The office of the sultan changed dramatically over the six centuries of the Ottoman Empire. The first sultan, Osman, was a medieval nomadic chieftain whose domains existed on the edge of the Byzantine Empire. He and his party accumulated wealth through plundering raids. The 10th sultan, Suleyman, was an emperor in every sense of the word and conquered much of Central Europe in the sixteenth century. The final powerful sultan, Abdulhamit II (r. 1876-1909) was an autocratic reformer who covered the empire with railroad lines, telegraph networks, and schools that taught French and calculus alongside Islamic theology.
In this first episode we look at the person of the Janissary, who was part of the most elite fighting force in late medieval Europe and personal bodyguard to the Ottoman Sultan. They were technically slaves to the sultan who born as Christians, taken from their homes at early ages, converted to Islam, and went on to incredible military careers by conquering much of Southeast Europe and eventually Constantinople itself in 1453. Learn how this organization functioned, what it was like to be recruited in the Janissaries, and how they came to an end in the 1800s.
A few announcements about the series before we begin.