|The Fighting Messmates - The Curious Role of Food in Turkey’s Legendary Janissary Corps
|Year of Publication
|Military History Now
|Edirne, food, Janissaries, Sinan
|Formed in the 14th Century, to serve as the sultan’s personal army, the janissaries were supposed to operate outside the system of Ottoman feudal loyalties. To achieve this, all janissaries were recruited from the non-Turkish (especially Christian) slaves paid as tribute by the conquered peoples under Ottoman rule. The word janissary literally means ‘new soldier’ and the system of forced conscription, known as the devşirme (blood tax), took boys of around nine years old from their families and converted them to Islam before training them in the arts of war. Forbidden to marry and housed in communal barracks, every janissary was the personal property of the sultan. So how did these slave-soldiers become an elite fighting force with the power to depose their almighty master?