Many students who attended high schools and universities in the Western world are familiar with the marching band. Made up of a group of a few hundred musicians, a band marches onto a field during a sporting event to entertain the audience and cheer on the players. These school marching bands developed from the use of marching military bands during the Gunpowder Age in Europe that were designed to encourage soldiers during battle. This tradition has its origins in the Ottoman mehter bands of the 1300s that helped make the Ottoman army one of the most powerful in the world.
As part of the elite Janissary corps of the Ottoman Empire, the mehter band’s purpose was to play loud music that would frighten enemies and encourage allies. Using enormous drums and clashing cymbals, the sounds created by a mehter band could stretch for miles. During the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans throughout the 14th -16th centuries, mehter bands accompanied the fearsome Ottoman armies, who seemed almost invincible even in the face of huge European alliances.
Eventually, Christian Europe also caught on to the use of military bands to frighten enemies. Legend has it that after the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, the retreating Ottoman army left behind dozens of musical instruments, which the Austrians collected, studied, and put to their own use. Armies all over Europe soon began implementing marching military bands, revolutionizing the way war was fought in Europe for centuries.