The Ottoman Empire was a multi-ethnic state that existed from 1299 to 1923 (624 years), one of the largest empires to rule the borders of the Mediterranean Sea. At the height of its power, it included Anatolia, the Middle East, part of North Africa, and south-eastern Europe. It was established by a tribe of Oghuz Turks in western Anatolia and ruled by the Osmanli dynasty. In diplomatic circles it was often referred to as the Sublime Porte or simply as the Porte, from the French translation of the Ottoman name Bâb-i-âlî "high gate", due to the greeting ceremony the sultan held for foreign ambassadors at the Palace Gate. This has also been interpreted as referring to the Empire's position as gateway between Europe and Asia. In its day, the Ottoman Empire was also commonly referred to as the Turkish Empire or Turkey, though it should not be confused with the modern nation-state of that name.
The Empire was founded by Osman I (in Arabic ʿUthmān, 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 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, after the Ottomans captured Constantinople (modern İstanbul) from the Byzantine Empire, it became the Ottoman capital. Following World War I, during which most of its territories were captured by the Allies, Ottoman elites established modern Turkey during the Turkish War of Independence.
Main article: History of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman State originated as Beylik within the Seljuk Empire in the 13th century. In 1299, Osman I declared independence of the Ottoman Principality. Murad I was the first Ottoman to claim the title of sultan (king). With the capture of Constantinople 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. The Empire was situated in the middle of East and West and interacted throughout its six century history with both the East and the West.
During this period, the Empire vied with the emerging European colonial powers in the Indian Ocean. Fleets with soldiers and arms were sent to support Muslim rulers in Kenya and Aceh and to defend the Ottoman slave and spice trade. In Aceh, the Ottomans built a fortress and supplied huge cannon. The Dutch Protestants were helped by the Ottomans against Catholic Spain.
In the 17th century, the Ottomans were weakened both internally as well as externally by costly wars especially against Persia, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Eventually, after a defeat at the Battle of Vienna, in 1683, it was clear that the Ottoman Empire was no longer the sole superpower in Europe. Through 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), the Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923 from the remnants of the fallen empire.
Main article: State organization of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman state organization 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 the Turks drew out the Byzantines from Anatolia and later pursued them into Europe. But, as the Ottomans moved further west 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 capture of Constantinopole (later dubbed Istanbul) in 1453, most churches were left intact and only Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque. The Ottoman court life in many aspects resembled ancient traditions of the Persian Shahs, but had many Byzantine and European influences. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire was the refuge of the Jews of Europe, who did not have 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 élite troops and bodyguards for the sultan. After the 17th century, however, the Ottomans could no longer produce a modern fighting force because of a 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 sultan, but rather bey. 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.
Note: Although Abdul Mejid II was chosen as caliph in 1922, he was not a sultan, as the National Assembly had abolished the sultanate. The caliphate was abolished in turn in 1924.
- Barbara Jelavich , History of the Balkans, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Cambridge University Press, 1983. ISBN 0521252490. See "Balkan Christians under Ottoman Rule", pages 39-126.
- Colin Imber , The Ottoman Empire, 1300–1650: The Structure of Power, 2002. ISBN 0333613864.
- Gülru Necipo Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power: The Topkapi Palace in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, 1991. ISBN 0262140500.
Ottomans - Turkish dynasty.
Last updated: 10-15-2005 22:48:20