Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire Map 1683
Map of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire, which was founded in 1299 and declined in 1923, is known to be one of the most powerful and robust Empires that the world has ever witnessed. Not only this, but it is also one of the longest-reigning dynasties that the world has ever had. It was an Islamic superpower, and the leader of the dynasty was known as the ‘Sultan.’ It had ruled huge parts of the world, including many areas of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Southeastern Europe.

In the Muslim world, the Sultan of the Ottoman Dynasty was seen as the leader of the Islamic world. It was seen as a symbol of strength, steadiness, and reliability. On the other hand, the Western powers not only detested it, and envied its’ power, but also saw it as a ferocious and threatening power.

A total of thirty-six Sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1299 to 1923. The Ottoman Sultan would live in the Grand Topkapi Palace in Istanbul which has several grand gardens, courtyards, kitchens, and huge buildings with a great architect. Many administrative buildings are also part of the Topkapi Palace. Apart from all this, the Ottoman era also gave the world prominent contributions in music, art, culture, tradition, and religion.

Ottoman Empire was founded by a Turkoman tribal leader, son of Ertugrul Gazi and Halima Sultan, Osman Gazi became the first Sultan of the Ottoman Dynasty. He founded the dynasty in Sogut, the Anatolia region of modern-day Turkey, which occupies most of the Turkish land today. It is the westernmost region of the largest continent of the world – Asia.

The Ottomans expanded their dynasty and reached Europe when they entered there in 1354, by conquering the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire became a transcontinental Empire. One of the most historical events took place when the Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire and conquered Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). This historical event took place in 1453 when Mehmet the second seized Istanbul.

The most successful period of the Ottoman Empire is regarded during the reign of Sultan Suleiman, often known as ‘Suleiman-The Magnificent.’He succeeded the throne from his father, Sultan Selim the first, and later his third son, Sultan Selim the second succeeded the throne. He ruled the dynasty from 1520 until 1566. Talking about its’ strengths, Ottoman Army was structured and established by Mehmet the second. He reorganized the army when he reestablished the dynasty. The Ottoman Army was one of the first established armies in Europe after the Roman Empire. Later in 1826, it was put to an end by Sultan Mahmud the second. The Ottoman Empire was already in a dwindling position, and then when it suffered defeat at the Battle of Vienna in 1683 it further added to its’ weakness and vulnerability. Finally, in 1923, an army officer, Mustafa Kemal, founded the independent Republic of Turkey, and Turkey was declared a republic on October 29th, 1923. The title of Ottoman Sultan was abolished. Mustafa Kemal became known as ‘Ataturk,’ which means ‘Father of Turks.’

Rise of Ottoman Empire

Sultans of the Ottoman EmpireThe Ottoman Empire rose to power in 1299, when Osman Gazi became Sultan Osman the first of the Ottoman Empire. The Dynasty is named after his name as ‘Ottoman’ is derived from the Arabic name ‘Uthman.’ After the death of Osman’s father, Ertugrul Gazi, in 1280, he looked around the area of Sogut, as he became the chief or ‘Bey,’ meaning Sir in the Turkish language. As he became the chief of Sogut, he looked after all the area around the town of Sogut. He would often launch riots against the Byzantine Empire which was a continuation of the Roman Empire, and a neighboring Empire at that time. Notably, the first recorded event of Osman’s life was in 1301 or 1302, when he defeated a Byzantine force that had been sent to defeat him.

According to some historical accounts, Osman’s plan was to enlarge his influence and territory by defeating the Byzantines. The first move that he made was through Northern Phrygia, an area on the western end of the high Anatolian plateau to Bithynia; a more fertile land which is an ancient kingdom and province of the Roman Empire. As time passed on and the influence and territory of the Ottomans increased, the Ottomans established their formal government in the reign of Sultan Osman the first, Sultan Orhan the first, Sultan Murad the first, and Bayezid the first.

Gradually, the Ottomans put an end to the Byzantine Empire when they conquered the ancient city of Constantinople – modern-day Istanbul – under the leadership of Mehmet the second, in 1453, ending the one-thousand-year reign of the Byzantine Empire. It was Sultan Mehmet the second who renamed the city of Constantinople to Istanbul. After some hours of the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmet the second who became known as ‘Fatih Mehmet’ which means ‘Victor Mehmet,’ proceeded to Hagia Sophia and asked the Imam to convert the Cathedral into a Mosque. Furthermore, he went on to name himself ‘Kaysar-I Rum’ – the counterpart of Caesar of Rome. Finally, Constantinople, which was now Istanbul, became a part of the great Ottoman Dynasty.

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After the death of Mehmed, the second, on May 3rd, 1481 in Hunkar Cayiri, his son Bayezid the second became the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire continued to rise to power. The son of Bayezid, Selim the first, seized Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, and Syria and successfully took them under control of the Ottomans, in 1517. In the following years, the Ottomans gained more power and continued to flourish. The most prosperous time of the Ottomans is considered to be the reign of Sultan Suleiman also known as Suleiman the Magnificent whose reign is believed to add great firmness, fortune, and enormous power to the empire.

Restoration of the Ottoman Empire

Timur’s main aim in Anatolia was to protect a western flank that could assure further occupation in the east, and not just simple conquest. After restoring to power, the Turkish princes joined hands with Timur as he retired from Anatolia after being victorious. Timur took this step because he believed that Anatolia would not challenge him with any such threats or danger. During this time, even the sons of Sultan Bayezid had gained control of the areas that were previously controlled by their ancestors in western Anatolia.

On the other hand, the areas that came under the empire in Europe were almost untouched. The European Crusaders would have been able to defeat the Ottoman’s and push them out of their territory, but their own issues in the North proved to be lucky for Ottomans and they were able to restore whatever small losses they suffered, without suffering any major defeats. On the other hand, the internal issues of the Ottoman Empire halted them to regain their strength as the four sons of Sultan Bayezid fought for power. Suleyman, the eldest one formed his capital in Edirne, assuming control from Europe, with the support of the Christians. However, his brother Mehmed had the support of those prominent and notable Turkish men who had assisted the previous Ottoman occupations. Thus, Mehmed was able to kill all three of his brothers; Suleyman, Isa Bey who had established his capital in Baliksehir, and Musa Bey whose capital was Bursa. He became the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Mehmed the first.

Moreover, under the reigns of Sultan Mehmed the first, and Sultan Murad the second, there were huge expansions made by the Ottomans. Mehmed the first had conquered the province of Rum, and then Anatolia; forming central government over there. Afterward, he had gained power in European territories including Rumelia. He was the one who reunited the Ottoman state this way, by the year 1413 and also ruled it until 1421.

Sultan Mehmed also restored the vassal system in Serbia and Bulgaria. Moving ahead, Sultan Murad the second, also devoted himself to the empire. His main concern at the start was to take a hold on the internal problems of the dynasty; to handle the Balkan vassal princes in Europe and the Turkmen princes in Anatolia, the ghazi commanders, to retain autonomy and independence that was gained during the Interregnum. His reign mainly marked the long-fought war against the Balkan Christian feudal lords, and the Turkmen princes in the Anatolia region for nearly 25 years. Much to his success, he eliminated the Turkmen princes from Anatolia except two exceptions; Karaman, and Candar, in order to avoid unrest by Timur’s supporters in the East. Therefore, he left these two autonomous. During his reign, the battles against Venice, and the battle of Ankara were also led. Thus, we conclude that the Ottoman Empire was restored during this time.

Arabia, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt Conquered

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By 1517, Sultan Bayezid’s son, Sultan Selim the first made Arabia, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt parts of the Ottoman Empire. Though Sultan Selim the first was able to rule for only 8 years, from 1512 until 1520, he made some notable expansions which included his expansion, particularly in the years 1516 and 1517. It included Egypt’s entire Mamluk Sultanate that further included Hejaz, Levant, Tihamah as well as Egypt itself.

The Magnificent Century

On the day of his demise, the Ottoman Dynasty spanned around 576,900 square miles. It is estimated that during his reign, the Ottoman Dynasty had grown by seventy percent. Though the Empire reached its peak during the reign of Sultan Suleyman, the son and successor of Selim the first whose caliphate ruled over twenty-five million people, was the tenth and longest-ruling Sultan who ruled for approximately forty-six years. He is often called Suleyman – The Magnificent due to his victorious era. This period of the Ottoman Dynasty’s rise is called ‘Muhtesem Yuzyil’ meaning the Magnificent Century.

The reign of Sultan Suleyman that lasted from 1520 to 1566, marked enormous stability, strength, and fortune. Not only did his reign expanded the Ottoman territory, but also marked a period of various forms of literature, architecture, and art. The amalgam of economic organization, great tradition, religious, social, and political factors developed and flourished Suleyman’s reign. The empire became a working and living whole during this time.

Suleyman is not only regarded as a political leader, but also as a great and dignified religious leader. Moreover, Suleyman also introduced a uniform structure of law and action. Talking about the expansion of the dynasty, it enlarged in areas of Eastern Europe, particularly. Moreover, the Arabic land, especially that portion of the former Islamic Caliphate also came under the Ottoman Dynasty.

As soon as Suleyman came to power, he launched campaigns against the Christian powers in the Mediterranean and Central Europe. Rhodes fell to the dynasty under reign in 1522-1523, and prior to it, Baghdad fell to him in 1521. He then went on to break the military power of Hungary in 1526. Suleyman, who had become a prominent monarch of sixteenth-century Europe, personally led his armies when he went on to capture the Christian pillars of Belgrade, and Rhodes together with most parts of Hungary until he was checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. During his conflicts with the Safavids, Suleyman annexed much of the middle east, and huge areas of North Africa, including the Algerian land. The Ottoman fleet had dominated the seas starting from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and ending towards the Persian Gulf.

The Downturn of the Ottoman Empire

As the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire’s stability and power started to dwindle. A lot of factors added to the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and one of the major reasons was the internal issues of the empire, which hugely grew after the demise of Sultan Suleiman. The grandeur of this great Muslim Dynasty was marked during the reign of Sultan Suleiman. After his demise, signs of vulnerability and instability started to spark, and it would not be wrong to say that a gradual and slow decline of the Empire had begun. Even during the end of his reign, tired from numerous campaigns and public meetings and appearances, and drawn more towards the pleasure of his Harem, Sultan assigned many of his duties to his Grand Vizier, who after the Sultan, had the most power and authority. Though his Grand Vizier, showed on all of these important events, the Sultan’s absence was hugely felt as no Grand Vizier can be as competent, devoted, able as the Sultan and the public did not want anyone else in his place.

This also led to social unrest among the devotees and followers of the Sultan. Suleiman did this towards the end of his reign but many upcoming Sultans acted this way. One of the most significant factors that led to the decline of the great empire was the inability and lack of power of the Sultans themselves. As a result, the divorce between the central government and political devotion, went onto weaken the government’s authority and capability to enforce its’ rules and maintain its’ law and order. Moreover, Devsirme; a system set up for the Christians to give their male offsprings to the state so they can convert them to Islam and make them slaves, had failed towards the mid- 16th century.

As the Sultans then became incapable of holding the Devsirme, the Devsirme gained control of the Sultans and the government for its own benefit rather than for the benefit of a Sultan or his Empire. Consequently, nepotism and corruption became a part of the government and empire on all administrative fronts. Many Viziers and slaves of the Empire were also bribed by the women of the Harem as the Sultan had children from different concubines and each of them wanted her own son to become the next Sultan, and were fearful of their children’s future as the one who used to rise to power, used to kill all his brothers under the law of Fratricide which was introduced by Sultan Mehmed the second in the 15th century.

After the death of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha in 1579, power fell in the hands of the women to the harem as they very easily could bribe other Pashas who were not as loyal and devoted to the Dynasty and the Sultan as him. Soon after, it became known as the ‘Sultanate of Women.’ After the women, power fell into the hands of the Janiserry officers’ which was an army devoted to the Sultan and then to the Agas of the Palace. Moreover, the Ottoman’s dominance in Europe over military and economics also started to weaken while on the contrary, Europe who already felt threatened and saw the Ottoman Empire as a ferocious power, was rapidly rising because of the Industrial Revolution and the Renaissance period.

The situation was exacerbated as there was an enormous increase in the population of most of Europe at that time which resulted in many people being jobless and landless. Adding to it was the food shortage which resulted in the people going to the capital. Moreover, the peasants who were unable to pay the taxes and had also reached the capital. All of these people created unrest and stood up against the government. With the central government being weak, and the people turning against them, it created a huge upheaval for the Empire. Though there were internal tensions and disruption within the Empire, it was evident for the external sources.

The European powers still feared the Ottomans a great deal even during the 17th century, just like they did two centuries prior. The Ottoman Dynasty just short-lived after the first World War had ended. It entered the First World War on the side of the Central Powers that included Germany and Austria-Hungry and suffered defeat in October 1918. Following the Armistice, and the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, which was signed between the Ottomans and the victorious Allies of World War 1, the Ottoman Empire had to give up a large part of its’ territories that included major chunks to Great Britain, France, Italy, and Greece. Moreover, Mustafa Kemal, a Turkish revolutionary statesman, and field marshal made Turkey a Republic and abolished the Ottoman Dynasty and the Sultan. Turkey became a Republic on October 29th, 1923.

In 1808, an interruption occurred to the anti-reform coalition that had dethroned Selim, the third. The higher bureaucracy was supported by one of the Ottoman Empire’s Balkan possession; Rumelia’s ‘Ayans.’ The Ayans, who were led by Bayrakdar Mustafa Pasha, did so as they were fearful that their own position might be in danger. Mustafa, together with Celebi Mustafa Pasha, the Grand Vizier, were able to place Mahmud the second, son of Abdul-Hamid the first as ruler of the Ottoman Dynasty by dethroning Mustafa the fourth. They also recovered Istanbul. They also went on to reform many policies that were introduced by Selim. A further Janissary riot led to the death of Bayrakdar, in November 1808, and also bought back the Conservative rule.

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Moving ahead, there was a Serbian Uprising in April 1813, which was another challenge for the Ottomans. Important events took place for the Ottomans as the Greeks rose up for their independence and Greek Wars begin in 1821, and the Janissary corps, the centuries old loyal army of the Ottomans also disbanded after a rebellion against Mahmud the second in June 1826.

Another shock was suffered by the Ottomans when Algeria fell into the hands of the French in 1830. Furthermore, unfortunate incidents did not leave the fate of the Ottomans as Greek sovereignty was formalized as a result of the Greek War of Independence, in July 1832.

The Egyptian-Ottoman war that lasted between 1831 to 1833 proved to be another defeat for the Ottomans. In 1838, the Anglo-Ottoman Treaty opened trade for all European powers. 1839 marked the Tanzimat period that ended in 1876 with the First Constitutional Era. It did not start the radical transformation, but with an aim. It aimed modernization, and a desire to consolidate the political and social pillars of the Empire.

In October 1853, the Crimean war started in which the Ottomans alliance with France, Britain, and Sardinia, but lost to the Russians. It was a huge loss the Ottomans suffered, and they went towards more weakness and vulnerability. Furthermore, a united and autonomous state of Romania was formed. In December 1876, the Constantinople Conference started, which ended the Tanzimat reforms after the empire bankrupted.

The Russo-Turkish war started in 1877, and ended in 1878, with Russia’s colonial victory. As a result, the Treaty of San Stefano granted Independence to Serbia and Romania and formed an autonomous Bulgarian principality under nominal Ottoman protection. Austria-Hungary invaded Bosnia by default. Furthermore, Cyprus and Egypt were invaded by Britain, Tunisia by France, and the Eastern Rumelia was transferred to Bulgaria. All these territorial gains took place in 1878 and 1881, 1882 and 1885, respectively.

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908

As the 20th century kicked off, the Ottomans gained the Krushevo Republic in August 1903, and the Second Constitutional Era also started as the ‘Young Turk’ revolution. However, in 1908, the Ottomans suffered a huge loss as Bulgaria gained full independence and Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia by mere declaration. A major and historical event took place when in November 1911, in the Italo-Turkish War, Turkey suffered a loss at the hands of Italy not just losing Libya, but also ending the Ottoman Dynasty’s 340-years old Ottoman presence in North Africa.

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Moving on to 1912, the Albanian declared Independence in the First Balkan War. In 1913, during the First Balkan War, the Ottomans had almost been wiped out from the European continent, saving just Istanbul and some more land to defend it. In the August of 1914, the Ottoman Dynasty made a huge blunder that moved it further towards its decline, as the empire entered the First World War on the side of the Central Powers, and this was when Cyprus was seized outright by Britain.

The forced deportation of the Armenians starting taking place in the April of 1915. The very next day of this, Mustafa Kemal who led the Gallipoli Campaign successfully repelled the British annexation of the Dardanelles in Turkey. In 1918, the Armistice of Mudros ended hostiles in the Middle East theatre of World War 1, including a clause that was later used by the British, Greeks, French, and Italians to claim land in the Ottoman Empire.

Republic of Turkey

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The Ottoman Dynasty officially moved towards its end, when on the 15th of May in 1919, Greek troops landed in Izmir with the consent of the allies. Turkish disaffection started growing, as the local Turkish Muslim civilians faced atrocities by the Greeks. Just after four days, the Turkish War of Independence commenced. On August 10th, 1920, the Treaty of Serves marked the division of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish nationalists, however, rejected it, but the abolition of the monarchy by the Government of the Grand National Assembly was based in Ankara. Moving towards the official and last stages of one of the five largest empires of the world’s history, the abolition of the great Ottoman Dynasty took place on November 1st, 1922, replacing it with the Republic of Turkey. The Treaty of Lausanne was signed on July 24, 1923. The abolition of the Caliphate, however, took place on March 3rd, 1924, by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

The Ottoman Dynasty had ruled enormous parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeastern Europe. During the 600 years long rule of the Ottomans’, the dynasty included countries such as areas of the north coast of Africa, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, areas of Arabia, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania. In many of these countries today, it is believed to be a legacy to have been a former part of the Great Ottoman Dynasty and considered as national pride, but in the others, there are several different interpretations present and debates upon, even today.

Ottoman History

Q & A of the Ottoman Empire

Who was the First Sultan of the Ottoman Empire or Usmania Dynasty?

Osman the first was the first sultan and founder of the Ottoman Empire.

Who was the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire or Usmania Dynasty?

Mehmed Vahideddin was the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Who was the Father of Osman 1?

Ertuğrul Gazi

Who was the Most Famous Sultan of the Ottoman Empire?

Süleyman the Magnificent

Which Ottoman Sultan Ruled the Longest?

Süleyman the Magnificent, He Reigned for 46 Years

Which Sultan took over Constantinople?

Sultan Mehmed II, also known as Fatih Sultan Mehmed means Mehmed the Conqueror.

Which Ottoman Sultan Conquered Jerusalem?

Süleyman the Magnificent

Which Ottoman Sultan Conquered Constantinople

Sultan Mehmed II

Which Ottoman Sultan Conquered Mecca

Sultan Selim I

Which Ottoman Sultan Conquered Baghdad

Süleyman I

Which Ottoman Sultan Conquered North Africa

Süleyman the Magnificent

Which Ottoman Ruler Codified the Laws of the Empire

Sultan Mehmed II

Which Ottoman Ruler Laid Siege to Vienna

Süleyman the Magnificent

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