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Early History (1299-1453)
Main Article: Rise of the Ottoman EmpireThe Ottoman Sultanate was founded in 1299 by Osman I, who began by taking the Byzantine City of Sogot in 1295 and made that the first capital of the Ottomans. After his successor, Orhan, captured Nicaea in 1331, it became clear to the Byzantines that this Turkish Sultanate was becoming a major threat. The Byzantines attempted to call on Europe to aid in the Ottoman rise, but found very little help as most of the Empire fell to the Sultanate. In 1352, the Ottomans invaded Thrace and began a front in Europe not seen by the Muslims since the invasion of Al-Andalus. After the campaigns of Murad I ended in 1389, only Constantinople remained of the Byzantines. Murad I was also the first Ottoman ruler to also claim to be the Caliph, although the Abbasid Caliph still persisted in Cairo. In 1396, the Ottomans began the laborious process of laying siege to Constantinople, which will continue off and on for another 56 years. One of the only nations that did come to Byzantine's aid, the Kingdom of Hungary, would remain in a continuous conflict with the Ottomans from 1366 to the present day.
In 1402, Tamerlane invaded Anatolia and encroached on the Ottomans. Sultan Bayezid I set out to battle Tamerlane at Ankara, but was defeated and captured, being sent back with Tamerlane to Samarkand. Thus leaderless, the Ottomans faced a terrible interregnum for 11 years while the nation fell to civil war. This ended in 1413 when Mehmed I reunited the nation, but his immediate successors would have to fight to regain their losses. Mehmed II finally took Constantinople in 1453, adding "Caesar" to the list of Ottoman titles.
Mehmed The Conqueror (1451-1481)
After taking Constantinople, which was subsequently renamed Istanbul, Mehmed II led many campaigns of conquest, first subjugating the White and Black Turks of the Middle East, then continuing the war in Hungary as far as Belgrade (1456), until he finally managed to take the city of Oranto in Italy just before his death in 1481. Mehmed II also took several islands in the Aegean during the First Venetian War in 1462. Most significantly, Mehmed II established the Khanate of Crimea (a successor state of the Golden Horde) under an Ottoman protectorate in 1479.
Bayezid The Saint (1481-1512)
Bayezid II also fought a War with the Venetians in 1499, which was more indecisive in its results. In 1482, the Portuguese called a "Turkish Crusade" that liberated Oranto from Ottoman control. Bayezid's War with the Mamlukes in 1485 was equally indecisive. In general, Bayezid II's reign was marked more by religious and cultural improvements more than anything else, in the wake of East Asian trade cut off after Iran fell to the Safavids in 1501. In 1509, as Bayezid was too old to rule in his own right, there ensued a Civil War between his sons Ahmed and Selim, which ended in 1513 with Selim taking the throne.
Selim The Strong (1512-1521)Selim I was seen as a much more competent and strong leader. The second war with the Mamlukes ended in 1517 with the complete annexation of the entire Sultanate. The Sultan himself was captured in the Battle of Ridanya in February, but afterwards the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil III claimed to be the new Sultan. This claim was brief, however, and Al-Mutawakkil was subsequently killed in the Battle of Gaza in September that year. However, Selim was shrewd to realize how much support Al-Mutawakkil was given by the Arabs, so he allowed the Abbasid Caliphate to continue in Medina.
Selim also fought a prolonged war against Safavid Persia, starting with the victory at the Battle of Chaldarin in 1514. In 1517, Selim reignited the campaign after the fall of Al-Mutawakkil, sending Mehmed Hasan Pasha to capture the cities of Mosul and Babil. Meanwhile, the military under Mahmud Pasha invaded Azerbaijan with support from the vassal of Georgia. Bosra fell in 1518, with a final push by Hasan to capture the coast of the Persian Gulf. In 1519, an alliance with the Emirate of Bukhara invaded the Safavids from the east, cutting their resources in two fronts. Finally, Esfahan surrendered to the combined forces in January of 1521, allowing the Ottomans to completely annex the region.
In Europe, Selim focused on a more diplomatic policy, to devote more forces to the eastern campaigns. A truce with Hungary was signed in 1518, to last seven years before fighting could resume. In late 1520, Hungary used this opportunity to invade Venice, sparking a brief war with France and Milan. Selim used this opportunity to mount his naval force in a Third Venetian war, although in reality there were few available resources with the war in Persia. Nonetheless, Selim managed to bluff the Doge of Venice into selling off the islands of Cyprus and Crete, in exchange for not getting in the war. Similarly, Selim also established truces with the naval powers of Rhodes and Tunisia.
In the north, Selim had a vision of uniting the Mongol Khanates together into the glory of the Golden Horde. The explorer Arpad as-Saghir traveled as far as the Khanate of Sibir in 1517, and in 1518 helped to establish the confederacy known as the Kievan Horde. In 1520, Arpad continued as far as the Court of Ming China , once again establishing the Silk road across Asia.
Suleiman the Magnificent (1521-Present)
After Selim died of tuberculosis in March of 1521, his only survivng son was Suleiman. With the eastern front defeated, Suleiman focused on controlling the Mediterranean by settling more Turks in Cyprus and Crete, then laying siege to Rhodes in November of 1521. Rhodes was in poor condition, after reducing their military and shrinking economy, and so surrendered in April of 1522. Later that year, Haryddin Barbarossa took a single fleet of ships and took Tunisia, toppling the Hafsid dynasty. However, the combined nation of Algiers and Tunisia, ruled by Barbarossa, remained semi-autonomous from the Ottomans.
According to legend, Hasan recovered the Sword of Rostam from the archives of Esfahan, and presented it to Suleiman. The Sultan would continue to wield this sword for the rest of his life, and proclaimed Hasan as Iskandar Akbar Thanee (The Second Alexander the Great). Ismail had managed to convert many of the populace of Iraq and Iran to Shia Islam, so Suleiman expelled these families and sent them to Oman. One of these families was saved, however, as Suleiman had fallen in love with the woman Aisha al-Baghdadi, and she became his first wife. Suleiman would go on to accumulate additional wives, such as the daughters of Babur and Askia from Kabul and Songhai respectfully.
In 1523, Suleiman turned his attention southward. He began reconstructing the Fatha Al-Farun (Canal of the Pharaohs) which was completed in 1533. He also sent a military expedition under Piri Reis to conquer the Sultanate of Yemen, then cross over in 1524 to take the Sultanate of Adal. Piri made sure to keep diplomatic relations with Ethiopia, who the Ottomans considered too rugged a region to rule. Finally, in 1525 an expedition from Egypt invaded the Sennar Sultanate of Funj and took over all the Blue Nile region as far as Ethiopia from the north.
From 1526-1528, Suleiman's navy under Iskandar Asha and Oruc Reis got tangled into the War of the Parisan League. Initially attempting an invasion of Sicily, Oruc negotiated a peace with France in the Palmero Agreement, keeping only the Island of Malta. Oruc and Iskandar used this as an opportunity to launch the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War, which ended with crushing the Venetian Armada and finally securing the Eastern Mediterranean for the Ottoman Empire.
Main Article: Ottoman Classical ArmyThere are a few different methods of conscription in the army. Timar are contracted soldiers who serve in the military for a period of time before being given their own fifedom. Azap are more compulsory recruitment in times of strife, rounding up quotas of soldiers from each village. A more extreme branch of Azap known as Basibozuk are rounded up from homeless and criminals. Devsirme are a form of personal tax on Christian communities in the empire, selecting certain boys from these communities to be trained in the Ottoman military. Finally, Sekban were a form of non-contracted soldiers or mercenaries who would be only paid in raw money for their services.
The ranks of the military begins with the Viziers, or companions of the Sultan, who act as marshals over many armies. Pashas are generals who command a single army. Corbaci and Bashi are commanders of smaller units equivalent to regiments and companies, respectively. In general, however, the leader of a single troop is called an Agha. Finally, Nefer refers to individual soldiers. Acemi are soldiers in training when they begin their education at the academy in Enderun. At this school, the cadets can choose the specialty in the military they want to pursue.
The Yaya are a group of originally nomadic people recruited early on to fight in the Ottoman military. Although they were instrumental in the past, in recent years they have proved to be ineffective against fortified cities, and are reduced in the army. There are currently about 8000 Yaya in the military.
Janissaries are an elite military fighting force, trained from youth in a variety of weapons and combat. Established almost as a modern order of knights in 1383, the Janissaries pass on their skills and goals from one generation to the next. Originally trained from captured Christian children, the Janissaries nowadays are taken more from volunteers, usually noble families. They are typically equipped with aquabuses and sabers, and occasionally matchlock pistols. Currently there are about 12,000 Janissaries in the military.Although Janissaries usually form the palace guards in major cities, the official personal guard of the Sultan are the Silahdars. These were chosen among the most elite and exemplary soldiers within the military, trained both on foot and on horseback. Aside from protecting the Sultan, Silahdars would also lead suicide missions against enemy territory. Currently there are about 2000 Silahdars in the military.
Akinci are light cavalry who are known for their determination and prowess. Living on the frontiers of the empire, they remain unpaid and subsist off of pillaging local cities. There are currently 12,000 Akinci in the military. The rest of the cavalry is divided into six divisions, which are collectively known as Sipahi. They typically wear full armor and are trained in both lances and archery. In total, there are about 140,000 Sipahi, with about 23,000 in each division.
Miscellaneous military include Kitchens, in charge of food, Mehters in charge of signals and music, and Derbencis, which are a paramilitary force in charge of opening briges and roads. Military judges or Kazasker are in charge of settling legal disputes between soldiers.
Artillery pieces are mostly manufactured at the Foundry at Tophane in Istanbul. Western artillery from muskets to rifling has been brought in the empire primarily from Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Light artillery includes the highly mobile Abus Gun, a form of howitzer mortar with a caliber of 230 mm. Heavy artillery goes up to the Dardanelles Gun or the Great Bombard, designed by Mumir Ali in 1464. It has a caliber of 630 mm, and can fire a 1000-pound shell of marble over a mile in range. However, both of these are primarily used for besieging cities only. The more common field cannon is the Darbzen, which has a much smaller caliber.
The Kapadun Pasha is the Grand Admiral of the entire navy, which consists of seven fleets. Each fleet is commanded by one or two admirals known as Reis. As the Ottomans are limited by the multiple seas they control, there are currently two fleets in the Red Sea, one in the Black Sea, and four in the Mediterranean Sea. An eighth fleet is under construction at the new port on the Kuwaiti coast. A typical fleet consists of 56 ships: 30 galleys, 20 galleons, and six frigates. Each ship consists of 10,000 oarsmen and 5000 soldiers.
In the Black Sea, the Ottomans remain as the sole dominant naval force, with the Crimean Khanate starting to develop their own navy under Ottoman direction. In the Mediterranean, the Ottomans have remained rivals to Venice for naval domination of the Eastern Sea since the navy was first developed by Bayezid II. Since the capture of Cyprus and Crete, Venice has fallen back with their navy and concentrated on building their control over the Adriatic and Aegean Seas, particularly in the Duchy of the Archipelago as a stronghold. The Red Sea is a new frontier for the Ottomans, extending control as far south as taking the nations of Yemen and Adal at the Strait of Djibouti. Work is being done on the Fathah Al-Farun (Canal of the Pharaohs) to connect the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. In the Indian Ocean, the Ottomans work in a close alliance with the Sultanate of Oman to extend Muslim trade as far as Sumatra and Bengal. This trade route was first mapped by Piri Reis in 1518.
See Also: IslamSunni Islam is the official religion of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan is also the Caliph of Islam, which is the highest authority on all theology by right as the successor of Muhammad. Since the Battle of Gaza in 1517, the Abbasid branch has also retained a dual caliphate residing in Medina, sharing in the religious office with the Ottomans, but holding no political power. The Abbasid Caliph is supported by a panel of highly-trained religious officials known as the Ulema, or the Council of Senior Scholars. The lower religious scholars are the Imams, which care to the spiritual needs of individual communities. Other more holy offices, such as the Ayatollah and Dervish, are retained by more aesthetic groups.
Sunni Islam is based on the Koran, or the collected visions of the Prophet Muhammad. It holds to five main pillars of belief that assures its members with eternal life: Hajj (Pilgrimage to the city of Mecca), Salat (Prayer five times a day facing Mecca), Shahadah (Proclaiming the unity of God), Sawm (Fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan), and Zakat (A tax paying for impoverished people). Being centered on the city of Mecca (and its sister city Jerusalem), the Ottoman Empire holds the heart of Muslims everywhere.
Competing branches of Islam include the Shia, or partisans of the Prophet Ali, who since the fall of Esfahan in 1521 have only resided in small local communities in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Ibadi Islam is a third, smaller branch, which persists in the nation of Oman outside of the Ottomans' control.
There are many other religions in the Ottoman Empire as well, with varying levels of freedom. The Millet system of administration allows communities of separate cultures to govern themselves in isolation, which is used for both Christians and nomadic bedouins. Orthodox Christians in the more western provinces, such as Cyprus, Crete and Moldovia, are permitted more special protection of their churches with the Patriarch of Constantinople as the honorary "Guardian of the People". Christians and Jews are subject to a special tax called the Jizya, as incentive to convert to Islam.
List of Abbasid Caliphs since 1517
|Al-Mutawakkil III||1466 (Cairo)||February 18, 1517||June 7, 1517|
|Al-Mustamsik I||1441 (Cairo)||June 18, 1517||March 7, 1519|
|Yazid IV||1469 (Cairo)||April 1, 1519||January 15, 1533|
|Al-Mustamsik II||1498 (Cairo)||April 1, 1533||Incumbent|
AdministrationThe head of the Ottoman government is the Sultan, who holds full power over all political, legal, military, and religious decisions. The Sultan comes from the House of Osman, or a ruling dynasty that traces back to Osman I in 1299. There is no precedent for the powers of the non-ruling members of the House of Osman, but are usually given important administrative and military offices. There is also no line of succession, as the Sultan usually appoints a successor from among his sons. If no successor is named, any of the sons could take power, and this results in brief episodes of conflict or assassination. The Enderun or Palace School is a system of boarding education for noble children in Istanbul. It is usually reserved for the House of Osman, but elite members of the Divan have also been educated there. This has also formed the basis of the Ottoman public education system established by Selim I.
The Divan refers to members of the Imperial Council, or cabinet of ministers that administrate on behalf of the Sultan. The most powerful of these are Viziers, or direct companions of the Sultan, who in tern are led by the Grand Vizier. There are currently only three actual Viziers, who are supported by a set of servants called Kahya. The collection of Viziers with the Sultan at social events are known as the Muteferrika, or officer's club. Another branch of the Divan are the Kadiasker, or judges of legal matters. There are two such Kadiaskers: one administrating over European communities, the other over the Middle East. Another branch of the administration are the Defterdars, who are in charge of the treasury. Finally, the Nishanci or Chancellor is in charge of protecting the Sultan's imperial seal.
Hereditary governors over regions in the empire are known as Beys, who act as lower nobility. The province a Bey controls is known as a Wilayet. In certain instances of strained communication, the Sultan may appoint a more independent Emir in charge of a region instead, such as in the case of Tunisia or Crimea.
Crimea is a discontinuous Territory that primarily controls the Crimean Peninsula on the north coast of the Black Sea. It was originally formed as a successor nation to the Golden Horde, but entered protection by the Ottoman Empire in 1479. Crimea is a Khanate and is ruled and inhabited mostly by Mongol people. As such, it has found diplomatic support by the other Khanates around it, including Astrakhan, Nogai, and Khazakh. In order to help assert its sovereignty, Crimea has formed a confederacy of these nation as the Kievan Horde. It has also worked to establish its own military, navy, and economy.
For a brief period from 1516-1522, admirals Oruc Reis and Haryddin Barbarossa captured Algiers and surrounding cities in the Algerian region, and this became known as the Colony of Algiers. It manned as much as 20,000 soldiers at its peak in 1521, which commanded the desert region to the south. After the conquest of Tunis in 1522, the capital was moved to Tunisia and the colony of Algiers was merged into it.
After the Hafsid Dynasty ruled Tunisia for many centuries, it was conquered by Barbarossa in spring of 1522. Barbarossa was then appointed Emir of this region by the Sultan, and has experienced autonomy ever since.
Moldovia is a vassal kingdom of the the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe. The Sultan reserves the right to appoint or depose rulers, garrison soldiers, and dictate the foreign policy of the region. In recent years, Moldovia has tried to assert its independence more by entering alliances with its neighboring vassals, but this has been put down by Suleiman. Currently 80,000 soldiers are stationed in the Romanian region around Moldovia.
Georgia is a vassal kingdom of the Ottomans in the Caucasus Mountains. Like Moldovia, it retains special protection over its Orthodox Churches established by Selim I. In recent years, it has fallen into civil war as multiple local rulers of different cities try to claim the kingship. Starting in September 1521, Mahmud Pasha has stationed 1,500 soldiers to make peace in the region.
Adal is the first colony of the Ottoman Empire in sub-sahran Africa, consisting of the strait of Djibouti and Somaliland. It was conquered in 1525 by Piri Reis as a means of completely dominating the Red Sea. In 1534, Mombasa was added to this colony.
The Maldives is a colony that was conquered in 1535, after the indigenous rulers began persecuting Muslims and converted to Buddhism. Since it has been added to the empire, the Ottomans have greatly expanded its influence as a gateway to the east indies, absorbing nearby islands as far south as Mozambique. Buddhism has been outlawed in the nation, and all the Buddhist temples converted to Mosques.
List of Ottoman Sultans since 1453
|Mehmed II The Conqueror||1432 (Erdine)||1451-1481|
|Bayezid II The Saint||1442 (Ankara)||1481-1512|
|Selim I The Strong||1466 (Amasya)||1512-1521|
|Suleiman the Magnificent||1494 (Trabzon)||1521-Present|
Arts and Science
Art and Architecture
EconomyThe Ottomans utilize a network of inns called caravanserai to increase overland trade across Asia, which was a system first started by the Seljuk Empire. Trade was initially cut off from Iran after the rise of the Safavid Dynasty, but after the fall of Esfahan in 1521 trade has resumed through Bukhara. Most overland trade, however, continues north from the Crimean Khanate across the other Turko-Mongol nations into China. After the Ming Dynasty reopened the Silk Road in 1520, the Sultanate has benefited from silk and spices from East Asia.
During the reign of Selim I, sea trade increased into a vast opportunity in the Indian Ocean, importing wheat, spices and lumber from as far away places as Bengal, Aceh, Johore, and Demak. Of these, the Sultanate of Oman is the most profitable, as their navy has much more access to the Indian Ocean than the Ottomans at the moment. In the early reign of Suleiman, trade has also begun slightly with European nations, knowing that knowledge of their technology will be important in the future.
The Ottoman Empire is an agricultural society, and farming accounts for 40% of the national taxes. Rural families typically travel around to sell their products to other families elsewhere in the empire, especially moving south from the Balkans to Anatolia, and from Anatolia to Syria. In general, the Ottoman Empire is labor scarce and capital poor.
Manufactured goods started with a group of merchants and craftsmen called the Ahi Brotherhood, who bonded in their society as part of the same Sufi sect. From that, several other guilds have formed in recent years over small crafts. The current annual revenue of the Ottoman Empire is 3.5 million ducats.