Ottomania: The Harbaci Palace Gate Guard (Jannisaries)

Continuing with my steadily expanding Ottoman Turkish army, I’m turning my attention back to the elite Janissaries. The Janissaries were organised into three separate sections.

  • the cemaat (frontier troops); consisting of 101 ortas (battalions)
  • the bölük (the Sultan’s own bodyguard); 61 ortas
  • the sekban; 34 ortas

My previous orta represented a battalion from the largest corps, the cemaat; the 73rd orta were known as the Crane Keepers (Tenercis), a reference to their origins as part of the Sultan’s vast hunting retinue.

Man of the 73rd orta (the Crane Keepers)

The Yeniçeri Ocaği, or Janissary Corps, aside from being an elite military force also acted as the Sultan’s personal bodyguard, protecting their ruler and his senior officials and property. Specifically, the security of the Sultan was the responsibility of the Bostanci Bashi, the head of the what were known as Bostanci guards. The Bostanci corps of ‘gardeners’ palace guards were a separate, specialised part of the Janissary corps. Their role involved the policing and maintenance of the many palaces and estates in Istanbul.

Painting of Sultan Selim III holding audience at Topkapi Palace
by Konstantin Kapıdağlı – Badisches Landesmuseum, Public Domain.

And it’s with the Bostanci in mind that I’ve painted the next Janissary battalion in the Ottomania project. It is from the Sultan’s bodyguard or bölük division – specifically, the 56th orta – and this battalion supplied troops for the 60-strong Harbaci Palace Gate Guard. They were also known as the Çardak orta after the district on the Golden Horn in Istanbul where they were pemanently stationed.

The Harbaci Palace Guard were detailed for the protection of both the Grand Vizier and the Janissary Agha (senior commander of the Janissaries, taking orders only from the Sultan himself). The 56th’s unit insignia curiously appears to have been a sea-going galley.

Bostanci guard by an anonymous Greek artist, ca. 1809 – Public Domain

Having no evidence of what my selected orta looked like, I took a little inspiration from the above depiction of an 1809 guard of the Bostanci, wearing predominantly red clothing.

There are still some figures remaining in the box, which I intend to use at some point for the final corps; the Sekban. I’m not sure when that will be, as a number of other figures are now calling for my attention!

Ottomania – Topçu Ocağı Corps Completed!

Campaigns consisted of invasions by great armies of the Ottomans, with heavy parks of artillery… The generals opposed to them, not being able to meet the Turks in the field, spread their forces in numerous fortresses, more or less strong, and the campaigns consisted in besieging these fortresses. With rare exceptions, these sieges were successful. The Turks brought overwhelming forces to bear on them. Their siege guns completely overmatched the guns of the defence. It was a question of a few days or a few weeks how long these fortresses could resist. From “The Turkish Empire, its Growth and Decay” by Baron G. Shaw-Lefevre Eversley (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46481)


I’ve been beavering away these past few weeks finishing off my collection of RedBox Ottoman Artillery (known as the Topçu Ocağı).

The pace of industrial development being slow during this period, the 16th Century Artillery box is broadly similar to their 17th Century set (but with different poses) so depicted wearing the same uniform colour, the sets will match well together.

As mentioned previously, I also had one stray broken cannon left over from the 16th Century Siege Artillery set. I’ve now put that right to make it a total of four of these siege gun teams, each with a mighty wall-smashing artillery piece. I confess to a macabre liking for these monsters of cannonry.

The 16th century artillery box includes some very pleasing poses, including these struggling ammunition carriers which, from their headdress, apppear to be janissaries which have been dragooned into the laborious task:

I also particularly like the ear-protecting character in a fez, seen here standing next to the officer in a large turban:

The plastic cannon pieces themselves are a trifle bendy but it is an effect that is not too noticeable. The carriages, however, I think look convincingly solid.

So, over the past year I’ve somehow managed to make myself a besieging Ottoman artillery corps (in Turkish; Topçu Ocağı) all being neatly entrenched behind earth-filled gabions,and consisting of 12 big guns, namely:

It all makes for a reasonably imposing sight when stretched out as a siege line across the lounge carpet. Even more imposing to a nervous population cowering behind it’s city walls, I should think! Not a bad start to my Ottomania project, all in all.

I’ve enjoyed branching out into a different era to the 18th / 19th centuries and you could say it’s expanded my horizons. I’ve already painted some Janissaries and there is plenty more in the RedBox range to expand my Ottomania project even further.

What’s more, I couldn’t resist purchasing some other 16th/17th Century troops from a rival nation state that I saw going very cheap on eBay recently, so there’s definitely some life in this project for some considerable time to come.

Turkish Delight

So, what to paint next after all those snowy winter figures I’ve been working on for weeks? I’m feeling that it’s time for Suburban Militarism to attempt something else. Something warmer… Something different… Something completely different…

RedBox have been producing some very fine figures of late. The eras and conflicts that they concentrate on are mostly to do with the 16th/17th century. This is a little outside my areas of interest but nonetheless, I’ve been impressed by their recent figures. And so, for my next slow-burn project I will be having a go at building the Sultan’s army from their wonderful range of Ottoman Turks, starting with their artillery.

The Ottoman Empire was enormous at its height and was unsurprisingly therefore very powerful militarily. The Ottoman Empire was amongst the first European nation to have a professional and permanent artillery corps and consequently were the most effective in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In an era dominated by siege warfare, much of the Ottomans strength lay in their numerous and formidable artillery corps.

My latest box model soldiers…

RedBox, in their typically generous manner, have produced an impressive number of different artillery kits for these Ottoman Turks, including the following named sets;

  • “16th Century Turkish Artillery”
  • “17th Century Turkish Artillery”
  • “16th Century Turkish Siege Artillery Gun”
  • “16th-17th Century Turkish Siege Artillery Mortar”
  • “Turkish Sailor’s Artillery 16th-17th Century”
Image of the two constructed 17th C set guns by Plastic Soldier Review

With industrial progress being slow in the 16th-17th century, all the kits could more or less be reasonably used together without creating an historical absurdity. Plastic Soldier Review states that “the guns in [the 17th Century] set are exactly the same as those in the set of 16th Century Artillery, and are still very appropriate to the 17th.”

1 of the 2 sprues of Ottoman Turkish gun crews in the box

I’ve decided to start with some figures from their “17th Century Turkish Artillery” set. Having a few boxes of Turks arrive through the post recently, I’ll probably dip in and out of these different kits.


Ottoman Topçu (artilleryman) from observations taken by the Swedish ambassador to the Ottomans.

The Topçu Ocağı (or Artillery Corps) being both a professional and a favoured division of the army did wear uniforms, though of exactly what sort is open to question. There appear to be many variations on colours, so it may be that colours simply varied with from unit to unit. For my first figures, I’ve gone with the colours shown consistently on all the RedBox box covers which closely match the illustration shown above by a contemporary Swedish ambassador. I may even maintain the same uniformity throughout all of the Sultan’s artillery, other arms being much more varied.

A re-enactor of the Siege of Vienna 1683.

With artillery sets, I guess the only way to present them is as a group together in a mini diorama, as with my recent Cracker Battery. To facilitate this, I’ve made another purchase which I hope will go perfectly with my Turkish artillery units. I’m rather excited about it but I’ll reveal what this is in a future post!