the Kapikulu troops had; and instead, they supplied themselves with their incomes from their timar lands. If a timarli sipahi committed a crime, his punishment changed according to the level of that crime. Taking the timar land from it's owner was the worst punishment and was usually implied on the ones who didn't join the campaigns without any reason.

Uniforms and Armaments: Timarli sipahis didn't have a uniform, but in battles, they wore chain mail and iron helmets. Usually, cavalry armor was identical from the infantry armor, so a timarli sipahi was easily identified. Their weapons incluided a sabre, a lance, a mace/lassoe, a dagger and sometimes a small round shield and a composite bow. After the 16th century, they also began carrying a pair or two pairs of pistols.

b) Jebelüs: Jebelüs were the light cavalries trained and comanded by timarli sipahis. Altough they were mostly recruited from peasants, they were strictly trained and were experts of sword wielding and horseback riding. They usually didn't wear armor, but wore helmets and usually carried round shields. Their weapons were consisted of classical Ottoman cavalry weapons: a sabre, a lance, a dagger, a composite bow and sometimes a mace. Some of them began carrying pistols and carbines after the 16th century. The numbers of toprakli cavalries are not clear, but they were aprox. more than 100.000 during the mid and late-16th century.


The Serhadkulu frontier cavalries were one of the best units of the Ottoman army. They lived on the frontiers and borders, and organized raids on enemy lands each spring. Even if the two countries were at peace, the serhadkulu always raided neighboring territories, and these raids were not considered as casus belli. In each raid, they damaged towns and villages, looted treasuries and returned to their HQs with their captives and goods without being caught by the enemy. Speed was one of the main factors of their successes; they appeared from nowhere, hit with great strength and ran away very quickly, befor the enemy could realise what was going on. In battles, they helped the toprakli cavalries and usually attacked the enemy missile troops from behind. During campaigns, they moved in front of the army, scouted the area and destroyer the obstacles that might have slowed the advarce of the army. The Akinjis, largest unit of the serhadkulu, also had a complex intelligience service which was centered in Venice. Each 50 or 60 of the serhadkulu cavalries formed a unit called Bayrak, and several bayraks were given under the command of an officer called Delibashi. The highest-ranked serhadkulu officers were called as Alaybeghi or Sercheshme.

a) Akinjis: The largest unit of serhadkulu cavalries, akinjis were the most famous of them. With the other serhadkulus,. they lived near the border and went on to raid each spring. Only a son of an old akinji had the right to become a new akinji, and only Muslim Turks were allowed to join their ranks. Akinjis were also the oldest type of soldiers in the Ottoman army, and they kept their importance until 1595, when all the akinjis were destroyed by Wallachian cannon fire over while they were on a bridge on the River Danube. The Akinji Corps couldn't recover after this tradgic event, and they were replaced by the Crimean Tatars in the 17th century. Akinjis numbers didn't exceed 15.000 at most of the times.

Akinjis didn't have a uniform, nor wore any armor to keep their flexibility and manouverability. Their weaopns incluided a sabre, a lance, a dagger, a composite bow and at least a pair of pistols. As I wrote above, the akinjis also had an iltelligence service centered at Venice.

b) Delils: Delils were the elite serhadkulus selected from the best of the akinjis. Even tough their real name, Delil, meant somethihg similar to Pathfinder or Scout, they were called as Deli ("Mad") by the ordinar people, because of their frightening looks and courages. Delils were experts in sword using, javelin throwing and horseback riding; and it is said that each Delil had to face at least a hundred enemy soldiers in battles. Their most important duties were to distract the attentions of the enemy and cause them to lose time. With their frightening looks, they also caused the enemy morale to go down, and caused havoc in enemy lines.

Even tough the delils din't have a uniform, they were easily identified from their weird and frightening clothes, such as bear pelts, and some of them even stapped small knives to their bodies. They usually carried a sabre, a lance, a pair of pistols and sometimes some kinds of polearms.

c) Gönüllü Volunteers: Gönüllüs were volunteer light cavalries who were enlisted to the army in times of war. They usually served in their local towns or forts, and were a part of the garrison units. They didn't have a uniform, and their armanents were made up of simple weapons like sabres, shields, lances and bows.

d) Beslis: Besli cavalries were recruited from families living on the frontier, and only one besli was recruited from five families. Their missions were to protect the frontier forts and scouting the countryside for enemy movements. Their armaments were similar to those of the gönüllüs.


Yerlikulu infantries formed the bulk of the infantry forces in the Ottoman army. Since they were collected from the villages and towns which were located on the main route of the army, they were called as Yerli Kulu, meaning something like Provincial Soldier. When the war was over, they returned to their daily life but sometimes, they were exempt from taxes. All the infantries recruited in times of war (this incluided both yerlikulus and auxiliaries) were called as Derbentchi, which meant Frontiersman.

a) Azebs: Azebs, also called as Azabs, were founded during Murad I's reign during the mid-14th century. In earlier times, they were selected from single Turkish males of Asia Minor; but after the 16th century, the males living on the borders were also enlisted as Azabs. The Azabs had two types: Fort Azabs and Naval Azabs. The Fort Azabs were living in the forts located near the border, and were responsible from the protection of their local forts. Naval Azabs are a part of the Navy, so I'll not explain them in this term work.

In battles, the Azabs were positioned in front of the yenicheris, and were the first to face the charge of the enemy. After slowing down the enemy advance and causing casualties among them, they usually parted in to two parts and thus, allowed the yenicheris to advance. And, after the enemy was shocked with both cannon and musket fire, the azabs and yenicheries were ordered to close the gaps around the enmy, and the enemy was destroyed in a short time. According to some sources, the Azabs also had two more auxiliary types of units called Janbazan and Divanegan, but the infos about their uniforms and armaments are not very clear.

The Azabs were no more than 30.000 during the 16th century; and were organized in ortas, just like the yenicheris. The Azabs were under the command of two ofiicers called Azabagahasi and Azab Katibi; and the ortas were commanded by Odabashis and Bayraktas.

Uniforms and Armaments: From 14th up to the 16the century, the Azabs were in the form of light archers, who didn't nave a uniform nor wore armor. Their weapons were consisted of shields, yataghans, javelins, composite bows and chagra crossbows. In the 16th century, they were transformed into plain infantries; and these new azebs carried weapons like yataghans, kilichs, "shashka" Caucasian short swords, battle axes, daggers, hooked spears, various pole arms, muskets and shields. Their uniforms were composed of a green robe and a turban.

b) Sekbans: Sekbans, the humblest and weakest units in the Ottoman army, were recruited from the peasants living near the border. Their main duties were resisting the charge of the enemy in battles and breaking the enemy resistance in both battles and sieges. They were founded in the late-14tn century, and were replaced by Tüfekchi muskteers in the 17th century. Sarijas, a sub-unit of the Sekbans, were still used, and served as sharp-shooter musketeers.

Uniforms and Armaments: Since they were humble peasants, they didn't have a uniform, and carried weapons like javelins, yataghans, bows, spears, axes and sometimes muskets.

c) Tüfekchi Musketeers: When the Ottomans began struggling with better armed and advanced foes like the Austrians, they decided to form a new type of unit consisted of musketeers. Therefore, this new unit, called Tüfekchis (don't confuse them with the Tüfekchi yenicheries), was founded in the late-16th century, and replaced the obsolete sekbans after a short time. From there on, they became one of the most important units in the Ottoman armies, and played an important role in the battles throughout 17th-18th centuries.

Uniforms and Armaments: The Tüfekchis were not irregular soldiers like the other yerlikulu infantries; and had a uniform consisted of a short red jacket and a tall red head gear. As armaments, they carried fuse/flintlock/matchlock muskets, pistols and melee weapons like yataghans.

d) Levends: These Levends (don't confuse them with 14th-16th century Levend marines) were another unit formed in the late-16th century to supply the army with musketeers. They were usually recruited from the mercenary bandits of Asia Minor.

Uniforms and Armaments: The armaments of levends were very similar to those of the tüfekchis, altough they also carried a type of spear called tirpan or a battle axe. Their uniforms were similar to the Algerian troops, and wore a hat common to the Balkans (these hats were also worn by topchus and humbarajis).

e) Ijareli Mercenary Artillerymen: Ijarelis were the mercenary artillerymen who served on the frontier forts and they were usually recruited from both the Muslim and Christian peasants. Since they were artillerymen and were only recruited in times of war, they didn't have a uniform, nor carried arms. They were commanded by officers called Topi or Topchu Aghasi.

f) Laghimji Sappers: Besides the Kapikulu Laghimjis, there were also some laghimjis who served as yerlikulu infantries. They were recruited from the volunteer Christians, and were commanded by an officer called Laghimjibashi. Their missions were the same with the Kapikulu laghimjis; and didn't have a uniform nor arms.


Besides all the other units that we decsribed, there were also some auxiliaries, background-service units and troops from the dependencies like Egypt and Crimea that served in the Ottoman army.

a) Egyptian Mamluks: Even tough conquered by the Ottomans in 1517, Egypt kept it's unique military organization until the early-19th century. The most important of them, the Mamluk cavalries, were slave children from the Caucasus that were strictly trained. They continued to serve the Ottoman Empire even after Egypt fell to the Ottomans, and kept their autonomous status until being wiped out by Mehmed Ali Pasha in the 1830s. Their main missions were to protect the Egyptian cities, patrol the route of the Pilgrimage and guard the pilgrims.

An 18th Century Mamluk

Uniforms and Armaments: Unlike the heavy mamluks of the 13th century, the Ottoman-Era mamluks were primarily light cavalries, who wore their traditional dresses and carried weapons like sabres, lances, pistols, carbines and daggers. They usually didn't wear armor either.

b) Algerian Units: Algeria was an autonomous province, located on the Western edge of the Ottoman Empire. Altough being an Ottoman province, Algeria had it's own unique military organization, which was different and simpler then the complex Ottoman army. The Algerian Infantries were consisted of two units: Naval soldiers called Ta'ifat Al Ru'sa and Yenicheries (don't confuse them with the Kapikulu yenicheries). In fact, there were no major differences between these two types of Algerian infantries, and there was only a single type of Algerian cavalries, who were mainly light cavalries. Most of the Algerian troops were recruited from the Anatolian Turks; altough there were also plentiful of Arabs and Berbers enlisted in the Navy.

Uniforms and Armaments: The Algerian infantries' uniforms were similar to those of the Yerlikulu Levends explained above, and wore a Balkan-styled hat and a red robe. Their armaments were composed of a curwed sword, a dagger, a tirpan and usually a musket. The cavalries wore their traditional dresses, and carried a shield, a sabre, a lance, a dagger, a bow and a pair of pistols.

c) Crimean Tatars: The Crimean Khanate became an Ottoman vassal during Mehmed II's reign, and began serving the Ottomans thereafter, until being subjugated by the Russians. When a campaign was launched, the Crimean Khan"s forces had to join the army, and usually helped the Ottoman akinjis in both scouting and raiding. In battles, they also joined the akinjis and attacked the enemy from behind. During peace time, they raided the Polish, Ukranian and Russian territories; and tried to stop the advances of both the Poles, Russians and Cossacks. After the Akinji Corps were destroyed, the Crimean Tatars replaced them and continued to serve the Ottomans.

Uniforms and Armaments: The Crimean Tatars usually fought as light cavalries; and wore flexible armor like chain mail or leather armor that enabled them to move faster and manouver easier. They didn't have a uniform and wore their traditional dresses at most of the times. They carried a sabre, a lance, a dagger, a mace, a lassoe, a composite bow and sometimes a pair of pistols and a carbine.

d) Yayas and Müsellems: Even tough they served as normal units during Orkhan I's reign, they were switched to background-service units after new units like yenicheries, azabs and sipahis were founded. The main objectives of the yayas and müsellems were cleaning the main route odf the army during campaigns and constructing/repairing bridges. The cavalry müsellems also became dismounted after the 14th century, and they were usually recruited from the Christians. The müsellems serving in Asia Minor were recruited from the nomadic Turkoman tribesmen, who were called as Yörüks. The yayas and müsellems were excempt from taxes; and didn't have a uniform nor carried arms.

e) Voynuks: Voynuks were Christian auxiliaries recruited from Bulgarians, Wallachians and Serbians. Most of the voynuks were heavy cavalries; though there were also some infantries. The heavy cavalry voynuks were called as Lagator, and were commanded by a Voynuk Beghi. In peace time, they had to guard the horse flocks and establish security on the countryside.

Uniforms and Armaments: The Voynuks usually wore their traditional Balkan uniforms and various armor types, incluiding chain mail and plate armor. Their weapons, usually consisted of a variety of swords, lances, battle axes and ploe arms, differed from region to region.

f) Martolos Greek Auxiliaries: Martolos were actually the irregular Greek light infantries that served the Byzantine Empire at it's last decades. The Ottomans later re-shaped the Martolos in the 15th century, and began using them against the mountain bandits called Klefts. Most of the martolos were Greek in origin, and they were garrisoned in forts located in Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Hungary in the 16th century. They contiuned to serve for a long time; probably up to the late-18th century.

Uniforms and Armaments: We don't know much about the early times of the martolos; but according to some sources, they were armed with muskets, pistols, short swords and daggers in the 18th century.

g) Others: Securities of the far-away provinces were established by local troops in the Ottoman Empire. I've already explained some of them above, but some of them remain. These local units incluided units from Bosnia, Syria and Egypt; whose military organizations were slightly different than that of the Classical Ottoman Military.

In Bosnia, there were two types of local units: Sharp-shooter Panduks (their Croatian version, the Pandurs, later served in the Austrian armies) and musketeer Eflaks (the Ottomans also called Wallachia as Eflak). Syrian units were composed of Sekbans (who were formed from the Eastern Anatolian Turks), Turkish Levends, Magharibas (Algerian Arabs rezponsible from the protection of the Pilgrims), Tüfekchis recruited from Elite Kurdish musketeers, Ashirs (Syrian local militia) and Bedouins. The Garnison of Cairo incluided units like yenicheries, azabs, sarijas, tüfekchis, yörüks, müteferrikas (simila to solaks), gönüllüs and irregular militia like the Maghribis.

h) Saka Water Carriers: Even tough they were a part of the Kapikulu, I put them in this directory since they were background-service units. The Sakas were supplied the army with water, and treated the wounded soldiers. The Sakas were commanded by Sakabashi, and didn't have any other officers. The Sakas had their own uniform, altough it looked similar to the uniforms of a Sekbanbashi, a high-ranked ofiicer. Their headgears were similar to those of the other yenicheri officers.


Before a campaign was launched, calculations and plans were made, money from the Imperial treasury was saved, governers were ordered to recruit soldiers, timarli sipahis were called to service and the news of the campaign was delivered to the vassal states. It costed a lot to organize a campaigh with a large army like the Ottomans had, and a great part of the outcomes were paid from the Imperial treasury. Even tough the provincial troopz supplied themselves, the cost of the Kapikulus were very high.

After the preparitions were completed during winter, the commander (usually the sultan or the Grand Vizier) left Istanbul with his Kapikulu troops and the Anatolian units. If the campaign was towards Europe, then the Anatolian troops were taken first and the Rumelian troops joined the army on the way. But if the campaign was towards East, the Rumelian troops gathered at Istanbul and the Anatolian troops joined on the way. The Akinjis, Delils and Crimean Tatars always went in front of the army and scouted the region. They also cleaned the area from obstecles and enemy soldiers, if there were any. Tha yayas, müsellems and laghimjis also cleaned the main route and repaired the bridges and forts on the way (The entire fortress of Kars was repaired during one of Suleiman I's campaigns towards the Safavids). If any soldier damaged/pillaged goods belonging to the locals, then he was punished very strictly (usually abolishment from the army or execution) and the indemnities were paid from the Imperial treasury. But, there are also some incidents in which the commander of the army allowed looting and pillaging on the way, such as the Siege of Vienna in 1683 or Mehmed II's Belgrade Campaign. During a campaign, the soldiers marched on the friendly territories freely, but when the enemy territories were entered, the battle formations were taken.

The army looked magnificiant during the campaigns and this magnificiance usually demolorised the enemy soldiers and commanders (the Battle of Chaldiran fought with Shah Ismail in 1515 during Selim I the Grim's reign is an example). The Mehterhane also played battle musics and military marches throughout the battles, which was demolorising factor for the enemy. Altough the army looked magnificiant, it was also very quick and quite on the way; there are many incidents (such as Bayezid I the Thunderbolt reaching the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 and Selim's army crossing the Sinai in a very short time). The main strategis of the Ottoman commanders were moving the army as fast as possible and destroying the enemy in the place they caught them.


Throughout their history, the Ottomans fought many battles and won a large amount of victories. Their superior tactics and the better technologies they had were one of the main factors that played important roles in their victories. Because the Ottomans were a Turkish empire from the beginning, they usually implied the "Turanid" Tactics, which were composed of surprise moves and the destruction of enemy, in battles. Altough the Ottoman military organization had important differences from the other Turkic empires such as the Gokturk or the Seljuks; the Ottomans re-shaped the Turanid tactics and used them in the best way which was suitible for them.

Before the Ottomans fought a battle, they sent the akinjis to damage the enemies' logistic centers, slow them down, inflict casualties and demolorise them. The damaged enemy army then had to face the main Ottoman army and they usually had a hard time dealing with the Ottomans. Even tough the Safavids implied the same tactic on the Ottomans, the Ottomans were able to defeat them at Chaldiran due to their technological superiorities.

The Ottomans positioned their units differently in each battle; but the most common positioning was like this:

The army was divided into three main parts. The center part was commanded by the sultan or the Grand Vizier; whoever was the commander of the army. The left and right wings' commanding posts were given to either the princes at the earlier times and later the Beylerbeyi grand governors. The azabs were placed on the front rows, the sekbans and other yerlikulus were positioned behind them, and the zirhli nefer yenicheris were positioned behind the yerlikulus. The artilleries were placed behind the zirhli nefers, and the missile troops were positioned behind the artilleries. The Kapikulu cavalries encircled the sultan, and the toprakli cavalries were placed on the wings. The akinjis and Tatars were placed behind the enemy, so that they could attack the enemy's missile troops.

The battles would usually begin with the charge of the enemy heavy cavalries. They would dive into the azab lines, who would separate into two parts after some resistance, and the sekbans would imply the same tactic. Then, the heavy cavalries would charge to the zirhli nefers, who would put up a strong defence and then separate into two parts, just like the yerlikulus. The enemy would now face the Ottoman artillery lines, who would open fire and inflict heavy damages on them. The yenicheri tüfekchis would then fire salvoes of musket shots, and the shocked enemy would then try to flee. However, the azabs, sekbans and zirhli nefers would trap the flee enemies, and the poor heavy cavalries would be destroyed completely. It would then be the turn of the Ottoman toprakli cavalries to charge. The enemy infantries, weakened by Ottoman cannon fire, would try to resist the Ottoman topraklis but soon their lines would break. The hiding akinjis and Tatars would then attack the enemy missile troops and artilleries from behind, and the enemy army would collapse into a full rout. The fleeing and demolorised enemy soldiers would then be destroyed by the Ottoman cavalries.

This tactic was implied at some of the great battles like Nicopolis (1396), Varna (1444), Chaldiran (1515) and Mohacz (1526). Sometimes, the Ottomans used the tactical mistakes of their enemies to gain superiority at the battlefield like at Nicopolis and Ridaniyah (for example, at Nicopolis, the French knights fought dismounted, and were soon destroyed by azabs and yenicheries). And sometimes, the Ottomans won the battle at the last moment with an unexpected event, just before they were finally defeated; like at Varna and Hachova. But for short, the main Ottoman battle tactic was to eliminate the enemy heavy cavalries who possesed a great danger, and then to launch a final assault to break the enemies' resistance. With these superior tactics and better technologies, the Ottomans were victorious at most of the battles throughout 14th-16th centuries.


Anonymous, The Ottoman Empire At It's 700th Foundation Anniversary, Military History and Strategy Department Publications, Turkish Association of History Press, Ankara, 1999.

A. Basaran, A. Sert, L. Ilgün, Ottoman History For High Schools, Ministry of Education Publications, Istanbul, 2001.

H. Kece, Atlas Magazine, Issue: 75, June 1999.

A. Koymen, M. Oz, M. Ozgedik, S. Akgul, M. Anahtarcioglu, History II, Ülke Publications, Istanbul, 2000.

D. Nicolle, Constantinople 1453, The End of Byzantium, Osprey Publishing Ltd., Oxford, 2000.

D. Nicolle, The Janissaries, Reed International Books Ltd., 1997.

E. Richard, Turkish Miniatures From The 13th To The 18th Century, Fontana Unesco Art Books, Italy, 1965.

C. Taskiran, The Ottoman Army At The Golden Age, Military Chairmanship.

Republic of Turkey Ministry of Defense, Otoman Military Organisation, Ankara, 1999.

08-13-2003, 18:05

08-13-2003, 21:22
Khurjan, your historical knowledge surpasses many. You are my new king and god, next to Solypist. http://www.totalwar.org/forum/non-cgi/emoticons/tongue.gif

08-18-2003, 02:05
Ah...a new god? http://www.totalwar.org/forum/non-cgi/emoticons/rolleyes.gif

So do you think he actually wrote this web page, or just copied it? http://www.totalwar.org/forum/non-cgi/emoticons/idea.gif


A huge bibliography of contemporary sources for Ottoman military can be found in the back of Volume 2 of "Armies of Medieval Europe" by Ian Heath. #This is still in print so should be available from Amazon or similar.