|Imperial motto: unknown|
|Official language||Ottoman Turkish|
Sultans of the
|Population||ca 40 million (at most)|
|Area (1683)||11 955 000 km²|
|Dissolution||October 29 1923|
|The flag of the later Ottoman period|
|Part of the History of Turkey|
The Ottoman Empire was a state that existed from 1281 to 1923 and that, at its height, comprised Anatolia, the Middle East, part of North Africa, and south-eastern Europe, established by a tribe of Oghuz Turks in western Anatolia and ruled by the Osmanli dynasty. It was sometimes referred to in diplomatic circles as the "Sublime Porte" or simply as "the Porte", due to the greeting ceremony the sultan held for foreign ambassadors at the Palace Gate. This also refers to the Empire's position as gateway between Europe and Asia.
The Empire was founded by Osman I (in Arabic Uthmān, hence the name Ottoman Empire). In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire was among the world's most powerful political entities and the countries of Europe felt threatened by its steady advance through the Balkans. At its height, it comprised of an area of 11,955,000 km². From 1517 onwards, the Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph of Islam, and the Ottoman Empire was from 1517 until 1922 (or 1924) synonymous with the Caliphate, the Islamic State. In 1453, following the capture of the city, Constantinople (in modern Turkish İstanbul) became the capital. Following World War I, during which most of its territories were captured by the Allies, the Ottoman state transformed into modern Turkey during the Turkish War of Independence.
Main article: History of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman State was founded as an autonomous state or Beylik in the 14th century (1299-1300) by Osman I who was earlier Bey of his tribe in 1281. Murad I was the first Ottoman to claim the title of king sultan,Han. As sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, the state became a mighty empire with Mehmed II as its Emperor. The Empire reached its apex under Suleiman I in the 16th century when it stretched from the Persian Gulf in the east to Hungary in the northwest; and from Egypt in the south to the Caucasus in the north. After its defeat at the Battle of Vienna 1683 it was no longer the sole superpower in Europe. After a series of reforms, the empire continued to be one of the major political powers of Europe, eventually joining the Central Powers in World War I. The Ottoman Empire was defeated by the Allies during the war and its territories were colonized by the victors. After the Turkish War of Independence (1918-1923), Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923 from remnants of the fallen empire.
Main article: State organisation of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman state organisation was based on a hierarchy with the sultan in the top and below him his viziers, other court officials, and military commanders.
Main article: Culture of the Ottoman Empire
During the medieval age, the Ottoman Turks had an incredibly high tolerance of alien cultures and religions, especially if compared to the Christian West. Early on as the Turks drew out the Byzantines from Anatolia and later pursued them into Europe, it was a part of the Jihad (Holy Struggle) against Christianity and the first Ottoman rulers called themselves Gazi (Holy Warrior). But, as the Ottomans moved further west and the assimilation of the Greek and Balkan culture progressed, the Turkic leaders themselves absorbed some of the culture of the conquered people. The alien culture was gradually added to the Turks' own, creating the characteristic Ottoman culture. After the capturing of Constantinople in 1453, most churches were left intact and only a few (including, of course, Hagia Sophia) were turned into mosques. The Ottoman court life in many aspects resembled ancient traditions of the Persian Shahs, but had many Greek and European influences. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire was the refuge of the Jews of Europe, who did not enjoy the freedom of religion in Europe that the citizens of the Ottoman Empire did.
Main article: Military of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman military was a complex system of recruiting and fief-holding. In the Ottoman army, light cavalry long formed the core and they were given fiefs called timars. Cavalry used bows and short swords and made use of nomad tactics similar to those of the Mongol Empire. The Ottoman army was once among the most advanced fighting forces in the world, being one of the first to employ muskets. The famous Janissary corps provided elite troops and bodyguard for the sultan.
After the 17th century, however, the Ottomans could no longer produce a modern fighting force because of lack of reforms, mainly because of the corrupted Janissaries. The abolition of the Janissary corps in 1826 was not enough, and in the war against Russia, the Ottoman Empire severely lacked modern weapons and technologies.
Main article: Provinces of the Ottoman Empire
At the height of its power, the Ottoman Empire had 29 provinces plus three tributary principalities and Transsylvania, a kingdom which swore allegiance to the Porte.
Main article: Osmanli Dynasty
The sultan, also known as the Padishah, in Europe sometimes the Grand Turk, was the sole regent and government of the empire, at least officially. The dynasty is most often called the Osmanli or the House of Osman. The sultan enjoyed many titles such as Sovereign of the House of Osman, Sultan of Sultans, Khan of Khans, and from 1517 onwards, Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the Lord of the Universe, i.e. Caliph, which theoretically also gave him overlordship over other Muslim rulers around the world. For example, among the Mughal Emperors of India, only Aurangzeb had the Khutba read in his own name. Note that the first rulers never called themselves sultans, but rather beys. The sultan title was established by Murad I in 1383. See the article on state organisation of the Ottoman Empire for further information on the sultan and the structure of power.
- Ottoman Web Site - Site with a lot of information on the Ottomans.
- Royal Ark: Turkey - Extensive site with a lot of detailed information.
- World Civilizations: The Ottomans - Comprehendible site that covers much about the state and government.
- The Ottomans - Good site that covers various aspects of the Ottoman Empire in detail.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Colin Imber; (2002). The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: the structure of power. ISBN 0-333-61386-4
- Gülru Necipoğlu; (1991) Architecture, ceremonial, and power: The Topkapi Palace in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. ISBN 0-262-14050-0