The Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful and influential dynasties in global history. For more than 600 years, this Islamic powerhouse reigned over a sizable portion of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. Read here to learn about the rise and fall of the Ottomans.
The Ottoman Empire reigned from 1299 to 1922 over much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa.
At its height, the Ottoman Empire included the regions of- Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Some of Arabia, and a considerable amount of the North African coastal strip.
Many historians regarded the Ottoman Empire as a source of tremendous regional peace and security as well as significant accomplishments in the arts, science, religion, and culture, but Western Europeans typically saw them as a threat.
Origin of Ottomans
The Mongols forced the nomadic Turkish tribes to leave their homes on the Asian steppes, and sometime between the 8th and 9th centuries, they converted to Islam.
One of the Turkish tribes, the Seljuks, rose to prominence in the Islamic world by the 11th century and embraced a settled lifestyle that included Islamic orthodoxy, a centralized government, and taxes.
Many other Turkish clans, on the other hand, continued to live as nomads and, according to the Gazi tradition, tried to annex territory for Islam and amass war spoils for themselves.
As a result, they came into dispute with the Seljuk Turks, who sent them to the Byzantine Empire’s eastern territory in Anatolia to appease the nomadic tribes.
- From one of the lesser emirates founded in northwest Anatolia after 1071, the tribe known as the Ottomans emerged.
- Osman Gazi (1259–1326), who started to extend his realm into the Byzantine Empire in Asia Minor and moved his capital to Bursa in 1326, is the dynasty’s eponym.
Rise of the Ottoman Empire
1299: Osman I, the leader of one of the Anatolian Turkish tribes, established the Ottoman Empire.
- Osman’s name, “Uthman” in Arabic, is from where the word “Ottoman” originates.
Osman I, Orhan, Murad I, and Bayezid I was the leaders of the Ottoman Turks, who established a formal government and increased their territory.
1326-96: A series of conflicts- the Byzantine-Ottoman wars, waged in Anatolia in the late 13th century, followed by the Bulgarian-Ottoman wars and the Serbian-Ottoman wars waged beginning in the mid-14th century aided Ottoman expansion into the Balkans.
1402: Ottoman Anatolia was annexed from the east by the Turco-Mongol ruler Timur, who founded the Timurid Empire.
- Timur overcame the Ottoman soldiers in the Battle of Ankara in 1402, imprisoning Sultan Bayezid I, and bringing the empire to disarray.
- From 1402 until 1413, Bayezid’s sons engaged in a civil war over succession known as the Fetret Devri.
- It came to an end when Mehmed I assumed the sultanship and re-established Ottoman authority.
1430: Murad II recovered most of the lost territories by the 1450s. His son, Mehmed II further expanded the empire.
1453: The capital of the Byzantine Empire, the historic city of Constantinople, was taken by the Ottoman Turks under Mehmed II the Conqueror.
- The Byzantine Empire’s era of 1000 years came to an end as a result.
Constantinople was renamed Istanbul by Sultan Mehmed, who also designated it as the new Ottoman Empire capital.
- Istanbul rose to prominence as a major worldwide hub for trade and culture.
1481: Mehmed died. Bayezid II, his oldest child, succeeded him as Sultan.
1517: Selim I, the son of Bayezid, established Ottoman rule over Syria, Arabia, Palestine, and Egypt.
- He defeated Shah Ismail of Safavid Iran.
- He annexed the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt.
Under Sultan Selim, a new policy emerged, which included fratricide, or the murder of brothers.
- When a new Sultan was crowned, his brothers would be imprisoned. When Sultan’s first son was born, his brothers and their sons would be killed. This system ensured that the rightful heir would take the throne.
- Over time, the practice evolved. In the later years, the brothers would only be put in prison and not killed.
1520: Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 until 1566 when it was at its height.
In 1555, the Caucasus became officially partitioned for the first time between the Safavids and the Ottomans, a status quo that would remain until the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774).
During this time, there was a lot of authority, stability, and money.
- Suleiman embraced many types of art and literature while establishing a unified legal framework.
- He was regarded by many Muslims as both a political leader and a spiritual figure.
- During Sultan Suleiman’s reign, the empire grew and came to encompass parts of Eastern Europe which included Hungary, Venetian, and Spanish areas of the Adriatic coast.
Turkish, Mongol, Persian, Mesopotamian, and Islamic political traditions were all passed down to the Ottomans by a diverse range of ethnic groups.
The Ottoman state, like the Turkish, Mongol, and Mesopotamian governments, was founded on the idea that the monarch had unquestionable power.
- As the highest temporal ruler of Islam, the Sultan also adopted the title of Caliph.
- The Ottoman Empire claimed this title for numerous reasons, including the fact that the two most important holy cities, Mecca and Medina, were a part of the Empire and that the security of Muslims worldwide, and in especially the security of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, was the government’s top priority.
To ensure absolute justice, the Ottomans set up several practices and institutions in the central government surrounding the Sultan.
- The first was the establishment of a bureaucracy drawn from Sultan’s inner circle. This bureaucracy in turn controlled local governments.
- The Sultan monitored local officials through a vast, complex, and elaborate system of spies who would report back to the central bureaucracy.
- Periodically, the Sultan was required to tour local governments in disguise to ensure that magistrates and justices were operating justly.
Public agents and officials that abused their power and the peasantry were subjected to a special jurisdiction called the Siyaset.
- The Siyaset were a set of severe punishments imposed by the Sultan on corrupt officials.
The most important aspect of the Ottoman centralized government was universal access to centralized authority.
- The highest reaches of power – except the person of the Sultan – were available to every citizen of the Empire.
The Sultan was believed to be personally accountable for every government choice, a sizable bureaucracy ran the government, and a strict and intricate set of regulations governed this bureaucracy, and the Sultan himself was subject to them.
- The Divan, which acted as Sultan’s cabinet for making decisions, was at the head of the administrative structure.
- The Grand Vizier (a modern-day equivalent of the prime minister) presided over all of the executive responsibilities of Sultan’s administration and was its most powerful official.
- No one was arbitrarily appointed to these roles; rather, precise guidelines were followed.
The devshirme system was developed in the fourteenth century.
- The conquered Christians had to provide the state with 20% of their male offspring. The young people were made slaves and coerced into Islam.
- Some of the converts rose to prominence and acquired fortune despite being used as slaves.
- Many received training for careers in the Ottoman military or administration.
- Most of the elite military unit, the Janissaries, were Christian converts.
- The devshirme system persisted till the 17th century’s conclusion.
Ottoman Art and Science
The Ottoman Empire was renowned for its contributions to art, science, and medicine. Istanbul and other important cities around the empire were regarded as centers of the arts, particularly under Suleiman the Magnificent rule.
- Calligraphy, painting, poetry, textile and carpet weaving, pottery, and music were a few of the most well-liked creative genres.
- The architecture of the Ottoman Empire also influenced the way people lived. During this time, elaborate mosques and civic structures were built.
It was thought that science was an important subject to study.
- Advanced mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, physics, geography, and chemistry were studied and practiced by the Ottomans.
The Ottomans also contributed to some of the greatest medical advancements. They created several modern surgical tools, including forceps, catheters, scalpels, pincers, and lancets.
Decline of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire started to lose its hegemony over Europe’s economies and militaries in the 1600s.
The decline of the empire was caused by several other circumstances, including inadequate leadership and having to compete with commerce from the Americas and India.
The Battle of Vienna in 1683 resulted in the Ottoman Turks’ defeat making the situation worse.
The empire lost important land areas throughout the ensuing century.
- In 1830, Greece overthrew the Ottoman Empire and gained freedom.
- Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria were granted independence in 1878 by the Congress of Berlin.
- The Ottoman Empire lost almost all of its European lands during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913).
The Ottoman Empire was already in decline when World War I began.
- The Ottoman army joined the war in 1914 as an ally of the Central Powers, which included Germany and Austria-Hungary.
- Armenian genocide: In 1915, Ottoman leaders made a plan to massacre Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Most scholars believe that about 1.5 million Armenians were killed.
- In October 1918, the Ottoman army was defeated.
The majority of Ottoman territory was partitioned among Britain, France, Greece, and Russia after the Armistice of Mudros.
When the Ottoman Sultan’s position was abolished in 1922, the Ottoman Empire came to an end.
The independent Republic of Turkey was established on October 29, 1923, by army commander Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938). Then, from 1923 until he died in 1938, he served as Turkey’s first president, ushering in changes that quickly secularised and westernized the nation.
The Ottoman Turks, who ruled for more than 600 years, are well-known for their formidable military, ethnic variety, creative endeavors, religious tolerance, and magnificent architectural achievements.
The current, largely secular Turkish Republic, which many academics consider to be a continuation of the Ottoman Empire, is still very much under the influence of the once-powerful empire.
-Article written by Swathi Satish