Illustration from the Süleymanname showing Ottomans
Janissary Recruitment in the Balkans
Janissary Recruitment, Balkans (Süleymanname). This scene depicts the "levying of children" or devÅirme 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 (kapÄ±kulu). While some Christian families sought to have their children placed in the devÅirme because of the power and opportunities enjoyed by these kapÄ±kulus, in this image we see mothers asking about their boys and expressing their distress over their conscription. The boys are registered by the devÅirme 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:
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).