Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/136

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infantry of the Ottoman army, and at the beginning of Solyman's reign they numbered only about 12,000; yet this small body often decided battles; they had won Kosovo and Varna, and had never been known to flee. All except men of Christian birth, thus trained from childhood, were jealously excluded from the corps, which was under the command of the Aga of the Janissaries, one of the highest officers of the realm. The fundamental laws which regulated their discipline were absolute obedience to the commanders, abstinence from luxury, modest attire, fulfilment of the duties of Islam. They were unable to marry or exercise any trade, or leave their camp. It is clear that the existence of such a body of warriors was in itself a constant incentive or even compulsion to warlike enterprises; and peacefully inclined sultans like Bayazid II were unpopular with the Janissaries who were more fanatical in fighting for Islam even than men of Muslim race. Without any bonds of family or country, they were the creatures of the Sultan, in turn imposing their yoke on him. Scanderbeg's tenacious devotion to the memory of his father and the Albanian mountains was an isolated exception.

Against an army thus disciplined and organised, propelled by the single will of an able ruler, Europe without unity could do nothing. The sipahis were still the restless herdsmen of the waste, impatient of tillage, eager to go forth where there was fighting and plunder; only standing forces of mercenary troops could have availed against them, and such forces would have cost enormous sums of money which were not to be raised. The fanaticism of the Mohammadan faith, though not so tempestuous as in the first century of the Hijra, could still kindle and incite; and it was habitual; the Turks needed no John of Capistrano for the preaching of a holy war. The insidious doctrine of fatalism, which holds the minds of oriental nations, fosters some of the qualities which make a soldier a useful instrument; but it is worthy of notice that though kismet pervades the Turkish spirit it is not an article of Mohammadan belief. The doctrine of predestination applies only to the spiritual state and the future life,—a point at which Islam and Calvinism meet; but it does not apply to secular and political matters, in which freewill has full play. But notwithstanding the true doctrine, the Turkish nation believes in kismet, and regards murmurs of discontent against existing circumstances as irreligious; and this attitude of mind, which sustains the soldier in the hour of jeopardy, has helped to keep the Ottomans far behind in the march of civilisation—hindering them, for instance, from taking the ordinary precautions against plague or fire.

But an organisation admirably designed for its purpose was useless without brains to wield it. Everything depended on the strength and capacity of the Sultan; and, if there had been any means of securing a series of successors equal in ability to the Murads and Mohammads, to Selim I and Solyman the lawgiver, the Ottoman State need not have