Around 1293 the chieftain of a nomadic Turkish tribe named Osman, founded an empire that would endure almost six hundred years. As this empire grew by conquering lands of the Byzantine Empire and beyond, it came to include, at its height, all of Asia Minor, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, Egypt, Crete, Cyprus, Palestine, and North Africa through Algeria; parts of Hungry, Austria, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, U.
A.E., and Syria. The elite tactics and fearsome fighting of the well trained Janissary Corps helped make the Ottoman Empire one of the largest in the world’s history.
-1- The first “army” of the Ottoman Empire was made up Gazis, Turkish faith fighters. They were effective against small countries and principalities, but were not always reliable. (J.F.Order now
VonHamer-Purgstal 771) For example, the original Ottoman state was very close to Constantinople, the capital of the struggling Byzantine Empire, it was not captured until 1453. At the time of its formation the Ottoman state could not defeat the defending armies of Constantinople due to its small and untrained army. (Bossenbrook 504) In addition, when the Ottomans went to face the larger and more powerful army of the Tatar Empire, under the leadership of Tamerlane, the Gazis deserted. Left with an army made of Christian vassals, the Ottomans fell to the Tatar army.
(J.F. VonHamer-Purgstal 771) Since the Gazis proved to be unreliable Sultan Murad I around 1371 thought it necessary to build up an army that would have superior fighting power and be loyal to him. He began to build up the power of various non-Turkish groups in his service, particularly those composed of Christian slaves and converts to Islam.
(J.F. VonHamer-Purgstal 771) -2- This new military infantry was well organized and trained; it was called the Janissary Corps. (J.
F. VonHamer-Purgstal 773) These Janissary warriors were mostly composed of Christians or Jews who had converted to Islam. They were brought up in the Janissary camp from about the age of 5. They were trained to be fearsome warriors, although some were trained to be administrators.
Most of the Janissary soldiers were in the cavalry. The cavalry was one of the main keys to the Ottoman’s many victories. The Janissary Corp’s soldiers were paid with a regular salary now that the country was established and taxes were collected. “Orhan’s son of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire capture of Bursa in 1324 provided the first means for developing the administrative, financial, and military power necessary to make this principality into a real state and create an army” ( J.
F. von Hamer-Pugstall 773). The Janissary Corps were the most awesome force that Europe had contended with for centuries. They were the most fearsome fighters to attack Europe since Gengis Khan’s Golden Hordes.
They fought like well trained animals. “Orhan soon was able to capture the remaining Byzantine towns in north- western Antola: Iznik(1331), Izmit(1337), and Uskudar(1338)” (J. F. von Hamer-Pugstall 771).
-3- “Murad conquered Thorace, northwest of Constantinople in 1361. He moved the capital to Adrianople” ( J. F. von Hamer-Pugstall 772).
The Ottomans were not always expanding by means of war and conquest. They also gained territory through marriage and purchases. “Bayezed extended the empire in Europe and added outposts along the Black Sea” ( J. F.
von Hamer-Pugstall 773). The Ottomans became more powerful and now they added an artillery branch to their Janissary training. “Murad then inaugurated the First Venetian Ottoman War (1423-30) ..
. Venice moreover accepted Solonica to prevent further Ottoman expansion” ( J. F. von Hamer-Pugstall 773).
Murad had been warning Venice that if it didn’t give up Solonica to the Ottomans, it would be forced to go to war with them. Venice at the time had the largest navy and thought it could defeat the Ottomans, who lacked a large navy. So Murad then ordered a grand navy to be built. It was completed within a year’s time, and the Ottomans went to war.
-4- At first they attacked the harbor cities for 6 years, then they landed the Janissaries and they easily overcame the small Venetian militia. “The Ottomans rapidly became a sea power in the eastern Mediterranean” (Bossenbrook 504). After the win against Venice Sultan Bayezid was pushed into making more conquests in Europe by his militant Deusirme group. So in 1483 he pushed the power of the Ottoman Empire south of the Danube by taking Slovia and Hersegovania.
“… Bayezid was forced into a number of campaigns by the exigencies of time and the demands of his more militant Devsirme followers.
In Europe, he rounded off the Empire south of the Danube and Slovia by taking Hersegovania (1483)m leaving only Belgrade out of Ottman’s control” ( J. F. von Hamer-Pugstall 774). The Ottomans had always wanted control of Mesopotamia and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
In the month of August,1514 they went to war against the Safavid army. They crush the army of Safavid because they had superiority in tactics and weapons (they also had gunpowder and cannons, compared to the Safavid, bows, arrows and spears. -5- ‘‘The Ottoman and Safavid armies clashed at Chaldiran of the eastern side of the Euphrates (Aug. 23, 1516) and the Safavids were routed by the Ottoman superiority in weapons and tactics-particularly because they had cannons and gunpowder, in contrast to the Safavid’s bows, arrows and spears ( J.
F. von Hamer-Pugstall 778). “The Byzantine empire was weakened by Latin conquests, and now it was further enfeebled by the loss of areas from which they might draw soldiers and revenues..
. those conquered territories encircled the city of Constantinople; it was therefore in a very precarious position” (Bossenbrook 504). The Ottomans, now with a powerful, better trained and well supplied army, went and sieged the city of Constantinople (April 6-May 28, 1453). Finally on May 29,1453 the city fell to the powerful army of the Ottomans.
The Ottomans changed the name of Constantinople to Istanbul, and made it its capitol. Venice had built up a series of forts along the Agean Sea (they considered it to be a Venetian Sea). The Ottomans saw them as a threat to their navy and expansion. They demanded the Venitians to surrender them.
-6- “When Venice refused to surrender its important forts on the Agean coast of the Morea, Mehemed inaugurated the second Venitian-Ottoman War (1463-79)… and several naval raids led to peace in 1479 whereby Venice gave up its forts and paid an annual tribute” ( J.
F. von Hamer-Pugstall 778). After the defeat of the Safavid army Selim took the opportunity to attack the weak state of the Mamluks, who were in a period of civil disorder, due to the death of their leader. The Ottomans crushed the small and out manned army.
By 1517 the Ottomans had control of Syria and Egypt. “With Shah Esmail of the Safavid Empire still busy restoring his army, Selim was able to overcome the Mamluks in a single years campaign during the summer and winter of 1516-17. The Mamluk army fell easily to the well organized and disciplined Ottoman infantry and cavalry, supported by artillery” ( J. F.
von Hamer-Pugstall 778). The Europeans had started to fear the Ottomans in the latter half of the 13th century. In the 16th century Doria of Spain thought that an allied force of European armies personally led by him would be able to defeat the Ottoman’s navy’s power in the Mediterranean. -7- And thus, allow European countries to colonize Crete, Cyprus and Northern Africa.
“Dorian then organized and led an allied European naval force against the Ottomans, but it was routed at the Battle of Preveza (September 25-28 1538). Venice then surrendered it last possessions in the Agean, Morea, and Dalmatia, thus assuring Ottoman naval supremacy” ( J. F. von Hamer-Pugstall 779).
Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire continued to conquer and terrorize Europe for 200 years more. But slow decline of the Sultan’s power led to the decline of the empire. It started after Suleyman I died in 1566. The Ottomans suffer their first military defeat in 1683, and from then on started losing territories.
( J. F. von Hamer-Pugstall 783) The Ottoman military fearsomeness was still in existence after the empire had disintegrated. Turkey was formed after the Ottoman Empire was destroyed in 1918 following the final defeat in World War I.
The fear of Turkish fighters was abundant during World War II. Turkish infantryman would wrap rope around their chest and stomach prior to a ground attack. -8- These soldiers would attack with sword in hand to lop off the heads of enemy soldiers even after being shot many times. The rope around the body would help keep the Turk from collapsing as he was being “filled with lead”; he would then be able to reach his victim and “take one with him” ( Portillo, 1994).