Thursday, 1 October 2020

Early Sixteenth Century Ottoman Army

So here is the Ottoman host so far. Of course there are plenty of things I want to add in the future but the akinji, azabs, janissaries and sipahis that initially form the core of the army are done. It's been a lot of work and required many conversions along with a real mix of figures. The majority of the miniatures are from The Assault Group and Old Glory with Essex, Redoubt Enterprises and Warfare Miniatures also providing some figures here and there.What has made it more of a challenge is that no one manufacturer really covers the Ottomans that well for the period 1450 to around 1550 so there have been a few compromises to try and get the collection looking like a force from the early 16th century. To be honest the Ottoman Empire already covered such a vast area by 1500 that it is not surprising that there isn't a range covering them comprehensively, I am not even sure this would be possible!

I could also add the stradiots to this army, along with more Western men at arms and infantry as the Ottomans called on many of their vassal states to provide troops. Albanian auxiliary contingents could be found in Ottoman armies as early as the late 14th century and a contingent of 1,500 Serbian cavalry served under Mehmed II at the siege of Constantinople in 1453. For this set up I have stuck to the figures that were painted up specifically for this army. The photos are meant to show the traditional battlefield array of the Ottomans from the late 15th into the 16th century. The akinji form a skirmishing line in the front of the host followed by the azabs who play a similar role. Behind them wait the Ottoman guns protected by stakes and wagons and the fearsome janissaries. The Ottoman leader, on some occasions this would be the Sultan himself, is guarded by his household cavalry. The flanks are taken up by the sipahis, of which I have way too few to make this a very accurate depiction!

This is another problem with trying to collect an early Ottoman army, they had so many cavalry! Rhoads Murphy in his "Ottoman Warfare, 1500-1700" states "Throughout the period up the end of the sixteenth century the composition of Ottoman armies (even without their Tartar and other auxiliaries who were accustomed to attend campaign with several spare mounts in tow) was characterised by a three- or even four-to-one ratio of cavalry to infantry". So even without the vassal horsemen that accompanied them the Ottoman armies were already heavily dominated by their various forms of cavalry. The army shown in the photos does indeed include auxiliaries in the form of the Balkan cavalry, I would have needed way more horsemen to even get close to a three-to-one ratio. As I am keen to use the collection for siege games focusing on the janissaries, artillery and other infantry has led to a force that is far more infantry based than it would have been historically.

On the subject of siege games I am keen to do some scenarios using my mid 16th century European collection and the Ottomans in the future, something based around Charles V's conquest of Tunis in 1535 or his disastrous Algiers expedition in 1541. During the Tunis campaign Charles, armed with a lance, rode out into one of the many skirmishes that took place. He even joined his men in the trenches, firing three arquebus shots at the enemy. A skirmish involving the Habsburg Emperor himself would be a lot of fun. With that in mind at some point it would be great to add some Bedouin horsemen as well North African corsairs to be able to field a North African themed army. Adding later sipahis with pistols as well as janissaries with muskets would also take the army to the 1550s and beyond. For now I am going to focus on some other projects but I have a feeling it won't be long before I return to the Sublime Porte! A selection of oddly angled photos of the whole army are below.

Azabs form a screen in front of the Ottoman guns and janssaries.

A view of the army showing the akinji, then the azabs, then the wagons and guns defended by the janissaries and finally the commander defended by his household cavalry.

28mm Ottoman Army.

The war wagons and guns.

A view of the entire army.

A view from the other side, sipahis hold the flank. This army could do with a few more units of such troops to even be close to a historical representation!

A view of the army from behind, the commander and his cavalry are on the centre left and the Ottoman military band can be seen on the right.

The Ottoman Beylerbey in the centre of the host.

A view inside the wagon tabor. The military band is to the left, comprised of mounted kettle drummers.

Another Ottoman commander, one of the last bases completed for this army, it was inspired by Dürer's image of a mounted Ottoman commander carrying a mace, shown in an earlier post. 

The janissary agha orders his men into action.

The commander of the azabs.

A view of some of the guns.

28mm Ottoman Turk Army for the 1500s.