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- Origin of the Ottoman Empire
- The Ottoman Expansion
- The Fall of the Ottoman Empire
- The Legacy and Ventures of the Ottoman Empire
Key Facts And Information
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- The Ottoman Empire was one of the longest-lasting dynasties that ruled a large area of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North America for more than 600 years. It was founded by Turkish tribes in Anatolia in the 13th century and finally ended in 1923. The sultan, the chief leader, was given absolute religious and political power over his people. While many Western Europeans view the Ottoman Empire as a threat, many historians view it as a source of regional peace and security, as well as significant achievements in the arts, science, religion and culture.
- The word ‘Ottoman’ comes from Osman I, a nomadic Turkmen chief who in 1300 founded both the dynasty and the empire, which was called Uthman in Arabic. Under the leadership of Osman I, Orhan, Murad I and Bayezid I, the Ottoman Turks established a formal government and extended their territory.
- Mehmed II the Conqueror led the Ottoman Turks to conquer Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453. This brought the Byzantine Empire’s 1,000-year rule to an end. Sultan Mehmed renamed the city ‘Istanbul’ and proclaimed it the Ottoman Empire’s new capital. Istanbul has established itself as a major worldwide trade and cultural hub. Mehmed died in 1481. His oldest son, Bayezid II, became the new Sultan.
- Ottoman power expanded out from a small northwestern Anatolian principality to include most of southeastern Europe and Anatolia during the first phase of Ottoman history, which was marked by practically continuous territorial expansion.
- The political, economic and social institutions of the classical Islamic empires were merged with those inherited from Byzantium and the great Central Asian Turkish dynasties, resulting in new forms that would characterise the region into modern times.
The Ottoman Expansion
- Mehmed the Conqueror, Murad II’s son, reorganised the polity and military, and seized Constantinople on 29 May 1453, putting an end to the Byzantine Empire. In exchange for accepting Ottoman authority, Mehmed enabled the Eastern Orthodox Church to keep its autonomy and land. The majority of the Orthodox people considered Ottoman authority preferable to Venetian rule due to tensions between Western European states and the later Byzantine Empire.
- The Ottoman Empire experienced a period of expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries, which were recognised as the peak of the Empire. It flourished under the leadership of a series of dedicated and capable sultans. It prospered economically as a result of its control of the major overland trade routes connecting Europe and Asia.
- During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire reached its peak between 1520 and 1566. During this time, there was a lot of power, stability and wealth.
- By defeating Shah Ismail of Safavid Iran in the Battle of Chaldiran, Sultan Selim I dramatically expanded the Empire’s eastern and southern borders. By defeating and annexing the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, Selim I established Ottoman power in Egypt and maintained a naval presence on the Red Sea.
- After this Ottoman expansion, competition began between the Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire to become the dominant power in the region.
- Suleiman the Magnificent captured Belgrade in 1521, conquered the southern and central parts of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Ottoman-Hungarian Wars, and established Ottoman rule in the territory of modern-day Hungary (except the western part) and other Central European territories after his historic victory in the Battle of Mohács in 1526.
- In 1529, he laid siege to Vienna but was unable to conquer the city.
- He attempted another raid on Vienna in 1532, but was defeated in the Siege of Güns.
- Transylvania, Wallachia and, intermittently, Moldavia, became tributary principalities of the Ottoman Empire.
- In 1535, the Ottoman Turks captured Baghdad from the Persians, gaining control of Mesopotamia and access to the Persian Gulf by sea.
- The Caucasus was officially partitioned between the Safavids and the Ottomans for the first time in 1555, a status quo that would last until the end of the Russo-Turkish War.
- Western Armenia, western Kurdistan and western Georgia fell into Ottoman hands as a result of the Peace of Amasya, while southern Dagestan, eastern Armenia, eastern Georgia, and Azerbaijan remained Persian.
- Suleiman’s empire covered around 877,888 square miles and spanned three continents by the end of his reign. In addition, the Empire established itself as a dominant naval power, dominating a large portion of the Mediterranean Sea. By this period, the Ottoman Empire had become a major figure in European politics.
Fall of the Empire
- The downfall and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire began with the Second Constitutional Era, which started with the Young Turk Revolution, a period of hope and promise. Under the Ottoman parliament, it reinstated the Ottoman constitution of 1876 and introduced multi-party politics with a two-stage electoral system. The constitution gave hope to the Empire’s subjects by allowing them to modernise the state’s institutions, restore its strength, and enable it to rise up to outside powers. Its guarantee of liberties intended to reduce intercommunal tensions and make the Empire a more peaceful place. Instead, this period became the story of the twilight struggle of the Empire.
- Members of the Young Turks movement, who had previously gone underground, now formed their own political parties.
- Major parties included the Committee of Union and Progress and the Freedom and Accord Party.
- Ethnic parties, such as Poale Zion, Al-Fatat and the Armenian national movement organised under the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, were on the other end of the spectrum.
- Taking advantage of the civil war, Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908.
- In 1914, the Ottoman census was performed for the final time.
- The Ottoman Empire lost its North African territory and the Dodecanese in the Italo-Turkish War, and almost all of its European lands in the Balkan Wars, despite military reforms that reconstituted the Ottoman Modern Army. The Empire faced continuous unrest in the years leading up to World War I, including the 31 March Incident and two further coups in 1912 and 1913.
- The Ottoman Empire fought alongside the Central Powers in World War I, but was ultimately defeated. The Ottoman involvement in the war began on 29 October 1914 with a combined German-Ottoman surprise attack on the Russian Empire’s Black Sea coast. Following the attack, the Russian Empire and its allies France and the British Empire declared war on the Ottoman Empire.
- During the Gallipoli campaign, the Ottomans successfully defended the Dardanelles strait, and in the first two years of the Mesopotamian campaign, such as at the Siege of Kut, they achieved initial victories against British forces; however, the Arab Revolt turned the tide against the Ottomans in the Middle East.
- The Russian forces, however, had the upper hand in the Caucasus campaign from the start, especially after the Battle of Sarikamish. Russian armies marched into northeastern Anatolia, controlling the major cities until the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (signed after the Russian Revolution in 1917) signalled their withdrawal from World War I.
- The Ottoman government and Kurdish tribes in the region began exterminating the region’s ethnic Armenian population in 1915, resulting in the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians.
- The genocide took place during and after World War I, and was carried out in two stages: the massacre of the able-bodied male population and the forced labour of army conscripts, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and the infirm on death marches to the Syrian desert.
- The deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to robbery, rape and systematic massacre as they were driven forward by military escorts.
- Large-scale massacres were also committed against the Empire’s Greek and Assyrian minorities as part of the same campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Legacy and Ventures
The Ottoman Turks are known for their powerful military, ethnic diversity, creative ventures, religious tolerance, and architectural marvels after ruling for over 600 years. The mighty Empire’s impact can still be seen in the modern Turkish Republic, a modern, mainly secular country that several scholars see as a continuation of the Ottoman Empire.
Art and Science
- The Ottomans were famous for their artistic, scientific and medical achievements.
- During the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, Istanbul and other important cities around the Empire were recognised as artistic hotspots.
- Calligraphy, painting, poetry, textiles and carpet weaving, ceramics and music were among the most popular forms of art.
- Ottoman architecture also contributed to the development of the culture of the time. During this period, elaborate mosques and public buildings were built.
- Science was thought to be a vital topic of study. Advanced mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, physics, geography and chemistry were studied and practised by the Ottomans.
- In addition, the Ottomans were accountable for some of the most significant medical breakthroughs. They invented forceps, catheters, scalpels, pincers and lancets, among other medical equipment still used today.
- Sultan Selim instituted a new policy that included fratricide, or the murder of brothers. His brothers would be imprisoned when a new sultan was crowned. His brothers and their sons would be slaughtered when the sultan’s first son was born. This arrangement assured that the throne would pass to the legitimate heir. However, this tedious practice was not followed by all sultans. The practice evolved over time. The brothers would only be imprisoned in subsequent years, not killed.
- Between 1299 and 1922, the Ottoman Empire was ruled by 36 sultans. The Ottoman sultan would spend many of these years in Istanbul’s elaborate Topkapi Palace complex. There were dozens of gardens, courtyards and residential and administrative structures on the property.
- The harem, a distinct apartments intended for spouses, concubines and female slaves, was part of Topkapi Palace.
- The men in the harem complex were usually eunuchs, while these women were there to serve the sultan.
- For a sultan, the prospect of assassination was always a concern. As a precaution, he relocated every night.
- The devshirme system was established in the 14th century. Conquered Christians were required to give up 20% of their male children to the state. The children were coerced into becoming Muslims and slaves.
- Despite their service as slaves, some of the converts rose to powerful positions and fortune. Many were prepared for government or military duty in the Ottoman Empire. The Janissaries, an elite military group, was mostly made up of forced Christian converts.
- Until the end of the 17th century, the devshirme system was used.