The Ottoman Empire was one of the longest lasting Empires in the world and the backbone of this huge Kingdom was the Asker or soldier. Considering the size and the duration of the Ottoman Empire and significance of war in Turkish History, every traveller to Istanbul should visit the Military Museum which is situated in the former Military Academy which Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkish society, attended. One part of the Museum is
dedicated to him and especially to his 1915 Gallipoli campaign. The museum has good exhibits of swords, daggers, armour spread around several floors, nicely displayed and precisely described in Turkish and English, and shown in chronological order and gives you ample opportunity to learn about Turkey’s rich past. The most imposing exhibits are the silk tents used by Ottoman sultans during invasions. Don’t miss the part of the Museum showing the great chain that Byzantines stretched across the Golden Horn in 1453 during the Ottoman siege of the city. My favourite exhibit is a flag from the 1389 Kosovo battle which took place on Kosovo field and was the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s expansion into the Balkans and later into Europe. Even though the flag is faded you can still see the Ottoman inscription on it and blood stains.
Some historians believe the reason behind the longevity of the Ottoman Empire lay in their strong military organisation – the Ottomans would conscript small boys from the occupied territories into their own army, train them and send them back to their country of origin as fully trained men. They were known as Janissaries and they represented the elite Ottoman corps. The Janissaries had their own military marching band called the Mehter whose only existence was to install terror in the enemy during battle. To hear the Mehter Band you have to be at the Military Museum at 3pm when there is a performance of 17th and 18th century Ottoman military music in full period costume. The special theatre built within the museum resembles an amphitheatre and has very good acoustics. The whole performance lasts for about half an hour and during this period you can learn why the Ottoman Army was so feared. According to the information at the Military Museum the Mehter Military Band is the oldest one in the world and all other military bands are an imitation of this one. Some believe that sound delivered from the Mehter had an influence on European classical music with composers such as Haydn (Military” Symphony), Mozart (The Abduction from the Seraglio) and Beethoven (Passage of the final movement of his Ninth Symphony).
Expect to spend a half day and even longer if you wish to go into great details at the Military Museum which is very centrally located at the Beoyoglu. Istanbul New Town and open Wed.-Sun. 9-5. Entry tickets are 4 TL (Turkish Lira)
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