Janissaries and Adoption

Chamberlain of Sultan Murad IV with janissaries


These were members of the elite infantry of the Turkish sultans in the middle ages.

For part of their history, starting in the 1380s under Sultan Murad I, until 1638, they were recruited from the ranks of young boys forcibly removed from Slavic and Albanian Christian families in the Balkans, as a kind of tribute or tax, enslaved and raised as Moslems. However, the evidence is that the boys' families did not always oppose this, as the opportunities for advancement in the Army and in Constantinople were considerably better than at home. The abler boys were separated out and educated to become members of the Ruling Institution, or bureaucrats.

By the seventeenth century the Janissaries had become extremely powerful and could make or depose Sultans at will. Moslems also began to be admitted as Janissaries, and a century later membership had become largely hereditary and conscription of Christian has gradually ceased. They became hopelessly corrupt and inefficient, and the entire force was massacred in 1826 on orders of Sultan Mahmud II.


Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97 Glassé, Cyril. Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam. (London: Stacey International, 1989) Encyclopedia of Religion. 16 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1987) Goodwin, Godfrey. The Janissaries. (London: Saqi, 1997) Nicolle, David. The Janissaries. (London: Osprey Publishing Co., 1995) (Elite; no. 58) Mihailovic, Konstantin. Memoirs of a Janissary, translated by Benjamin Stolz. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1975) (Michigan Slavic Translations; no. 3). Also available in part at: Yale, William. The Near East. (1958). Also available in part at: Columbia Encyclopedia, 1993. Also available at: Goodwin, Godfrey. The Janissaries. (London: Saqi, 1997)