The Janissarys and the Millet System: Keystones of the Ottoman Empire

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Topics: Ottoman Empire
The Janissaries and the Millet System:
Keystones of the Ottoman Empire

Matteo McDonnell
Atlantic Communities I
Ms. Ford
5/20/13
The Ottoman Empire was a Muslim state spanning from Austria to the Persian Gulf, from Russia to Egypt. It was formed at the end of the thirteenth century by Osman I, expanded through the conquest of the Byzantine Empire, and lasted for over 600 years. It was dissolved after it lost (along with Germany and Austria-Hungary) to the western allies in the First World War. To deal with such a large area over such a long period of time, it needed a strong military and a system to keep social order. The Janissaries strengthened the military and the Millet System helped to organize Ottoman society and both were vital to the rise and support of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Janissaries were a new form of military order organized under the Ottoman Sultan Murat I (1360-1389), and forming the first standing (professional) army. At first, the Janissaries were young Christians captured during wars with the Byzantine Empire and trained to fight (there was not anything new about this practice).
“It is probable that the Christian captives formed the nucleus of a standing army; they may also have been the original company that was to grow into a new army; the yenceri or janissary corps. Their commanders were chosen from the Ottoman bey, thus giving him the benefit of his prestige, so that by the reign of Murat I in the mid- to late-fourteenth century the detachment had its own identity.”
The Janissaries were converted to Islam and given special training. Later, the Janissaries were collected through the devsirme system, a kind of tax. Janissaries became a very powerful force within the Othman Empire; they sometimes deposed Sultans and installed others. In April, 1512, with the help of the Janissaries, Selim I forced his father Byezid II to abdicate the throne and became Sultan.
The Janissaries played a role in the



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