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The Ottoman Empire

Updated on September 1, 2017


The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and powerful empire of the world which ruled for almost 900 years (1299-1922). It was founded and ruled by Muslim emperors and it was inspired and sustained by Islam. It was at its zenith under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent from 1520 to 1566.

The empire was founded in Anatolia (Asia Minor) at the end of the 13th century. It conquered the Balkans and later it expanded to a great extent after conquering the Byzantine empire. At its zenith, the Ottoman empire included the following: Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, North Africa, and parts of Arabia.

The Ottoman Empire was the link between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. The empire had a strong economy, a cosmopolitan society, and a strong military.

Rise of the Ottoman Empire

The word Ottoman is a historical anglicization of the name of Osman I, the founder of the Empire and chief of a Turkish tribe. Osman extended his territory by conquering Byzantine towns along the Sakarya River. There is no consensus among historians how the early Ottomans came to dominate their neighbours. One school of thought—known as the Gaza Thesis—which was popular during the twentieth century, suggested that the tribes were religious warriors who sought to spread Islam. The Gaza Thesis is now highly criticized and no longer generally accepted by historians, but no consensus on the foundation of the early Ottoman state has yet emerged due to lack of resources. The first emperor, Sultan Gazi, died in 1323 or 1324. After his death, Ottoman rule continued to extend over Anatolia and the Balkans. Osman's son, Orhan, conquered Bursa in 1326, and made it the new capital of the Ottomans. The city of Bursa was under the territory of the Byzantine empire and its conquest was the first blow delivered by the Ottomans to the Byzantine empire which marked the Byzantine loss over Northwestern Anatolia. In the ninth decade of the 14th century, the ottomans bagged the Greek city of Salonica from the Venetians (the republic of venice), and Kosovo from the Serbians in 1389. The battle of Kosovo was fought between the armies of Serbian prince Lazar Hrebeljanović, and the Ottoman army under Sultan Murad Hüdavendigâr. Victory at the battle of Kosovo set up the expansion of the Ottoman into Europe. In 1396, the European forces collected together to fight a battle against the Ottomans at Nicopolis which was part of their (Europeans’) crusade. The Ottoman army routed the European army. After winning the Balkans, the Ottomans eyed on Constantinople, but they received a blow when Turco-Mongol leader Timur defeated the Ottomans at the battle of Ankara in 1402 and and took Sultan Bayezid I as a prisoner. A civil war ensued in the Ottoman empire as a result of Sultan Bayezid’s sons claiming their authority to the throne. The civil war ended in 1403 when Mehmed I emerged as the sultan and reinstated order in the empire in 1413.

The fall of Constantinople

Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine empire. On 6th April, 1453, The Ottoman army, led under emperor Mehmed The Conqueror ( Mehmed 2), attacked Constantinople and won it on 29th May 1453. Mehmed was only 21 when he won this historic battle against the army of the Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos. Constantine XI death marked the end of the “Eastern Roman Empire” (The Byzantium empire was the remnant of the great Roman Empire). The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople was a major blow to Christians; after it there was no enemies left to be conquered in the east and the Ottomans could focus without hindrance to realize their dream of winning the Christian western Europe. After the conquest, the capital of the Ottoman Empire was transferred from Edirne to Constantinople.

Before the conquest of Constantinople, the great cities were considered to be unconquerable as big and high ramparts and city walls could dispel any attack. The Ottomans used excellent cannons which run on gunpowder to bring down the ramparts and the walls.

Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566)

Suleyman the Magnificent ruled for a long time, 46 years. During his reign, the ottomans flourished like never before. Initially their main opponents were Spanish Habsburgs. Sultan Suleyman supported the dutch who were conquered by the Spanish. The French were also the enemy of the Spanish, and so their king Francis I welcomed the Ottomans to Riviera at Toulon during winters. Ottomans navy were also fighting in the Red sea and the Indian Ocean, as far as modern-day Indonesia. They fought in the east because the Portuguese had been ruling over the eastern sea-trade route and had conquered many countries in Africa and the east. The Ottomans fought against the Habsburgs to free the sea routes and establish their own trades with the eastern regimes. On the Balkan fronts, the ottomans under Suleyman, moved to impose Ottoman domination over trade route and other economics resources. The Ottomans seized Belgrade in 1521, trounced the Hungarians at the battle of Mohacs in 1566 and later annexed part of it in 1544.

After Suleyman’s death Ottoman victories continued but not that rapidly. Cyprus, with its fertile lands fell to Ottomans in 1571. This victory bolstered Istanbul’s dominance over the sea routes of the eastern Mediterranean. The Ottomans suffered an unlikely blow at the battle of Lepanto, also called as “the battle of three empires.” The other two forces were the Venetian empire and the Spanish empire. The Ottoman fleet was completely destroyed in this Mediterranean battle. However after this defeat, the Ottoman navy struck again in the Mediterranean the next year, and re-established Ottoman dominion in the eastern Mediterranean. In 1578, the Ottomans once again came out with a will to conquer Azerbaijan. This proved to be a tough task as it took 12 years to win it. After winning Azerbaijan, the expansion of Ottoman empire became more slowly. In fact we can say consolidation instead of expansion took place. Baghdad was won in 1638, Crete (the second largest Mediterranean island) was bagged in 1669 followed by Podolia in 1676. Podolia is a region in Eastern Europe, located in the west-central and south-western parts of Ukraine and in north-eastern Moldova.

Suleyman the magnificent


End of The Ottoman Empire

By the twentieth century, the Ottoman empire territory had reduced to a small coastal plain between Edirne and Istanbul. During the first world war, the world went through a lot of change. The populace revolted to foreign rule as the feeling of nationalism permeated their hearts. The war also brought out the shifts in the military power of various nations and territories. In the world war, the Ottomans, together with some central powers, were on one side, and the allies, consisting mainly of the French empire, the British empire, and the Russian empire, on the other side. The Ottomans were defeated and the Armistice of Mudros was signed on October 30, 1918. The sign of Armistice had many conditions with the main condition was that the Ottomans retreat from their remaining garrisons outside Anatolia ( Asia Minor ). The Ottomans also gave the allies the right to control Bosporus. After the Armistice, the allies occupied Istanbul. Eventually Partitioning of the territories under the Ottoman empire took place.

The Republic of Turkey

After the humiliating defeat in the WWI, Turkey garnered its will back to set free some of the territories from the allies. The Turkish war of independence was fought between The Turkish National Movement and the allies. This Independence movement started in 1919 and ended in 1923. After the movement when allied forces had left, The Turkish Grand Assembly—led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk—decided to establish a republic in Turkey. Ataturk became the first president of Turkey in 1923 and ruled for 15 years. Ataturk was a liberal and modern visionary who set the foundation of a modern and secular Republic of Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk



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