Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/135

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


the sipahis). When a new country was conquered, it was parcelled out into a number of larger fiefs called ziamets and smaller called timars, which were assigned to Ottoman horse-soldiers in reward for military service in the past and with the obligation of military service in the future. The holder of each fief was bound to supply one or more mounted soldiers, according to the amount of its value. In the time of Solyman the total number of the levy of the sipahis is said to have amounted to 130,000. A number of districts or "sabres" was constituted as a sanjak or "standard," under the authority of a sanjakbeg ("sanjak lord"); and sanjaks were combined into larger districts (eyalayets) under beglerbegs ("lords of lords"). All these governors were subject to the two great beglerbegs of Europe and Asia (Rumelia and Anatolia), military and administrative powers being combined. When the word of the Sultan flew forth to summon the army to war, there was no delay; the horse of the sipahi was always ready at a moment's notice; all the sabres rallied round the sanjak; the sanjaks gathered to the mustering place appointed by the beglerbeg, and there awaited further orders. The feudal system of the Turks, founded by Othman, remodelled by Murad I (1375), differed from the feudal systems of the West in this one important respect, that the fief of the father did not necessarily descend to the son; each man had to win a right to a fief by his own valour. But on the other hand, only the son of a feudal tenant could become a feudal tenant. This provision was a safeguard of the military effectiveness of the system; and it must also be remembered that the Ottoman tenants were still nomads in spirit, and had not developed the instincts of a settled agricultural population.

Such a levy was almost equivalent to a standing army; but there was also a standing army in a precise sense,—an establishment of paid troops, recruited from captive children who were robbed from hostile or subject Christian countries and educated in Islam. A strict, but not cruel, discipline trained some of them to be foot-soldiers; while others, under an equally severe regime, served in the seraglio; thence rising gradually to offices of state, or being drafted into the brilliant corps of the paid mounted soldiery who were the bodyguard of the Sultan. The Turks had one enlightened principle of education: they observed carefully the particular qualifications of the individual youth, and adapted his work to his powers. Those of the Christian children—taken every five years or oftener as a tribute from the subject population—who had not the finer qualities which marked them out for service in the palace, were set to all kinds of hard work; but their stern discipline seems to have been compatible with acts of petulance and outrage in the city. In this preliminary stage they were called ajami oghlanlars. At the age of about twenty-five they were enrolled among the yani chari (new soldiery), whose name we have corrupted into Janissaries. The Janissaries, organised by the great Sultan Orchan, constituted the