The Info List - Ottoman Army

The history of the military of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
can be divided in five main periods.[according to whom?] The foundation era covers the years between 1300 (Byzantine expedition) and 1453 (Fall of Constantinople), the classical period covers the years between 1451 (enthronement of Sultan Mehmed II) and 1606 (Peace of Zsitvatorok), the reformation period covers the years between 1606 and 1826 (Vaka-i Hayriye), the modernisation period covers the years between 1826 and 1858 and decline period covers the years between 1861 (enthronement of Sultan Abdülaziz) and 1918 (Armistice of Mudros).[citation needed]


1 Foundation period (1300–1453) 2 Army

2.1 Classical Army (1451–1606) 2.2 Reform on Classical Army (1606–1826) 2.3 Efforts for a new system (1826–1858) 2.4 Modern Army (1861–1918)

3 Navy 4 Air 5 Personnel

5.1 Recruitment 5.2 Training

5.2.1 Ottoman Military College 5.2.2 Ottoman Military Academy 5.2.3 Imperial Naval Engineering School

5.3 Ranks

5.3.1 Classic Army 5.3.2 Modern Army

6 Strength 7 Awards and decorations 8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 External links

Foundation period (1300–1453)[edit] The earliest form of the Ottoman military was a steppe-nomadic cavalry force.[1] This was centralized by Osman I
Osman I
from Turkoman tribesmen inhabiting western Anatolia
in the late 13th century. These horsemen became an irregular force of raiders used as shock troops, armed with weapons like bows and spears. They were given fiefs called timars in the conquered lands, and were later called timariots. In addition they acquired wealth during campaigns. Orhan I
Orhan I
organized a standing army paid by salary rather than looting or fiefs. The infantry were called yayas and the cavalry was known as müsellems. The force was made up by foreign mercenaries for the most part, and only a few Turks were content to accept salaries in place of timars. Foreign mercenaries were not required to convert to Islam
as long as they obeyed their Ottoman commanders. The Ottomans began using guns in the late 14th century. Following that, other troop types began to appear, such as the regular musketeers (Piyade Topçu, literally "foot artillery"); regular cavalry armed with firearms (Süvari Topçu Neferi, literally "mounted artillery soldier"), similar to the later European reiter or carabinier; and bombardiers (Humbaracı), consisting of grenadiers who threw explosives called khımbara and the soldiers who served the artillery with maintenance and powder supplies. Army[edit] Classical Army (1451–1606)[edit] Main article: Ottoman Classical Army

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Ottoman Classical Army
Ottoman Classical Army
was the military structure established by Mehmed II, during his reorganization of the state and the military efforts. This is the major reorganization following Orhan I
Orhan I
which organized a standing army paid by salary rather than booty or fiefs. This army was the force during rise of the Ottoman Empire. The organization was twofold, central (Kapu Kulu) and peripheral (Eyalet). The classical Ottoman army
Ottoman army
was the most disciplined and feared military force of its time, mainly due to its high level of organization, logistical capabilities and its elite troops. Following a century long reform efforts, this Army was forced to disbandment by Sultan Mahmud II
Mahmud II
on 15 June 1826 by what is known as Auspicious Incident. By the reign of Mahmud the second, the elite jannisaries had become corrupt and always stood in the way of modernization efforts meaning they were more of a liability then an asset.

Classical period (1451–1606)



Head cook

Reform on Classical Army (1606–1826)[edit] The main theme of this period is reforming the Janissaries. The Janissary corps were originally made up of conscripted young Christian boys who became military educated under the Ottoman Empire. During the 15th and 16th Centuries they became known as the most efficient and effective military unit in Europe. Aside from the Janissary infantry, there was also the Sipahi
Cavalry. They were, however, different from the Janissaries
in that they had both military and administrative duties. The Janissaries
were tied strictly to being able to perform military duties at any time, however the Sipahi
were treated differently primarily in that they got their income from the land that was given to them from the Sultan. Within these agricultural lands, the Sipahi
were in charge of collecting the taxes which would serve as their salary. At the same time they were responsible for maintaining peace and order there. They were also expected to be able to serve in the military whenever the Sultan deemed their service necessary. [2] The Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
made numerous efforts to recruit French experts for its modernization. The French officer and adventurer Claude-Alexandre de Bonneval (1675–1747) went in the service of Sultan Mahmud I, converted to Islam, and endeavoured to modernize the Ottoman army, creating cannon foundries, powder and musket factories and a military engineering school.[3] Another officer François Baron de Tott
François Baron de Tott
was involved in the reform efforts for the Ottoman military. He succeeded in having a new foundry built to make howitzers, and was instrumental in the creation of mobile artillery units. He built fortifications on the Bosphorus
and started a naval science course that laid the foundation stone for the later Turkish Naval Academy.[4] One example of an advisor who achieved limited success was François Baron de Tott, a French officer. He did succeed in having a new foundry built to make artillery. As well he directed the construction of a new naval base. Unfortunately it was almost impossible for him to divert soldiers from the regular army into the new units. The new ships and guns that made it into service were too few to have much of an influence on the Ottoman army
Ottoman army
and de Tott returned home. When they had requested French help, a young artillery officer by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte
was to be sent to Constantinople
in 1795 to help organize Ottoman artillery. He did not go, for just days before he was to embark for the Near East he proved himself useful to the Directory by putting down a Parisian mob at 13 Vendémiaire
13 Vendémiaire
and was kept in France.[5][6]

Units of Reform efforts (1606–1826)

Efforts for a new system (1826–1858)[edit] Main articles: Auspicious Incident
Auspicious Incident
and Ottoman military reform efforts

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The main theme of this period is disbanding the Janissary, which happened in 1826, and changing the military culture. The major event is "Vaka-ı Hayriye" translated as Auspicious Incident. The military units formed were used in the Crimean War, Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and Greco-Turkish War (1897). The failed efforts of a new system dates before 1826. Sultan Selim III formed the Nizam-ı Cedid
Nizam-ı Cedid
army ( Nizam-ı Cedid
Nizam-ı Cedid
meaning New Order) in the late 18th century and early 19th century. This was the first serious attempt to transform the Ottoman military forces into a modern army. However, the Nizam-ı Cedid
Nizam-ı Cedid
was short lived, dissolving after the abdication of Selim III in 1807. Sultan Mahmud II, Selim III's successor and nephew, who was a great reformer, disbanded the Janissaries
in 1826 with so-called known as "Vaka-ı Hayriye" (the auspicious incident). The Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye
Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye
was established, as a contemporary modern army. Egypt, as part of the empire, also underwent drastic military changes during Muhammad Ali Pasha's reign. The two largest military reforms were the effective practices of indoctrination and surveillance, which dramatically changed the way the military was both conducted by the leadership and also perceived by the rest of society. New military law codes resulted in isolation, extreme surveillance, and severe punishments to enforce obedience. The Pasha's goal was to create a high regard for the law and strict obedience stemming from sincere want. This shift from direct control by bodily punishment to indirect control through strict law enforcement aimed to make the soldiers' lives predictable, thus creating a more manageable military for the Pasha.

Units of Modernization (1826–1858)

(1854) Infantry unit

(1854) Infantry unit

(1854) Artillery unit

(1854) Pasha & his Staff

Modern Army (1861–1918)[edit] Main article: Ottoman Army
Ottoman Army

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The main theme of this period is organizing and training the newly formed units. The change of French system to German system as the German military mission was most effective during the period. The military units formed were used in the Balkan Wars
Balkan Wars
and World War I. The shift from Classical Army (1451–1606) took more than a century beginning from failed attempts of Selim III (1789) to a period of Ottoman military reforms
Ottoman military reforms
(1826–1858) and finally Abdulhamid II. Abdulhamid II, as early as 1880 sought, and two years later secured, German assistance, which culminated in the appointment of Lt. Col. Kohler. However. Although the consensus that Abdulhamid favored the modernization of the Ottoman army
Ottoman army
and the professionalization of the officer corps was fairly general, it seems that he neglected the military during the last fifteen years of his reign, and he also cut down the military budget. The formation of Ottoman Modern Army was a slow process with ups and downs.

Combatant branches

Artillery (Howitzer)



Non-combatant branches

Engineering (Heliograph)

Communication (Telephone)

Medical (Field Hospital)


Uniform, standard

Uniform, winter

Navy[edit] Main article: Ottoman Navy The Ottoman Navy, also known as the Ottoman Fleet, was established in the early 14th century after the empire first expanded to reach the sea in 1323 by capturing Karamürsel, the site of the first Ottoman naval shipyard and the nucleus of the future Navy. During its long existence, it was involved in many conflicts and signed a number of maritime treaties. At its height, the Navy extended to the Indian Ocean, sending an expedition to Indonesia in 1565. For much of its history, the Navy was led by the position of the Kapudan Pasha (Grand Admiral; literally "Captain Pasha"). This position was abolished in 1867, when it was replaced by the Minister of the Navy (Turkish: Bahriye Nazırı) and a number of Fleet Commanders (Turkish: Donanma Komutanları). After the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the Navy's tradition was continued under the Turkish Naval Forces
Turkish Naval Forces
of the Republic of Turkey
Republic of Turkey
in 1923.

Ottoman Navy

Battle of Zonchio
Battle of Zonchio
in 1499.

Mahmudiye, 1829

Silhouettes of the warships of the Ottoman Navy, as projected for 1914

Air[edit] Main article: Ottoman Aviation Squadrons The Ottoman Aviation Squadrons
Ottoman Aviation Squadrons
were military aviation units of the Ottoman Army
Ottoman Army
and Navy.[7] The history of Ottoman military aviation dates back to June 1909 or July 1911 depending if active duty assignment is accepted as the establishment. The organisation is sometimes referred to as the Ottoman Air Force. According to Edward J. Erickson, the very term Ottoman Air Force is a gross exaggeration and the term Osmanlı Hava Kuvvetleri (Ottoman Air Force) unfortunately is often repeated in contemporary Turkish sources.[8] The fleet size reached its greatest in December 1916, when the Ottoman aviation squadrons had 90 airplanes. The Aviation Squadrons were reorganized as the "General Inspectorate of Air Forces" (Kuva-yı Havaiye Müfettiş-i Umumiliği) on 29 July 1918. With the signing of the Armistice of Mudros
Armistice of Mudros
on 30 October 1918, the Ottoman military aviation effectively came to an end. At the time of the armistice, the Ottoman military aviation had around 100 pilots; 17 land-based airplane companies (4 planes each); and 3 seaplane companies (4 planes each); totalling 80 aircraft.

Ottoman Aviation Squadrons

Air Base Yesilkoy 1911

Pilots, 1912

Balkan Wars

Personnel[edit] Recruitment[edit] Main article: Conscription in the Ottoman Empire In 1389 a system of conscription was introduced in the Ottoman military. In times of need every town, quarter, and village should present a fully equipped conscript at the recruiting office. The new force of irregular infantrymen was called Azabs and it was used in a number of different ways. They supported the supplies to the front-line, they dug roads and built bridges. On rare occasions they were used as cannon fodder to slow down an enemy advance. A branch of the Azabs were the bashi-bazouk (başıbozuk). These were specialized in close combat and were sometimes mounted. They became notorious for being brutal and undisciplined and were recruited from homeless, vagrants and criminals.[9] Training[edit] Ottoman Military College[edit] Ottoman Military College was a two-year military staff college of the Ottoman Empire. Its mission was to educate staff officers for the Ottoman Army. Ottoman Military Academy[edit] The Academy was formed in 1834 by Marshal Ahmed Fevzi Pasha together with Mehmed Namık Pasha, as the Mekteb-i Harbiye (Ottoman Turkish: lit. "War School"), and the first class of officers graduated in 1841. Its formation was a part of military reforms within the Ottoman Empire as it recognized the need for more educated officers to modernize its army. The need for a new military order was part of Sultan Mahmud II's reforms, continued by his son Abdülmecit I. After the demise of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
the school renamed itself as Turkish Military Academy
Turkish Military Academy
under Republic of Turkey Imperial Naval Engineering School[edit] The origin of the Naval Academy goes back to 1773, when a naval school under the name of "Naval Engineering at Golden Horn
Golden Horn
Naval Shipyard" was founded during the reign of Sultan Mustafa III
Mustafa III
on the command of Grand Vizier
and Admiral Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha. François Baron de Tott, a French officer and advisor to the Ottoman military, was appointed for the establishment of a course to provide education on plane geometry and navigation. The course, attended also by civilian captains of the merchant marine, was given on board a galleon anchored at Kasimpaşa in Istanbul and lasted three months. The temporary course turned into a continuous education on land with the establishment of "Naval Mathematical College" in February 1776. With growing numbers of cadets, the college building at the naval shipyard was extended. On October 22, 1784, the college, renamed the "Imperial Naval Engineering School" (Ottoman Turkish: Mühendishâne-i Bahrî-i Hümâyûn‎), started its education for three years in the new building. From 1795 on, the training was divided into navigation and cartography for officers of the deck, and naval architecture and shipbuilding for naval engineers. In 1838, the naval school moved into its new building in Kasımpaşa. With the beginning of the reformation efforts, the school was renamed "Naval School" (Ottoman Turkish: Mekteb-i Bahriye‎) and continued to serve in Kasımpaşa for 12 years. Then, it was relocated in 1850 to Heybeliada for the last time. During the Second Constitutional Era, an upgraded education system was adapted in 1909 from the Royal Naval Academy. After the demise of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
the school renamed itself as Naval Academy (Turkey)
Naval Academy (Turkey)
under Republic of Turkey Ranks[edit] Classic Army[edit]

Aghas were commanders of the different branches of the military services, like "azap agha", "besli agha", "janissary agha", for the commanders of azaps, beslis, and janissaries, respectively. This designation was given to commanders of smaller military units, too, for instance the "bölük agha", and the "ocak agha", the commanders of a "bölük" (company) and an "ocak" (troops) respectively. Boluk-bashi was a commander of a "bölük", equivalent with the rank of captain. Çorbacı (Turkish for "soup server") was a commander of an orta (regiment), approximately corresponding to the rank of colonel (Turkish: Albay) today. In seafaring, the term was in use for the boss of a ship's crew, a role similar to that of boatswain.

Modern Army[edit]

Nefer (Private) Onbaşı (Corporal) Çavuş (Sergeant) Başçavuş ( Sergeant
major) Mülazım-ı Sani (Second lieutenant) Mülazım-ı Evvel (First lieutenant) Yüzbaşı (Captain) Kolağası (Senior Captain or Adjutant Major) Binbaşı
(Major) Kaymakam (Lieutenant colonel) Miralay (Colonel) is a commander of a regiment (alay) Mirliva is a commander of a brigade (liva) Ferik is a commander of a division (firka) Birinci Ferik is a commander of a corps (Kolordu) Müşir (Field marshal) is the commander of army (Ordu)


Ottoman Army
Ottoman Army
Strength, 1299–1826

Year Yaya & Musellem Azab Akıncı Timarli Sipahi (Total) Timarli Sipahi
& Cebelu Janissary Kapikulu Sipahi Other Kapikulu (Total) Kapikulu Fortress guards, Martalos and Navy Sekban Nizam-ı Cedid Total Strength of Ottoman Army

1350 1,000 est. 1,000 est. 3,500 est. 200 est. 500 est. - - - - - - - 6,000 est.

1389 4,000 est. 8,000 est. 10,000 est. 5,000 est. 10,000 est. 500 est. 250 est. 250 est. 1,000 est. 4,000 est. - - 37,000 est.

1402 8,000 est. 15,000 est. 10,000 est. 20,000 est. 40,000 est. 1,000 est. 500 est. 500 est. 2,000 est. 6,000 est. - - 81,000 est.

1453 8,000 est. 15,000 est. 10,000 est. 20,000 est. 40,000 est. 6,000[10] 2,000 est. 4,000 est. 12,000 est. 9,000 est. - - 94,000 est.

1528 8,180[11] 20,000 est. 12,000[11] 37,741[11] 80,000 est. 12,000 est. 5,000 est. 7,000 est. 24,146[11] 23,017[11] - - 105,084 – 167,343 est.

1574 8,000 est. 20,000 est. 15,000 est. 40,000 est. 90,000 est. 13,599[12] 5,957[12] 9,619[12] 29,175[12] 30,000 est. - - 192,175 est.

1607/ 1609 [1] [2] [3] 44,404 (1607)[13] 50,000 est. (1609) 105,339 (1607)[13] 137,000 (1609)[14] 37,627 (1609)[15] 20,869 (1609)[12] 17,372 (1609)[12] 75,868 (1609)[12] 25,000 est. 10,000 est. - 196,207–247,868 est.

1670 [1] [2] [3] 22,000 est. 50,000 est. 39,470[12] 14,070[12] 16,756[12] 70,296[12] 25,000 est. 10,000 est. - 70,296- 155,296 est.

1807 [1] [2] [3] 400 est. 1,000 est. 15,000 est. 500 est. 500 est. 16,000 est. 15,000 est. 10.000 est. 25,000[16] 25,000–67,000 est.

1826 [1] [2] [3] 400 est. 1,000 est. 15,000 est. 500 est. 500 est. 16,000 est. 15,000 est. 15,000 est. - 47,000 est.

Notes: [1][a] [2][b][3][c] Awards and decorations[edit] The Category:Military awards and decorations of the Ottoman Empire collects the individual wards and decorations. The Ottoman War Medal, better known as the Gallipoli Star, was instituted by the Sultan Mehmed Reshad V on 1 March 1915 for gallantry in battle. The Iftikhar Sanayi Medal was first granted by Sultan Abdulhamid II. Order of the Medjidie was instituted in 1851 by Sultan Abdülmecid I. The Order of Osmanieh was created in January 1862 by Sultan Abdulaziz. This became the second highest order with the obsolescence of the Nişan-i Iftikhar. The Order of Osmanieh
Order of Osmanieh
ranks below the Nişan-i Imtiyaz. See also[edit]

Military history of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire

Turkish Armed Forces Turkish Land Forces


^ (Yaya & Musellem) Yaya, light infantry, Musellem, light cavalry, over time they lost their original martial qualities and were employed only at such tasks as transportation or founding cannonballs. The organisation was totally abolished in 1582.[17] ^ (Azab) light infantry, during the last quarter of the 16th century, the Azabs disappeared from the Ottoman documentary record.[18] ^ (Akıncı) light cavalry, the Akıncıs continued to serve until 1595 when after a major rout in Wallachia they were dissolved by Grand Vezir Koca Sinan Paşa.[19]


^ Mesut Uyar, Edward J. Erickson, A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk, Pleager Security International, ISBN 978-0-275-98876-0, 2009, p. 1. ^ Cleveland, William L & Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East: 4th Edition, Westview Press: 2009, pg. 43 ^ Tricolor and crescent William E. Watson p.11 ^ History of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
and modern Turkey Ezel Kural Shaw p.255 [1] ^ Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte
p.29 ^ History of Napoleon, Emperor of the French, King of Italy, etc. by John Jacob Lehmanowsky p.4 ^ Edward J. Erickson, Ordered To Die: A History of the Ottoman Army
Ottoman Army
in the First World War, "Appendix D The Ottoman Aviation Inspectorate and Aviation Squadrons", ISBN 0-313-31516-7, p. 227. ^ Edward J. Erickson, Ordered To Die: A History of the Ottoman Army
Ottoman Army
in the First World War, "Appendix D The Ottoman Aviation Inspectorate and Aviation Squadrons", ISBN 0-313-31516-7, p. 227.) ^ mohammad nasiru din baba ^ Teaching world civilization with joy and enthusiasm, Benjamin Lee Wren, page 146 ^ a b c d e An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, Halil İnalcik, page 89 ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ottoman warfare, 1500–1700, Rhoads Murphey, page 45 ^ a b History of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
and modern Turkey, Stanford J. Shaw, page 127 ^ Ottoman warfare, 1500–1700, Rhoads Murphey, page 42 ^ Guild dynamics in seventeenth-century Istanbul: fluidity and leverage, Eunjeong Yi, page 134 ^ The state at war in South Asia, Pradeep Barua, page 57 ^ An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, Halil İnalcik , page 92, 1997 ^ Mesut Uyar, Edward J. Erickson, A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk, Pleager Security International, ISBN 978-0-275-98876-0, 2009, p. 62. ^ History of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
and modern Turkey, Stanford J. Shaw, page 129

External links[edit]

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"Turkey Prepares for War 1913–1914" by Lt. Col. Edward J. Erickson Turkey in World War I History of the Ottoman Military Music

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