Illustration from the Süleymanname showing Ottomans
Janissary Recruitment in the Balkans

A larger image of Janissary Recruitment in the Balkans, from the Süleymanname.

Topkapi Sarai Museum, Ms Hazine 1517. Photo by Ottoman History Podcast

Janissary Recruitment, Balkans (Süleymanname). This scene depicts the "levying of children" or devşirme process used to recruit non-Muslim boys for service in the Ottoman army and bureacracy. The boys dessed in red will become part of the Janissary class of elite slave state personnel and soldiers (kapıkulu). While some Christian families sought to have their children placed in the devşirme because of the power and opportunities enjoyed by these kapıkulus, in this image we see mothers asking about their boys and expressing their distress over their conscription. The boys are registered by the devşirme officer and alotted a certian amount of money for travel expenses. On their backs, the boys carry small packs filled with their possessions for the long journey to the capital. Once they arrive, they will be circumcised and commence training for different administrative and military posts. They are dressed in red in order to be easily identified should they escape. As the accompanying text indicates, boys could only be taken from families with more than one son. The boys were chosen on the basis of their intelligence and physical appearance and beauty, with ugly boys and orphans being deemed unfit for state service.

Referenced on p.12 ELI - 58 The Janissaries by David Nicolle and Christa Hook:
The Devsirme or 'Recruitment of Tribute Children' in the Suleymanname of 1588. Boys in new red uniforms wait while the Devsirme Emini, a senior Janissary officer in charge of recruitment, sorts travel expenses for the boys to go to Istanbul. On the right a Janissary soldier, himself once recruited by the Devsirme, reassures an anxious mother and her black-robed priest. (Ms. Haz. 1517, f.31b, Topkapi Lib., Istanbul).

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More Ottoman Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers in the Süleymanname

Other Illustrations of Ottoman Janissaries