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The Regency of Tunis, 15351666 by Lela Temime Blili;

The Regency of Tunis, 15351666 by Lela Temime Blili;

Author:Lela Temime Blili;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Lightning Source Inc. (Tier 3)
Published: 2021-01-15T00:00:00+00:00


11

Instruments of Ottoman Occupation: The Army of Janissaries

The Turkish soldiers who made up Sinan Pasha’s expedition, along with reinforcements from Algiers and Tripoli, were the main instrument of Ottoman presence in Tunis. These soldiers, commonly known as Janissaries, were in fact made up of many different recruits, and seldom came from the prestigious military imperial corps of the same name.

The Origins of the Turkish Janissaries: An Iron Discipline

The Janissary corps are intimately linked to the emergence of the Ottoman Empire. Created in 1362, they were blessed by the mystical Sheikh Hajj Baktash who baptized yanitcheri, or the new soldiers, a name that would later be translated as inkishari in Arabic and janissaire in French. This elite corps was distinguished by the way they were recruited: it was made up exclusively of young Europeans who had converted to Islam and been uprooted from their homes. They had only their master, the sultan, as a protector; he in turn relied on the Janissaries for all his military operations and administrative responsibilities. These young Christians were Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Polish, Hungarian, and Caucasian. The system of kidnapping children for military service, known as the devshirme, was a regular feature of imperial orders. Recruiters would travel through the Christian provinces, convene fathers and sons between the ages of five and twenty, and choose the most handsome and robust among them. For the fathers, the pain of separation was tempered by the hope that their sons would rise to the highest levels in the imperial administration. Sometimes Muslim fathers even tried to pass off their children as Christian during the recruitment process, so desirable was this career as a Janissary. Once chosen, the young children were initiated into their new religion, taught Turkish, and given special training that was intended to form them into seasoned, disciplined soldiers loyal to their sultan and their spiritual master, Hajj Baktash. Their honor code, which dates to the era of Mourad the First (1359–89), stipulated absolute obedience to their officers and other authorities, the renunciation of luxury and lavishness, and celibacy. It prohibited having a trade, and specified that soldiers could only be recruited through this system.

The Janissaries were, by necessity, affiliated with the mystical order of the Bektashi. They cohabitated with the dervishes, who taught them austerity and helped them to endure celibacy. The Janissary corps resembled the soldier-monks of medieval Europe, for the bektashi dervishes would hear the confessions of the initiated men and share bread, wine, and cheese with them.

The Janissary troops obeyed the orders of the general, called the agha. During times of war, the soldiers took part in conquests along with other army corps, and during times of peace they served the palace, acted as street police, guarded the consulates, and accompanied travelers in unstable regions. This elite force had its own set of symbols, of which the pot, or kazan, was the most emblematic. It was the symbol of food: the Ottomans’ ancestors, nomads from the steppes, used to gather around the kazan at dusk to share warm meals.



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