Konstantin Mihailović

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Konstantin Mihailović, also known as Constantine of Ostravica,[1] born in 1430, was a Serbian soldier and author of a memoir of his time as a Jannissary in the army of the Ottoman Empire. Mihailović was born in the village of Ostrovica, near Rudnik in the Serbian Despotate.[2] His book, Memoirs of a Janissary (Serbian: Успомене јаничара) was written at the end of 15th century, probably between 1490 and 1501, and provides a unique insight into life in the Ottoman Army of the time.[3] Mihailović's stated motivation in writing the book was to provide a detailed account of the Ottoman state and its military structure in order to assist the Christian powers in their struggle against the Ottomans.[4]

Memoirs[edit]

His memoirs give no insight into his early life. Instead, they begin in 1455, when an army under the command of Sultan Mehmed II laid siege to the castle of Novo Brdo for forty days. The Ottoman Army had marched from Edirne via Sofia in a campaign to establish certain control over the area that is now Kosovo. At the time, Novo Brdo was a rich mining city for silver. The garrison surrendered on June 1, 1455. According to Mihailović, the Sultan stood at the small gate of the castle and sorted the boys from the girls. He then sorted the women on one side of a ditch, and the men on the other. He then ordered all men of any distinguished rank or importance decapitated. The young women and girls, some 700 of them, were taken and married off to soldiers and Ottoman commanders. [1]

Following this, the young boys, some 320 of them including Mihailović and his two brothers, were taken to be trained as members of the janissaries. He wrote later that he and nineteen other boys ran away during the night near a village called Samokovo, only to be recaptured, bound, and beaten. The area in which he was referring to was most likely Samokovo in Serbia, located about 63 kilometers north of Pristina, and 204 kilometers south of Belgrade. [2] He writes that one year later he was present at the Siege of Belgrade. While it is likely that he was present, he had not been with the Ottomans long enough to have become a janissary by that time. Mihailović goes into great detail about that siege and the events that followed.

Campaign against Vlad III and in Bosnia[edit]

After completing his janissary training, he next serves with the Ottoman Army during its advance against Vlad III of Wallachia, who would later be the inspiration for the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. In this segment, Mihailović confirms the use of impalement by Vlad III, and adds the fact that Vlad III often cut off the noses of Ottoman soldiers and sent them to Hungary to show the number of enemy soldiers he had killed. He states that in one battle, while the Ottomans were crossing the Danube, some 250 janissaries were killed by the Wallachians, but the sheer numbers of the Ottoman force eventually drove Vlad III's forces away.

He also records that during the night the Ottomans were most fearful of Wallachian attack, and that they protected their camps with wooden stakes and around the clock guards. This still did not prevent attacks, and they lost many soldiers, camels and horses. He gives some mention of the "forest of the impaled" that has since become legend, in which Vlad III is alleged to have lined the roadways with thousands of impaled Turkish soldiers, but Mihailović never actually saw this, being in the rear of the army, thus writing about it on the word of others.

His next writings were about the campaign to take Bosnia in 1463. He details the sieges involved in that campaign, and as it comes to a close he and a garrison of janissaries are left to hold the fortress at Zvecaj. By this time he seems to have had a considerable rank. His force was not able to withstand a siege led by Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, and Mihailović was one of the prisoners taken. After his identity and ethnicity was discovered, he was repatriated back to his own country.

Works and publications[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marios Philippides; Walter K. Hanak (2011). The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453: Historiography, Topography, and Military Studies. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4094-1064-5. 
  2. ^ Živanović, Đorđe. "Konstantin Mihailović iz Ostrovice". Predgovor spisu Konstantina Mihailovića "Janičarove uspomene ili turska hronika" (in Serbian). Projekat Rastko, Poljska. Archived from the original on 19 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011. Šafarik je tu rekao da je Konstantin Mihailović, odnosno po njemu Mihailo Konstantinović, rodom iz rudničke Ostrovice, da je rođen oko 1430. godine, da je "od roditelja boljeg stanja" 
  3. ^ Živanović, Đorđe. "Konstantin Mihailović iz Ostrovice". Predgovor spisu Konstantina Mihailovića "Janičarove uspomene ili turska hronika" (in Serbian). Projekat Rastko, Poljska. Archived from the original on 19 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011. Taj rukopis je... postao pre 1500. godine, a po svoj prilici još za vlade Kazimira Jagjelovića (1445-1492)....Kao što smo već rekli, Konstantin Mihailović je negde između 1497. i 1501. napisao jedino svoje književno delo, koje je sačuvano u raznim prepisima sve do naših dana....delo napisano verovatno između 1490. i 1497, i to zbog toga što se u njemu Matija Korvin spominje kao već mrtav, a poljski kralj Jan Olbraht kao živ. 
  4. ^ Živanović, Đorđe. "Konstantin Mihailović iz Ostrovice". Predgovor spisu Konstantina Mihailovića "Janičarove uspomene ili turska hronika" (in Serbian). Projekat Rastko, Poljska. Archived from the original on 19 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011. ... cilj Konstantina Mihailovića bio je da što bolje prikaže tursko državno i osobito vojno uređenje, jer se - kako on kaže - samo onaj može uspešno boriti protiv Turaka ko ih dobro poznaje. Tu je misao iskazao Konstantin pišući o Skenderbegu (glava XV), a to je bila njegova osnovna misao i pri pisanju čitavoga ovoga dela. 

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