Ottoman Uniforms
Ottoman Uniforms


Ottoman Corsairs

Below - Ottoman Corsairs officers, and crews (around 1792-1803) [1]:

  • KALYONCU: A "Kalyon", is an Ottoman galleon (Ottoman man-of-war). The title KALYONCU is the ship's commander [2].
  • GALATA CAVUSU: Ships' Sergeant [3].
  • LEVENDI RUMI/LEVEND: Ships’ sailors and gunners.
  • CIPLAK: Actually means 'nude'. Ottoman sailors often working naked is well recorded [4]. However, this particular reference, may in fact refer to a group of sailors fighting semi-naked (see discussion below - 'Deli - Sailors).


[1] Karargah Basimevi. (1997) Tarihten Punumuze Deniz Kuvvetleri Personel Kiyafetlerinin Gecirdigi Asamalar. [Ottoman Turkish Navy Organization and Uniforms from 1363 till 1989]. Dz.K.K.ligi Karargah Basimevi: Ankara.

[2] The reference to “Kalyoncu Marine” is found in David Nicolle 1998 Armies of the Ottoman Empire 1775-1820. Osprey Publishing. However, the term ‘Kalyoncu’ is an Ottoman galleon (Ottoman man-of-war). The title - KALYONCU is the ship's commander.

[3] "GALATA" - Is a neighbourhood opposite Constantinople (today's Istanbul), located at the northern shore of the Golden Horn. For some reason, publications add this as a prefix, to CAVUSU: Sergeant. In reality, the junior officer is simply a Ship's Sergeant.

[4] Birsen Bulmus. Plague, Quarantines and Geopolitics in the Ottoman Empire. Edinburgh University Press, 2012: 51.

Ottoman Corsairs' Leventi (Turckischer: Ship-Soldiers)

Right - Extracted from the book by Mahmud Sevket Pasha ‘L'Organisation et les Uniformes de l'Armee Ottomanne (1907)’, the Orta Badge for the 31st (from the second division, called the “Boluk” of Orta 1-61). In the commentary, for PLATE XXXIV, it states: "the thirty-first, which serves at sea, an anchor" (The Costume of Turkey, Illustrated by a Series of Engravings; with Descriptions in English and French. T. Bensley, 1802).

Right - An "Irregular turkish soldier (levente) from Ralamb Costume Book. Miniatures in Indian ink with gouache and some gilding. They were acquired in Constantinople in 1657-58 by Claes Ralamb who led a Swedish embassy."

  • This shows almost an exact same figure to that illustrated in 1805 (below), illustrating how the Janissary soldiers changed little in appearance, and equipment between 1657, and 1805 (148 years).

Historically, the role of Ottoman naval infantry originated in Orhan's conquest of the Karasi Beylik and the capture of its fleet.

  • Both, the Janissaries and Azaps (mercenary  irregular light infantry of the Ottoman Army), were deployed as marines during the 14th Century.
  • The Deniz Azaps were used during the 16th Century.
  • Troops called Levend (or Bahriyeli) were raised on and off over the centuries - over 50,000 of them by the late 18th century (discussed below).
  • The last raised units were the Ta'ifat al Ru'sa (corsair captains militia) recruited from among the North African Arabs and indigenous Berbers.


There is a specific reference to "naval Janissaries, who helped man Ottoman ships" [1]; however, apart from the 31st orta (discussed above), other orta the 'navy janissary' belonged, has not been identified. In addition, there were:

  • YAMMACKS Corp: These were a Janissary Orta, who garrisoned the fortresses or batteries on the Bosphorus. In 1826, they were abolished by Mahmud II (20 July 1789 – 1 July 1839), and replaced with GALEONGEES (Marines Corps - discussed below).
  • LEVENTI or 'Turckischer ship-soldiers' [2] [3]. Which may be armed auxiliary Greek sailors, recruited to man Ottoman navy ships, in addition to the Janissaries.
  • As well, Ottoman 'Cossack' were recruited for service on Imperial Navy Ships as LEVENTI. As 700, in 1817, were recuited to serve in the reformed Ottoman Danube Flotilla (a river fleet of gun boats) [4]. In 1824, 60 of the 'Cossack' LEVENTI were seen on the Ottoman Battleship 'SELIMIYE' (1,400 member crew) wearing their Cossack -styled "sheep-skin caps".

These navy janissary also maned the Danube River Fleet.


[1] Sylvia Darcharme. (May, 2001) Slaves of the Sultan: The Janissaries. Centre for Middle Eastern Studies.

[2] Right - Left - Extracted from the Vinkhuizjen Collection illustrations which showa a figure, dated 1805 (in pen ink), identified as a "Ein Leventi oder Turckischer Schiffs-Soldat". This translates into 'A Leventi or Turckischer ship-soldier'. A "Leventi", is actually Leventis, a Greek surname, derived from the Greek name for the Levant and thus likely related to the Turkish given name Levent. From Italian levanti ‘Levantine’, ‘people from the East’, i.e. the eastern Mediterranean, in particular armed sailors or pirates during the Middle Ages. In Italian the word took on a negative connotation and came to mean ‘pirate’ and hence ‘undisciplined youth’, but in Greek the term has positive connotations of fearlessness and gallantry.

[3] David Nicolle. The Janissaries (pg 14), refers to the Ottoman Navy, had "LEVENTS or Marines". And these were 'provincial militia raised in the port cities, under the Ottoman governors.

[4] Levy, Avigdor. "Formalization of Cossack Service Under Ottoman Rule." East Central European Society and War. Ed. Gunther E. Rothenberg et al. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982: 491-505.

Pre-1832 Ottoman Imperial Navy Sailors

Ottoman Corsairs'  Ciplak: 'Nude' Ottoman Sailors

Right - This small part of sword armed semi-naked warriors rushing the French troops, at the 'Fighting at the gates of Algiers, 1830'; are likely to be another example of the common Ottoman warfare practice, namely the figure of the ‘‘Deli’’ (Daredevil or literally ‘‘crazy’’); which is likely the connection with the CIPLAK: 'nude' Ottoman sailors (discussed above).

Warriors, like the Delis were a totally different type of Ottoman soldier. Most of them were recent converts to Islam (usually from Bosnian, Serb, and Croat origins) and were fanatically dedicated to wage war against infidels. They wore exaggerated and wild costumes as uniforms, which were a mixture of furs and feathers of animals of prey. Their weapons also looked terrifying with exaggerated features and accessories. This figure is the same as that of the "Serdengectiler" (head givers: meaning "the one who has already given his head to enemy", a man who does not care if he lived or died).

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