Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Kapikulu Süvarileri and more Ottoman bits and pieces...

The Ottoman forces continue to grow. The past few weeks have seen work on a variety of bits and pieces to round off this army. Of course it will never be "completed" as such, none of my projects ever really are but the aim has been to represent at least the major elements of a late 15th early 16th century Ottoman army. So we have more Akinji, a unit Sipahis of the Porte, a command base, musician and some casualties.

The Akinji are mostly Old Glory figures with a few from the Assault Group mixed in. All of the horses are from the Assault Group. This unit fits in really well with the Akinji already completed, I will mix all the different bases of Akinji together for even more variety. The Ottomans fielded thousands of these light cavalry and I am currently working on a couple more specialist units of light horse to further boost the numbers.

Ottoman Akinji

Ottoman Horse Archers

28mm Ottoman Akinji

Ottoman late 15th early 16th century Sipahis of the Porte

Next we have some Ottoman heavy cavalry, Sipahis of the Porte. Part of the Qapu Khalqi, the "Gate" or "Court people" they were essentially the Sultan's own household troops and slaves, sometimes both. Perhaps better known as the Kapikulu Corps, there seem to be varied spellings. For the time period covered by this army the Janissaries were also part of this organisation, also known as the Qapu Kullari "Gate-slaves" or "Court-slaves", but from the beginning these household cavalry had formed the core of the Kapikulu. Ian Heath provides some detailed information on these formations in his "Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 2". By the end of the 15th century this household cavalry, known as the Qapukulu Süvarileri or Kapikulu Süvarileri, consisted of six companies of horse. The cavalry were also known as the Bölük Halkı, "regiment men".

The first two were the Ulufeciyan or "Salaried men" who were divided into left and right divisions as to where they stood on the battlefield in relation to the Sultan, the Ulufeciyan-i yesar and Ulufeciyan-i yemin. Originally made of Arab, Persian and Kurdish Gazi volunteers the second two companies were the Gureba, meaning poor strangers or foreigners, again distinguished by their battlefield positions as the Gureba-i yesar and Gureba-i yemin. The last units of the Kapikulu Süvarileri were likely established in the reign of Mehmed I, so the late 14th early 15th century. They were the Silihdars or "weapon-bearers", notable for wearing the janissary hat or ak börk in red rather than white, and the Sipahi-oghlan or "Sipahi children". These formed the real elite of the cavalry and were recruited from the janissaries and household slaves with members of the Sipahi-oghlan coming from slaves who were children of the nobility.

A final guard cavalry unit also worthy of a mention, was the Müteferrika, the "Seperated". It was formed of the sons of Ottoman vassals, who were being held as hostages by the Sultan to ensure their fathers remained loyal. Despite their unusual diplomatic status these youths were also trained as elite horsemen and formed a personal cavalry guard, although their numbers were never very great.

It took a while to work out how I was going to represent these troops as there a no really great figures for earlier heavily armed and barded Sipahis. I really like the Assault Group miniatures but they are definitely more for the second half of the 16th century onwards, especially as they carry lots of pistols. I wasn't going to represnt the Silihdars, with the red ak börk as this would be a lot of conversion work and really I was after a more "generic" unit of household cavalry, although perhaps there was never really such a thing. It seems they also all had their own specific banners but as the standards on these figures are interchangeable that is not too big an issue for now.

The resulting unit is made up of Old Glory Sipahis, with shields from all sorts of  manufacturers, mounted on Redoubt Enterprises steeds. I have converted half of the helmets on these figures, either by adding plumes (I knew all those ones I removed from the janissaries would come in handy) or just by making them more pointed with green stuff. The horses have also had plumes added to some of the chanfrons. The result is a clourful and unique looking unit, although I can tell some of the Assault Group figures will be joining the force to bring it into the 1560s and 1570s at some point!

Ottoman "Household" Cavalry

The cavalry from the back.

Whilst working on these units I have also done a few other bits and pieces to really fill out the army. For playing any games casualty bases are essential and eight of these are shown below. All of the figures, apart from the chap in the bottom right hand corner, are converted Assault Group janissary figures. It is very easy to add turbans to the bareheaded figures to turn them into fallen azabs or akinji. The fleeing figure on the bottom right is an Old Glory miniature.

Ottoman Casualties, 3 Janissaries are on the bottom row and the rest are Azabs or fallen Akinjis.

The Assault Group make a superb Ottoman general, shown below in all his splendour. I feel the standard bearer is such a great figure that he could be a commander himself and I am tempted to convert another of these standard bearer miniatures to make a further command base. I can imagine him carrying a mace to show his status, perhaps as a nod to Dürer's great image of an Ottoman leader from the early 1500s, shown below. Any chance to get a Dürer image into a blog post has to be taken!

An Ottoman Commander, possibly even the Sultan.

Albrecht Dürer's Ottman Commander, 1509.

The Ottoman Commander.

28mm Ottoman Captain and standard bearer.

Finally to join my kettle drummer on a camel I have converted a kettle drummer on horseback as well. This figure is an Old Glory archer with Essex Miniatures drum sticks and kettle drums, mounted on an Assault Group horse. I am really pleased with how he turned out especially as he is not a bad representation of the Bernhard von Breydenbach image that I was basing him on, see the figure in the foreground below. I am really tempted to do some more mounted Ottoman musicians and have kept back a few more Old Glory horsemen for this purpose. It is often more fun working on the supporting pieces for a collection that the actual units themselves!

Ottoman Cavalry druing the 1480 Siege of Rhodes, Bernhard von Breydenbach, 1486. Note the mounted drummer in the foreground.

An Old Glory archer converted into a mounted drummer.

Ottoman Turkish mounted drummer.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Ottoman Siege Guns

The next part of the Ottoman host has been completed. Here it is shown outside a beleaguered Venetian fortress during the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503. The Ottomans were famed for their early adoption of gunpowder artillery and some of the enormous bombards that they used, the most celebrated being in the 1453 Siege of Constantinople. Shown here are four new pieces flanked by two smaller field guns that have remained on their carriages which I finished a couple of months ago. To complement the guns there are also some new "mantlet and gabion" bases,, with Turks manning the ropes of the mantlets. 

All of the guns are by Old Glory except for the second largest on the red carriage which is a Redoubt Enterprises piece. For these large guns I have removed the wheels so they can be "emplaced" for siege or field works. On two of the bases the removed wheels can be seen lying close by. Accounts I have read of Ottoman set piece battles such as Mohacs also show that the guns were sometimes emplaced behind stakes and war wagons so the dug in nature of these suits them well. This was cetainly not something that was unique to the Ottomans as a previous post will explain: Of course many of the gun crew may have had experience in Western armies as well.

Leading on from this point I have tried to include quite a few non-Turks to reflect the fact the Ottomans regularly used foreign specialists for their guns. There are plenty of crewmen in turbans but also some in Eastern European style head gear. The crew figures are a mixture of converted Old Glory and Essex Miniatures. I thought about including some clearly Western European types, in Landsknecht attire for example, but this would "date" the bases quite specifically so I have gone for a more generic approach. This way I feel these guns can be used from the 1450s right up to 1600 at a pinch although later style guns could also be added to a battery for the later 16th century.

An Ottoman siege battery.

28mm Ottoman Turk gun battery.

A view from the great bombard.

Crew members are raising the mantlet. 

The Ottomans besiege a Venetian Fortress.

A view of the battery from above. Note the removed wooden wheels from the gun carriages.

The Janissary commander advises the Beylerbey on the assault.

The Ottoman Infantry mass ready for the assault.

You may notice the Camel train in the above photo. A great source of inspiration for this Ottoman army, which has been quite an undertaking, was the amazing detail from the woodcuts shown in "Landsknechts on Campaign", While the text is fairly limited the book is really about the details from the woodcuts, it's one of those books that you can look at over and over again and always find something new. Hans Sebald Beham's Siege of Vienna 1529 is included. It's a strange "bird's-eye view" of the siege that reminds me of a 16th Century "Where's Wally"! There are loads of little details of the Ottoman siege with Turks in boats, cooking in cauldrons, taking prisoners and engaging in skirmishes with Imperialist bands of horse. These bases of camels were inspired by the print,  I have included a detail from it below.

The Turks leading the camels are Old Glory figures while the camels are really old Wargames Foundry miniatures, in fact I think they were originally Citadel miniatures. The camel at the end of the train has not been converted but the other three have all been modified using green stuff. The ropes linking them all are made from fuse wire, as are the ropes on the mantlets. I was really please how these baggage camels turned out, I especially like the base with the Turk gesticulating to the reluctant camel in an attempt to get it to move!

Detail from Hans Sebald Beham's Siege of Vienna, 1529. The line of camels can be seen in the centre.

Ottoman camel train.

One of the camp followers is struggling to get the lead camel to move.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Early 16th Century Janissaries?

So here are the Janissaries, iconic infantry of the Ottoman army. I don't intend to discuss the Janissaries history or organisation in great detail here but instead have a look at how they may have appeared in the early 1500s. They have so many notable features, from their dress to their recruitment. Originally they were prisoners of war converted to Islam and then the "devshirme", a levy on christian boys in the Balkans, became the primary source of manpower for them in the 15th and 16th centuries. This post will have a look at some of the earliest images of Janissaries. I am attempting to build an Ottoman force for the first half of the 16th century that can oppose my Italian wars collection in conflicts such as the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503 and the Siege of Vienna in 1529. Janissaries on campaign in this period are what I have tried to show here with the 28mm figures that are currently available.

There is an abundance of information on the Janissaries or "Yeniçeri" literally meaning new troops or soldiers. I've read a couple of books solely on Janissaries, yet I have still struggled to find out exactly how they dressed in battle in the early 1500s. One of the stumbling blocks seems to be that the Janissaries were an organised military unit for such a long period of time. Probably emerging in the late 14th century they were still in existance in the early 1800s. This relatively long life span means that later images and traditions of the corps tend to sometimes overshadow the earlier history and make it harder to decipher how they would have looked.

An Ottoman Anthology Manuscript of 1480. Two Janissaries can be seen in the distinctive "ak börk" hats.

Gentile Bellini's image of a Janissary c.1480.  This is probably a "Solak", one of the Sultans guard as he wears a tall "üsküf" hat.

Hunting Scene,  from a Persian poem, showing another tall "üsküf" Janissary hat, c.1498.

Firstly did they even wear their distinctive white hats in battle at all? Most Janissaries wore the "ak börk" or "bork", the distinctive white hat that folds over the neck while the Sultan's bodyguard, the Solaks, and higher ranking Janissary officers wore the tall pointed hat, which seems to be known as an "üsküf". The above three images show Janissaries in these styles of hat in the 15th century. In the first from 1480 two Janissaries can be seen in the "ak börk" while in the second two images the "üsküf" is clearly identifiable. In all of these images the Janissaries are appearing in more guard or domestic roles so while the headgear is evident it does not necessarily mean it was worn in battle.

The depiction of the naval battle of Zonchio from the turn of the fifteenth century clearly shows Janissaries in combat wearing the "ak börk" or an early form of it.  Below are some details from the image that show this. While the Janissaries in the French image from 1513 appear to be dressed for the parade ground the last two near contemporary images show Janissaries on campaign in their distinctive headgear. How accurate they are is hard to say. There is always the possibility that helmets were worn below the headgear. It is interesting that in the Süleymannâme image from the mid 16th century the Knights of Rhodes are depicted in Ottoman style helmets, a good example of how difficult it can be to trust these sources. As it is an Ottoman image the Janissaries are likely to be depicted more accurately than the Knights of Rhodes.

While Janissaries in later centuries may have worn turbans in combat you could tentatively argue that from these sources it does look like the famous hats were worn in battle earlier on, possibly with helmets underneath at times. Ian Heath in his "Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 2", which has lots of useful information on the Ottomans and early sources for how they looked, suggests that Turks wore red caps with their turbans while non Turkish troops or the Sultan's personal troops wore white. What confuses me with this is that I've also read that the "Silhatars", the Sultan's personal cavalry, wore a red "ak börk"! This would go against what Heath writes unless of course the red "ak börk" came at a later date. While delving into the Janissaries early history there a quite a few confusing things like this.

Detail from the Battle of Zonchio of 1499. A Janissary can be seen in green, wearing his "ak börk" in battle. 

Another detail from the Zonchio image of c.1499. Janissaries can be seen in green and red in the attacking boats.

Janissaries in Persia 1513, from a French manuscript. They appear to be in parade dress.

Detail from a 1532 wall painting of the Siege of Constantinople in Moldovita Monastery, Romania. A group of what appear to be Janissaries can be seen with polearms and distinctive headgear. 
The Süleymannâme - mid 16th century, showing Janissaries at the siege of Rhodes in 1522. In this slightly later 16th century image the Sultan's guards can clearly be seen with different style hats in the bottom right. Note that some of the Janissaries on the left carry "turpans" which look very similar to bills. The way the Knights of Rhodes have been depicted at the top of the image is also interesting as they look more like armoured Ottomans than European men at arms of the 1520s.

So how have I tried to depict the Janissaries? Obviously the miniatures available limit this. We will start with the "Zirhli Nefer". The "Zirhli Nefer", or armoured soldiers, were armoured Janissary assault units. They were used into the 16th century. As this Ottoman army will be used for siege games I was keen to include some of these troops. The unit is made of Old Glory figures with the addition of a few Essex miniatures to add some variation. I don't know of any contemporary images of these armoured troops and most of the figure sculpts seem to be based of Ottoman armours that survive from the late 15th and early 16th century.

There have been loads of conversions on these miniatures. The shape of the helmets has been changed on lots of them with green stuff or added plumes, and most have had their weapons replaced with a wide variety of polearms, axes and maces. The Osprey Elite series on Janissaries mentions the assault troops carrying large shields so I have included some of these amongst the unit. I have tried to make them fairly colourful with painted and gilded armour as well as varied shield motifs. While some of them have Islamic designs on their shields others have more western style heraldic designs to reflect the Balkan influence.

The "Zirhli Nefer" wait behind the handgunners and archers.

Ottoman armoured Janissaries, the "Zirhli Nefer".

Ottoman "Zirhli Nefer".

Armoured assault Janissaries. I have used a few western style shield motifs on these to reflect the Balkan influence.

The armoured Janissaries showing some of the armour detail.

The next question to address was how to depict the more regular Janissaries? How to make them look more like they were on campaign and whether to have them uniformed or in a mix of colours? In some ways the lack of conclusive early sources has given me more leeway here. The various "Ortas" or companies of Janissaries were supplied with material for their clothing so it would make sense that they would appear uniformed, something akin to the liveried troops of Western Europe in the 15th and early 16th centuries. I decided to paint up two separate "Ortas" of Janissaries, one in green and one in red, similar to the Janissaries depicted in the Zonchio image and the French illustration from 1513. This way if I decide that I want them less uniformed I can simply mix the bases of figures.

Although possibly being uniformly equipped with clothing the Janissaries were allowed to choose their own personal weapons in this period. The combat units carry a really wide variety of weapons, including many Western European polearms, these being imported by the Ottoman State as well as being captured in their many campaigns in the West. The bill is very much in evidence as the Ottomans used a similar weapon called a turpan, influenced by the Italian bill or roncone. Janissaries are shown using the turpan in the Süleymannâme image above. In some ways the Janissaries have much in common with some of the Italian infantry of this period: As with the "Zirhli Nefer" I have used a wide variety of shields, some of Arabic influence and some more Balkan.

The clothing has been tricky as the "ak börk" hat and the Janissaries robes changed during this period. The "ak börk" definitely looks to have got higher and more pronounced into the 16th century so the figures shown here are probably more accurate for the 1520s and 30s than 1500s. I have used Assault Group and Old Glory figures for the bulk of these troops with a few Essex miniatures added in and a great Warfare Miniatures figure for one of the Janissary officers. The Assault Group figures all had really big plumes, they look to be quite closely modelled on the Janissaries depicted in the 1513 French illustration, shown above. To make these figures look more like they were on campaign the plumes have been removed from all of them apart from the officers. For the Old Glory figures I only left plumes on the standard bearers removing even the plume holders from the other figures. The variations in clothing don't seem to make a huge difference, in fact they help to make them look more like campaign units. For the colouring of the trousers, shoes and belts I have gone with the information provided in the Osprey Elite series on Janissaries, although this may well be for a slightly later period.

Janissary Orta dressed in red.

Janissary archers, handgunners and troops armed with a variety of polearms and hand weapons.

Janissary Handgunners.

As I wanted my Janissaries to be for around 1500 to 1530 I didn't like the idea of them carrying muskets, they are a little anachronistic for the start of the 16th century. I have chosen to include a unit of handgunners or arquebusiers instead. These are a mix of Essex and Assault Group miniatures with Assault Group arquebuses added where necessary as well as some powder horns, match and leather pouches left over from previous Landsknecht projects. To use the army for later 16th century clashes Janissaries with muskets can always be added later.

Janissary Orta dressed in green.

Janissaries armed with close combat weaponry.

Janissaries with polearms, swords and axes.

A couple of command bases have been included with the Janissaries. In the photo below we have a "Beylerbey" or "Commander of Commanders" discussing tactics with a Janissary Officer. The Officer wears a distinctive "üsküf" hat to denote his rank. This miniature is from Warfare Miniatures 17th and 18th century range but he fits in perfectly here. Wafare Miniatures have also produced the flags: Again they are for a later period but they fit in really well with my earlier Ottomans and add a lot of colour to the collection. The Beylerbey is a converted Assault Group miniature. The second command base shows a Janissary bowing to his senior officer. This base is a mix of converted Assault Group figures as well as an Essex and Old Glory miniature. The bowing miniature was clearly in 18th century dress so this has been converted to fit into the earlier period.

A Janissary Officer, note the different headgear from most of the other Janissaries. He advises an Ottoman "Beylerbey" on the troop dispositions. The Janissary Officer is from Warfare Miniatures as are the flags. The Ottoman Commander is a converted Assault Group figure.

The Commander of an Orta of Janissaries in the centre of the picture.

The photos below show the Janissaries en masse. I fear they are probably far from perfect for depicting early 16th century Janissaries but hopefully they look the part and as discussed above it is difficult to find exactly how they looked in the early 1500s. You may notice there is no infamous cooking pot, the" Kazan",  for them yet. Maybe this is something I will add later. The next part of this project involves different challenges, an attempt to show a convincing Ottoman gun battery for the 1500s to 1520s.

The Janissaries!

The whole Janissary force.

The troops from behind.

Early 16th century Janissaries in 28mm.