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Ottoman soldiers – couriers

    In the beginning, we told you that Ottoman soldiers had never crossed the Ragusan borders. In fact they had, but during a peaceful mission, as Istanbul-Napoli couriers. They used to come very often and, like others, had to go through the process of quarantine. They were quarantined in this house, which is how it got the name “Janissary Lazaretto”.

Who Were the Janissaries?

    The term Janissary comes from the Ottoman Turkish phrase yeni çeri, meaning “new army”.

    “New soldiers” were Christians from the Balkans taken as children or adolescents by Ottoman officials to Istanbul, and raised with the goal of creating an elite army. The ruthless practice of taking young Christians originated during the Ottoman conquests, when there was a great need for soldiers. About once every five years, the Ottomans would select one boy per forty houses occupied by Christian families.

    The Janissaries were considered the Sultan’s personal guard, and took great pride in their duty.

Models of the Lazarettos

    Ottoman officials chose Christian boys according to a set of rules. They bypassed families who had only one male child. Certain boys were disqualified on the basis of other rules, which were interesting to observe because they showed that the Ottomans looked for well-built, upright, completely inexperienced boys – perfect for reeducation. They didn’t want young men who had been to Istanbul because “vices of the city had made them obscene,” nor did they want sons of village headmen because “the headmen were usually scoundrels, and their children likely to be the same.” The talkative, the too tall, too short, the beardless, were also disqualified.

    Janissary couriers from this house were the most attractive boys in the Lazarettos. They are long gone, but never forgotten, because until recently there was a post office in the Janissary Lazaretto.