Anatolia was a politically diverse crossroads in the thirteenth century.
Out of this situation one group emerged to dominate the rest. The founder of this new state was
Slowly the majority of the other regional powers were subordinated to the Ottomans. At the dawn of the fifteenth century, the Ottomans faced a new challenge from the East: the Turkic commander
Slowly the Ottomans were able to reestablish rule over their old territories and solidify their state again. During the reigns of
The Ottomans were able to establish an empire centered on the Aegean, controlling western Anatolia and southeastern Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They unified a host of disunited states into a strong political entity. Despite defeat at the hands of Tamerlane and brief vassalage thereafter, the Ottomans became the dominant power in Anatolia, the Balkans, and the Aegean.
The Ottoman armies in this period consolidated power in most of Anatolia by defeating their principal Turkish rivals: the emirates of Aydin, Menteshe, Karesi, Saruhan, Hamit, Germiyan, Teke, and Karaman. While accomplishing this, they inflicted a series of defeats upon the Byzantines at
The death of Ottoman sultan Mehmed II in 1481. His sack and control of Constantinople in 1453 marked the beginning of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman army was initially reliant upon a
The Ottomans were known to use heavy
Ottoman armies also gradually began to utilize handheld firearms in the form of the
The earliest organization of Ottoman forces was a predatory confederation drawn from nearby tribes, allies, and renegades; however, as Ottoman territorial control expanded, organizational principles were enforced. Two organizational systems were in place during this period. The first represents the initial attempt by the Ottomans to organize their army into something other than a raiding band. The second is the beginning of the form that the Ottoman army would assume in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Some of the first regular troops employed by the Ottomans were known as the
With the effective establishment of an Ottoman state, the principle of military slavery was enforced in the form of the
As the army grew, a specialized infantry force was utilized. The yeniçeri (the janissaries) were first drawn from prisoners of war and later from a special levy
Turks surrender Varna to the Russians.
In addition to these forces, the Ottomans employed various elements from vassals in the Balkans and Anatolia, particularly the Serbs. The Christian vassals of the Ottomans brought infantry forces that were often referred to as
Additionally, Ottoman armies began to include units of miners and sappers who were needed to reduce the many fortifications that Ottoman armies encountered on campaign. An initial lack of these forces had hindered the Ottomans against Byzantine and Crusader fortifications. Later these forces became adept at using gunpowder and mining operations.
Ottoman armies from the beginning and throughout the period made frequent use of light cavalry raiders, or
One of the Ottomans’ most enduring tactics was the use of a fortified center on the battlefield as a rallying point. These points were often strengthened using field fortifications, such as trenches or palisades of sharpened stakes. Later the arabas were used by the Ottoman armies while on campaign as mobile strong points containing a concentration of cannons and muskets. These strong points also functioned as command centers, often housing the Ottoman sultan and his cavalry bodyguard as well as the janissaries. These formations were particularly effective against cavalry forces and led to Ottoman victories at Nicopolis (1396) and Kosovo (1448).
Sources for the earliest years of the Ottoman army are scant. The Ottoman army began as a raiding confederacy and kept no real records. Of the extant sources from this period, the majority are from the perspective of the Ottomans’ adversaries. The Ottoman sources of the period are also problematic, because they are laced with legends and figures from previous periods; as a result, contemporary events are difficult to disentangle–and even these sources were often written after the events they relate. Another issue is that few of these sources have been translated into English.
By the end of the fourteenth century, there were better accounts of the Ottoman military. Those available in English include
Bartusis, Mark C. The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society 1204-1453. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997. Chalkokondyles, Laonikos. Laonikos Chalkokondyles: A Translation and Commentary of the Demonstrations of Histories. Translated by Nikolaos Nikoloudis. Athens: Historical Publications St. D. Basilopoulos, 1996. Doukas. Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks. Prepared by Harry J. Magoulias. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1975. Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650. New York: Palgrave, 2002. _______, ed. The Crusade of Varna. London: Ashgate, 2006. Inalcik, Halil. “Osman Ghazi’s Siege of Nicea and the Battle of Bapheus.” In The Ottoman Emirate, 1300-1389, edited by Elizabeth Zachariadou. Heraklion: Crete University Press, 1993. _______. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600. Translated by Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973. Kaldy-Nagy, Gyor. “The First Centuries of Ottoman Military Organization.” Acta Orientalia (Budapest) 31 (1977): 147-183. Melville-Jones, J. R., trans. The Siege of Constantinople: Seven Contemporary Accounts. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1972. Mihalović, Konstantin. Memoirs of a Janissary. Translated by Benjamin Stoltz. Historical commentary and notes by Svat Soucek. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Joint Committee on Eastern Europe, American Council of Learned Societies, by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan, 1975. Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 1300-1774. New York: Osprey, 2001. _______. Crusade of Nicopolis, 1396. New York: Osprey, 1999. Robinson, H. R. Oriental Armour. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1967. Ottoman Empire. Documentary (Eastern Traditions Series). Wolf Productions, 2005. The Ottoman Empire. Documentary. Films Media Groups, 1996. Ottoman Empire: The War Machine. Documentary. A&E Home Video, 2006.
The Ottoman Empire
Armies and Infantry: Ancient and Medieval
Armies of Muṛammad and the Caliphate
Armies of the Seljuk Turks
West African Empires