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Click to read on Ottoman decline


Suleymania mosque in Istanbul


Ottoman Sultans (thirty six of them ruled):

Osman (1290-1326)
Orkhan (1326-1351)
Murad I (1351-89)
Bayazid I Yildirim (1389-1402)
Interregnum: Timurid occupation followed by civil war (1402-1413)
Muhammad I (1413-1421)
Murad II (1421-1444; 1446-1451)
Muhammad II Fateh (1444-1446; 1451-1481)
Bayazid II (1481-1512)
Selim I Abus(1512-1520)
Suleyman I Qanuni(1520-1566)
Selim II (1566-1574)
Murad III (1574-1594)
Muhammad III (1594-1603)
Ahmad I (1603-1617)
Mstafa I (1617-18 & 1622-23)
Genc Osman II (1618-22)
Murad IV (1623-40)
Ibrahim (1640-48)

Muhammad IV (1648-87)
Suleyman II (1687-91)
Ahmad II (1691-95)
Mustafa II (1695-1703)
Ahmad III (1703-30)
Mahmud I (1730-54)

Osman III (1754-57)
Mustafa III (1757-74)
Abd al-Hamid I (1774-89)
Selim III (1789-1808)
Mustafa IV (1807-08)
Mahmud II (1808-39)
Abd al-Majid (1839-61)
Abd al-Aziz (1891-76)
Muhammad V (1876)
Abd al-Hamid II (1876-1909)
Muhammad V Rashad (1909-18)
Muhammad VI Vahid al-Din (1918-22) 


Turkic peoples migration from Central Asia (11th century) followed by Mongol invasion of 1200s opened Anatolia to mass migration and settling of Turkic in the region of Asia Minor.  Ever since late 11th century, Turkic tribes have been pushing the Byzantine Empire toward Western Anatolia.

By the 1300s, these newcomers had established a number of principalities on the border of much reduced Byzantine state.  One of these principalities was under a clan leader named Uthman (Osman) thus the name Ottoman. These principalities sent warriors called Ghazi to fight the Christian Byzantines.


Ghazi Sultan Osman I (1258-1326) and his son Sultan Orkhan



Later Ottoman myths and traditions had it that the ruling house could be traced back to a Central Asian ancestral home; to nomadic tribe of the Kayi (Qayi) Turks a branch of the Oghuz which migrated to Asia Minor under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of the 1200s; this claim seems to be fictitious.  It seems that originally the Ottomans considered themselves merely as common Ghazis, i.e. frontier warriors for the faith. Their history before the 1200s is uncertain; founder of the state, Osman son of Ertoghrul had inherited his father's realm who had in turn received it from the Saljuq of Rum sultan (Ala al-Din II) as an iqta based in the town of Sogut on the Byzantine border (NW Asia Minor).
As the Ottomans were expanding, under Sultan Orkhan (1326-59), innovation in administration and military affairs, added to their efficiency, which was a major characteristic of early Ottoman state.  Orkhan was the younger of Osman's two sons [the older was a man of letter and not interested in ruling].  By the end of his rule, the Ottoman state had expanded to include half million people.  Orkhan revived the Office of Vazir, in order to organize the administration of a rapidly expanding state.
Under Orkhan, a regular standing army was organized.  This was a professional military force of a kind not to be emulated in Europe for a future two centuries.  The army of his father, Osman, had consisted of Turkman (Turkic) tribal irregulars, a type of volunteer cavalry men, recruited from among tribal villages. This was an army made of expert horsemen, as nomadic cavalry often were, but a "whoever who wanted to fight" army in nature. Under Orkhan, Moslems in charge of land were obligated to provide the center with a number of cavalrymen known as the Sepahi as part of their responsibility toward the sultan.


Sultan Murad I (1319-89)


 To this military force was added a standing force of infantry.  This force was unlike the mercenaries who (particularly in Europe at this time) comprised the bulk of armies of the time.  The Ottoman infantrymen were devoted to the sovereign, sharing his cause and trusting him to safeguard their interests in terms of promotion and other rewards for their services.  At the core of the Ottoman infantry were what started under Orkhan as the Sultan's bodyguard, and expanded under Murad I (Orkhan's son) to 1000 men and under Mehmed II the Conqueror to crack regiments creating a corps.  These were the storm troopers of the Ottoman military and were called the Yeni Cheri (Janissaries-New troops) also known as Kapikulu corps.
The soldiers of the Janissary corps were picked from among young Christian boys and forced to convert, this was called the Dershime.  They were picked for their physical strength and wit, to serve as the Sultan personal slaves.  They were paid on a scale higher than the regular troops; were trained inflexibly; disciplined strictly; went through all forms of hardship; lived like monks; were not permitted to marry and form families; were not allowed to own property or perform work other than their military duty as long as they served in the corps. 
Thus, early Ottoman state was led by Ghazi warriors an it began to grow in size and power through the 1300s.  In 1389, under Sultan Murad I, the Ottoman beat Slavic forces in Kosovo and gained control of Northern Greece, Bulgaria, and Macedonia, surrounding the Byzantine Empire.  The Ottomans also began to expand eastward in Anatolia.


Chronology 1300s:
1290-1326:  Osman or Uthman, leader of Ottoman state and Ghazi warrior, raids Byzantine territories and captures Kara Sie [Qara Sie] valley south of Nicaea [Iznik].
1299-1308: Under Osman, the Ottomans raided the Bosphorus by conquering Aq Hisar [Ak Hisar] and Yenishehir.  Also Bursa captured and made first capital.  This made Osman the local Amir and serious threat to the Byzantine Empire until his death in 1326.
1329: Under Orkhan (1326-59) Iznik and Izmir were conquered and Ottoman rule was extended to near Constantinople.
1354: Gallipoli occupied and Ottomans crossed into Europe.
1358: Thrace occupied.
1361: Murad I (1359-89) captured Angora (Ankara); Adrianople (Edrine); which became the new capital of the Ottoman state (1362).
1366-72: Ottomans enter Bulgaria and Macedonia.
1385-89: Sofia and Nish captured; under Murad I, at the Battle of Kosovo (1389), the combined forces of Serbia [under prince Lazar Gresljanivic], Bulgaria, Albania were defeated; encirclement of the Byzantine empire.
1390-99: Bayazid I (1389-1403) advanced toward the Danube.


Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, put them in charge of a demoralized region, a territory divided by religion, and economic contradictions; the Ottomans were small in numbers and they tended to mainly settle in the Anatolian proper, hence there were no major influx of Moslems into the Balkans. 
The new territory was complex in terms of race, religion and political character.  The Christian population knew little or nothing of Islam and could hardly be easily assimilated, as did the Christians of Anatolia. 
Added to this, the Ottoman army was needed for wars on other fronts and could not be held up in one place for a long period of time, therefore, the general policy of forced conversion was not adopted, and this prevented major revolts. 
Under Murad I, a policy of tolerance was developed.  The subjugated non-Moslem people were required to help with the military or pay taxes after submitting to Ottoman rule.  This policy was continued after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.  Here, Christian churches were allowed to function and defend the rights of the Christian subjects.



Sultan Bayazid 1 Yildirim
Ottoman expansion was dealt a temporary setback in 1402 when the empire was attacked from the East.  During the reign of Bayazid I (Yildirim or the Thunderbolt, r.1389-1402), and while the Sultan was laying siege to Constantinople, news came from the east that Ottoman territory was being invaded by Timur, who demanded Ottoman submission.  The two armies meat at Ankara; the Ottoman army was decisively defeated; Bayazid captured and killed.  Ottomans were on the rise again after Timur's death and the disintegration of his empire (1405).  He established the tradition of putting the most potential pretenders to the Ottoman thrown in order to prevent sedition in the future.
A brief setback for the Ottomans happened when they were defeated at the hand of Amir Timur Gorkan or Tamerlane (1402), during which Sultan Yildrim Bayazid I was defeated at Ankara, captured and killed and his empire annexed by Amir Timur.  After Timur's death in 1405 and a civil war, the Ottomans were on the march again from 1413 on. 


Chronology 1400s:
1402: Timur defeated Bayazid at Ankara [explain Bayazid's death] subdued the Ottomans and devastated most of Anatolia.
1403-13: After Timur's death, civil war among Bayazid's sons over succession.
1413-21: Mehmed I, the victorious son of Bayazid restored the Ottoman state to its status under Bayazid.
1416: Ottoman fleet defeated by a Veniceans fleet at Gallipoli.
1425-30: Under Murad II (1421-51) Ottomans were victorious against the Veniciens and entered Morea and captured Salonika.
1444: During Murad II's second term, Christian armies defeated at Varna.
1448: Second Battle of Kosovo, under Murad II a Hungarian army under Janos Hunyadi defeated.
1453: Under Mehmed II [the Conqueror] (1451-81) Ottomans captured Constantinople and subdued the Byzantine empire after a seven week siege, employing over 100,000 troops, naval unites and artillery.
1461: Greece was conquered
1463: Bosnia was conquered
1475: The Genoese colony in Crimea was subdued and the Tatar Khanate of Crimea made into a tributary with much internal autonomy.
1476: Wallachia became a tributary.
1479: Albania subjugated.
1480: Ottomans landed in Otranto in southern Italy but were not able to hold on it for long; also failed to capture Rhodes under the Knights of St John.
1482: Hercegovina was conquered.
1499: Under Sultan Bayazid II (r. 1481-1527) victory over Venetians at Lepanto gave Ottomans possession of more Greek islands.
Another major victory for the Ottomans was the defeat of combined forces of Hungry, Poland, Naples, Transylvania, Serbia, Venice, and Genoa at the Battle of Varna in 1444. 
Under Ottoman Sultan Muhammad Fateh ( The Conqueror), the Ottomans finally captured Constantinople (1453) renaming it Istanbul and putting an end to Byzantine Empire.



Mehmed II the Conqueror [Fateh]: (r.1444-1446; 1451-1481)

Short in build but strong and handsome, energetic, witted, calculated ambition, focused, and all these were put to use to make him the master of Constantinople (is tin poli or to the city in Greek- Istanbul.
He is credited with creating an artillery force, [never seen in the East but familiar to the West]; he had his army mount three cannons on the Bosphorus, each discharging a six hundred pound cannonball; he had a cannon made 26 ft in length, 8 ft in diameter, to blast the walls of Constantinople; created an armada of 125 ships headed by a Bulgarian admiral.
The Siege of Constantinople began on April 12, 1453 and ended on May 29, 1453; the city was mostly depopulated at this point with only 50,000 population; 100,000 Ottoman invaders of many different ethnic groups vs. 7000 defenders.  The Greek emperor was killed. Conquest of Constantinople signals the end of the Middle-Ages.    
By conquering the Byzantine state, the Ottomans were now positioned to conquer the rest of the Balkans; to convert the Black Sea into an Ottoman sea; and to advance into central Europe, Ukraine, Caucasus, Arabia, and north Africa; By capturing Constantinople, the Ottomans inherited Rome, its rich tradition and administration, etc.  Mehmed saw himself as heir to the Roman Empire.  He restored the Eastern Church under the protection of the Sultan.  He was well enough disposed toward the Greeks, who represented the largest, richest and most cultured non-Moslem population in the city.  He saw clearly that they could be an asset to his empire, having an aptitude for industry, commerce and seamanship, which the Turks lacked at this point.  Mehmed had respect for Greek intellectual learning.  The Pharar district of Istanbul was set aside for the Greeks and the patriarch of the community enjoyed complete authority over the Millat of Rum. 


Sultan Muhammad II Fateh  
All who had left the city, mostly Christians Orthodox, were immediately urged to return with promises of protection for their property and religion.  Prisoners were released and, for a while, exempted from tax; 1000, Moslem and Christian families from other areas were ordered to settle in Istanbul in order to fill the vacuum.  Within 25 years, Jews (evicted from Spain) had created their own millat in Istanbul.  Under Mehmed, commerce was encouraged and trade began to grow.
Sultan Muhammad II is remembered not just because of his victories but also because for many fundamental measures he introduced in the Ottoman system of government; his 1476 ganunnameh (legislative act) he defined the functions of state officials and codified iqta relations [this was later expanded by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent].
In addition, during his reign, he: supplied an organization for the ulama; expanded and improved the army and established a navy; built numerous mosques and public projects; religious policy toward other people of the book (Jews and Christians) was spelled out more explicitly.
By this time 90% of Anatolia’s population had become Moslem which was due to gradual breakdown of Anatolian Christianity through weakening and final collapse of the Byzantine Empire.











After the conquest of Constantinople, and gradual Ottoman advances in the Balkans, Christianity was allowed to function and no forced conversions were attempted.
The 1500s witnessed major Ottoman victories under Sultans Selim I and Suleiman the Magnificent (Qanuni) and their successors: in 1504 Romania; 1506 Belgrade, 1526 Hungry 1529 but the first siege of Vienna failed; 1559 Transylvania; 1563-1606, after a long war with European powers, especially Austria, Ottoman advances in Europe were stopped, but its control over the Balkans confirmed in the Treaty of Zsitva (1606).


Sultan Selim I Abus (1365-1420) and his son Sultan
Suleiman Qanuni (1494-1566)
In 1571, the Ottoman navy was decimated and its advance in the Mediterranean halted (Battle of Lepanto); in 1550s, Ottoman advances stopped by the Russians in the North Black Sea region.   






Expansion  of the Ottoman (Osmanli)


Selim the Grim (1512-1520):

1512-1520 Sultan Selim I (Grim-Abus); under his rule the state created by Osman and expanded to include Constantinople under Mehmed, was turned into an empire; former Arab lands of the Islamic empire annexed; Selim had received his title due to his brutality toward his enemies; under him the Ottomans crushed the Safavids in 1514 at the battle of Chalderan and stopped the growth of Safavid Shi'ism and temporarily annexed western Iran.
Mamluks were defeated in 1516 and 1517 and Syria and Egypt captured; by conquering Egypt, the Ottoman sultan took over the legacy of caliph's prerogatives from the resident Abbasid Caliph (Mutawakkil) in the Mamluk court; the Mamluk Caliphat was not accepted by most of the Sunni Moslem world but it became an important aspect of Ottoman legitimacy.

Suleyman Qanuni (1520-1566):

The reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (Qanuni) witnessed the peak of Ottoman power; he was a builder on a grand scale; he was known as the low giver because of codification of Sunni Moslem law; Bernardo Navagero, Venetian ambassador to Suleyman's court in 1553 described him in the following terms:
"The Turkish court is a superb sight, and most superb is the Sultan himself.  One's eyes are dazzled by the gleam of gold and jewelry...what strikes one about Suleiman the Magnificent is not the flowing robes or his high turban.  He is unique among the throng because his demeanor is that of a truly great superior."
Suleyman had his own unique weaknesses; women was one of them; he loved on of his slave girls named Khurrem Sultana (the famous Roxelana a daughter of a Russian priest); he eventually freed her but due to her killed to of his sons and his friend and grand vezir Ibrahim Pasha; also during his reign the first capitulation right was given to a European state; in 1535 Suleyman concluded a treaty of capitulation with Francis I king of France who was an enemy of the Habsburgs; accordingly, France received especial trading, religion, and consular privileges in Egypt and the empire; at this point in the empire's history, this event did not mean much; but in later centuries, such capitulation rights became a way of colonial domination of the empire by Europeans.


During this period Ottoman ships sailed the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean, under the empire's greatest admirals; one such admiral, Piri Ra'is, is renowned for extending imperial rule to Yemen, Aden, and the Persian Gulf and for exploring the Indian Ocean; he also produced an atlas of the seas; the Sultan converted the sailors of Tunis, Algeria, and Tripoli into a wing of the fleet; the famous Khair al-Din Barbarossa (probably of Greek origin d.1546) was the Grand Admiral of the fleet in the Mediterranean region; under him Tunis was captured in 1534 and Spain was engaged on the high seas.


Chronology 1500s:
1501: Moldova became a vassal.
1504: Romania conquered.
1514: Under Sultan Selim I the Safavid Shah Isma'il was defeated at the battle of Chaldoran   (200 kilometers north-west of Tabriz near the border of modern Turkey); Azerbaijan and the Caucasus temporarily conquered and Shi'i threat reduced.
1516-1517: Mamluks defeated and Egypt and Syria conquered
1520-1566: Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (Qanuni-Lawgiver)
1520: Belgrade conquered from Hungarians; Ottoman rule over Algeria recognized
1522: Knights of St. John defeated by Suleyman and Rhodes captured and allowed to go to Crete.
1524: Baghdad taken.
1526: Hungarians routed at the battle of Mohacs and the region accepted Ottoman rule.
1529: First siege of Vienna failed.
1534: Basra taken.
1535: Capitulation by Suleyman to the French.
1466-1546:  Khayr al-Din Pasha Barbarossa: Famous Ottoman Grand Admiral; engaged Spain in Western Mediterranean; 1534 conquered Tunis.
1554: Bahrain conquered
1559: Transylvania conquered
1563-1606: A long war; Ottoman expansion stopped; treaty of Zsitva Torok (1606) Ottoman rule over Rumania, Hungry, and Transylvania confirmed, but the Ottoman Sultan had to accept the Habsburg emperor as an equal.
1570: Conquest of Cyprus
1571: Naval defeat of Lepanto; Turkish fleet sunk by a combined force of Spanish and Italian naval forces, but, rebuilt soon after. 
By the end of this century, the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean had come under Ottoman control.

Read more on Ottoman classical period


Khayr al-Din Barbarossa
The Ottoman absolutist military state, a remarkably efficient institution in governing the empire, reached its height in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The bureaucracy was sufficiently well elaborated to allow for high degree of control.  Central Bureaus were involved in prevention of abuses and collection of taxes, both important aspects of prosperity of the society and the empire.  Periodic surveys were made of the population, land and resources of all the inhabited places of the empire; of the state of the crafts, of pressure of the land;
As the Ottoman Empire expanded, the territories under its rule normally experienced an increase in population and prosperity as noted by European travelers.  Economic prosperity translated into high culture, the center of which was the imperial court [Topkapi Palace].  Persian [particularly poetry] was the language of this high culture of classical period, but Turkish gradually replaced it as the empire entered the more modern period.  While Persian became secondary, Turkish language was Persianized; writing of history was encouraged; Ottoman natural sciences were largely translations from Arabic and Persian, but the Ottomans encouraged it and in the field of medical science, a high level of learning was maintained; 1579 an observatory was built in Istanbul.



Two maps of the Ottoman Empire at her height


Topkapi Palace in Istanbul (click here to read more)

Dolmabahce (Dolmehbaghcheh) Palace (click to see more photos):

Read more on this period:

Abou el-Haj, Raf'at `Ali, Formation of the Modern State: The Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries
Anderson, M.S. The Easter Question 1774-1923
Atil, Esin, The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent
Babinger, Franz, Mehmmed the Conqueror and His Time
Barbir, Karl, K., Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708-1758
Cohen, Amnon, Economic Life in Ottoman Jerusalem
Davison, R. Essay in Ottoman and Turkish History 1774-1923
Eichel, Marjean Ottoman Urbanism in the Balkans: A Tentative view
Gerolymaters, Andre The Balkan Wars: Conquest, Revolution and Retribution from Ottoman Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond.
Inalcik, Halil, ed., An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire
--------------- The Middle East and the Balkans Under the Ottoman Empire
---------------- The Ottoman Empire: Conquest, Organization and Economy
Islamoglu-Inan, Huri, ed., the Ottoman Empire and the World Economy
Issawi, Charles. The Economic History of Turkey
Itzkowitz, Norman, Ottoman Empire and the Islamic Tradition
Kinross, Lord. The Ottoman Centuries
Kunt, Metin & Woodhead, Christine, ed.s, Suleyman the Magnificent and his Age
Kunt, Metin, The Sultan's Servants: The Transformation of Ottoman Provincial Government 1550-1650.
Lewis, Edward. The Emergence of Modern Turkey
Lewis, Raphaela. Everyday Life in Ottoman Turkey


Macfie, A.L. The Eastern Question: A Reprint of Letters written 153-1856 dealing with the events of the Crimean War (1897)
McCarthy, Justin. The Ottoman Turks
McGowan, Bruce, Economic Life in Ottoman Europe: Taxation, Trade, and the Struggle for Land
Murphey, Rhoads Ottoman Warfare 1500-1700
Olson, Robert Turkey's Relations with Iran, Syria, Israel, and Russia 1991-2000
Pamuk, Sevket, A Monetary History of the Ottoman Empire
Parev, Ivan. Habsburg and Ottomans between Vienna and Belgrade 1683-1739
Penzer, M.N. The Harem
Pope, Hugh Sons of the Conquerors: the Rise of the Turkic World
Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire 1700-1922
Sevket, Pamuk. A Modern History of the Ottoman Europe
Shaw, Stanford, Between Old and New: The Ottoman Empire under Sultan
Tunacy, Mete & Zurcher, E. Socialism and Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire 1876-1923
Yazbak, Mahmoud. Haifa in the late Ottoman Empire
------, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey
Zurcher, Erik Socialism and Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire 1876-1923

-------, Turkey: A Modern History