Short History Of Ottoman Turks And Ottoman Empire

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Ottoman Empire Map Greatest Extent 1699

History Of The Ottoman Empire

Ottomans was one of the vassal states founded in 1299 upon the downfall of Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. Although it had many rivals in Anatolian geography, this little vassal state managed to grow and expand swiftly thanks to its smart moves.

One of the first Ottoman sultans, Orhan married a Byzantine princess and got an important castle in Gallipoli as a dowry. This land was the first land of the Ottoman Turks in Europe and it served as a starting point in their expansion into Balkans.

Unbeatable Janissary Army

Ottomans was a warrior folk and it established a system called “devşirme” (recruit) beginning with Murad I, the third Ottoman Sultan. Devşirme refers to the system in which healthy and strong children are taken from the villages in Balkans and trained in military affairs and religion in Janissary military centers. Ottoman war machine managed to turn these chosen Christian children into an unbeatable land forces, Janissaries, from 14th to 17th centuries.

Ottoman army band: Mehteran is still performing once a week in Topkapı Palace. They look like Janissary soldiers.

Ottoman Army Band: Mehteran is still performing once a week in Topkapı Palace. They look like Janissary soldiers.

Conquest of Constantinople By Ottoman Turks

The most famous Ottoman Sultans are Mehmed the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent. It was during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror that Ottomans became the absolute sovereign in Anatolia as well as Balkans and captured Constantinople, one of the most important cities in the world.

Ottoman Empire before the conquest of Constantinople

Ottoman Empire right before the conquest of Constantinople

Ottomans, which grew into multi-national empire after the conquest of Istanbul, captured Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Egypt during the reign of Selim I. Ottoman Empire was located on Silk Road stretching from China and Spice Route stretching from India to Europe; therefore, it had a source of endless income.

The Rise Of The Ottoman Empire

The rise of Ottomans hit the top with Suleiman the Magnificent. Big reforms were made in law, education, architecture, social life, culture and art and great developments were achieved in these fields. Therefore Sultan Suleiman is mentioned as Suleiman the Magnificent in European history. During the reign of Suleiman (1520-1566), Ottomans reached its widest borders in three continents. Famous admirals Piri Reis, Dragut and Hayreddin Barbarossa strengthened Ottoman’s domination in the Mediterranean. Sinan the Great (Mimar Sinan), regarded as Ottoman’s best, lived in this century as well.

The rise of Ottomans continued until 1699 when it started to lose land after centuries.

Map Of Ottoman Empire’s Greatest Extent
Greatest extent of Ottoman Empire by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566)

Greatest Extent Of The Ottoman Empire Map 1699

The Decline and Fall of Ottoman Empire

Social and cultural developments like Renaissance and Reform in Europe did not resonate with Ottomans; as a result of which, Ottomans were left behind in terms of art, culture and military. The technological advance of Europe led Ottomans to sacrifice more men in order to save lands.

Deemed “Sick Man of Europe” in 19th century, Ottomans was seriously shaken due to power struggles with countries like England, France, Austria and Russia and lost great pieces of lands.

During this worsening period for the empire, sultans like Selim III, Mahmud II and Abdülmecid began modernization periods but their effort could not prevent the empire from going into downfall.

Enver PashaYoung Turks – grabbed the power from Sultan Abdulhamid II and decided to take part in World War I on the side of Austria and Germany. The exhausted empire was fighting in many fronts and lost a lot of people. Nevertheless it managed to prevent a large scale attack in Dardanelles by the Allies who were planning to occupy Istanbul.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Modern Turkey

During the hardcore battles in Gallipoli, an Ottoman staff officer starred. Getting known as a military genius, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, managed to save the center of Ottoman lands, Anatolia, from the occupiers by organizing the War of Independence. By making great reforms, he pioneered the foundation of the Republic of Turkey as a secular and modern state.

Modern day Turkey. Heartland of the Ottoman Empire.

Modern day Turkey. Heartland of the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman Empire left Istanbul a great cultural and artistic heritage. The most important of these are Blue Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Topkapı Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace.


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By Serhat Engül

Official Guide in Istanbul

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