Origins of the Ottoman Empire
Osman I, leader of the Turkic tribes of Anatolia, founded the Ottoman Empire around 1299. The term “Ottoman” is derived from Osman’s name, which was “Uthman” in Arabic.
The Ottoman Turks established formal government and expanded their territory under the leadership of Osman I, Orhan, Murad I, and Bayezid I.
Sultan Mehmed renamed the city Istanbul and made it the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul has become a dominant international center of commerce and culture.
Mehmed died in 1481. His eldest son, Bayezid II, became the new sultan.
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Rise of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire reached its peak between 1520 and 1566, under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. This period was marked by great power, stability and wealth.
Suleiman created a uniform system of law and welcomed different forms of art and literature. Many Muslims considered Suleiman a religious leader as well as a political leader.
Throughout the reign of Sultan Suleiman, the empire expanded and included parts of Eastern Europe.
Which countries were part of the Ottoman Empire?
At its peak, the Ottoman Empire included the following regions:
- Part of Arabia
- A considerable part of the North African coastal strip
Ottoman art and science
The Ottomans were known for their achievements in art, science and medicine. Istanbul and other major cities of the empire were recognized as artistic centers, particularly during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.
Some of the most popular art forms included calligraphy, painting, poetry, textile and rug weaving, ceramics, and music.
Ottoman architecture also helped define the culture of the time. Elaborate mosques and public buildings were constructed during this period.
Science was considered an important field of study. The Ottomans learned and practiced advanced mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, physics, geography and chemistry.
Additionally, some of the greatest advances in medicine were made by the Ottomans. They invented several surgical instruments still used today, such as forceps, catheters, scalpels, forceps and lancets.
Under Sultan Selim, a new policy emerged, including fratricide or the killing of brothers.
When a new sultan was crowned, his brothers were imprisoned. When the sultan’s first son was born, his brothers and their sons were killed. This system ensured that the rightful heir would take the throne.
But not all sultans followed this harsh ritual. Over time, the practice has evolved. In the years that followed, the brothers were simply put in prison, not killed.
A total of 36 sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1299 and 1922. For most of these years, the Ottoman sultan lived in the intricate Topkapi Palace complex in Istanbul. It contained dozens of gardens, courtyards and residential and administrative buildings.
Part of the Topkapi Palace included the harem, a separate quarter reserved for wives, concubines and slaves. These women were placed to serve the sultan, while the men in the harem complex were usually eunuchs.
The threat of assassination has always been a concern for a sultan. He moved every night for safety reasons.
The Ottoman Empire and other religions
Most scholars agree that Ottoman Turkish rulers were tolerant of other religions.
Those who were not Muslims were classified according to the millet system, a community structure that gave minority groups limited power to control their own affairs while still under Ottoman rule. Some millets paid taxes, while others were exempt.
In the 14th century, the devshirme system was created. This required conquering the Christians to cede 20 percent of their male children to the state. The children were forced to convert to Islam and become slaves.
Although they served as slaves, some converts became powerful and wealthy. Many were trained for government service or for the Ottoman army. The elite military group, known as the Janissaries, was primarily made up of forcibly converted Christians.
The devshirme system lasted until the end of the 17th century.
The decline of the Ottoman Empire
Beginning in the 1600s, the Ottoman Empire began to lose its economic and military dominance over Europe.
At that time, Europe had rapidly strengthened itself thanks to the Renaissance and the dawn of Industrial Revolution. Other factors, such as poor leadership and competition with trade from the Americas and India, led to the weakening of the empire.
In 1683, the Ottoman Turks were defeated at the Battle of Vienna. This loss adds to their already declining status.
Over the next hundred years, the empire began to lose key regions. After a revolt, Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830.
In 1878, the Congress of Berlin proclaimed the independence of Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria.
During the Balkan Warswhich took place in 1912 and 1913, the Ottoman Empire lost almost all its territories in Europe.
When did the Ottoman Empire fall?
At the beginning of First World WarTHE The Ottoman Empire was already in decline. The Ottoman army entered the war in 1914 on the side of the Central Powers (including Germany and Austria-Hungary) and was defeated in October 1918.
After the Armistice of Mudros, most of the Ottoman territories were divided between Britain, France, Greece and Russia.
The Ottoman Empire officially ended in 1922 when the title of Ottoman Sultan was abolished. Turkey was declared a republic on October 29, 1923. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938), army officer, founded the independent Republic of Türkiye. He then served as Turkey’s first president from 1923 until his death in 1938, implementing reforms that quickly secularized and westernized the country.
THE Armenian genocide was perhaps the most controversial and damning event associated with the Ottomans.
In 1915, Turkish leaders hatched a plan to massacre Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Most experts estimate that around 1.5 million Armenians were killed.
For years, the Turkish government has denied any responsibility for the genocide. In fact, it is illegal even today to talk about the Armenian genocide in Turkey.
After ruling for over 600 years, the Ottoman Turks are often known for their military might, ethnic diversity, artistic endeavors, religious tolerance, and architectural marvels.
The influence of the powerful empire is still very much present in today’s Turkish Republic, a modern, mostly secular nation considered by many scholars to be a continuation of the Ottoman Empire.