Ottoman Empire


The Ottoman Empire was founded in Anatolia (Asia Minor) by Oghuz Turks, a tribe of nomads who had been pressured out of their homes in The Asian Steppes by raiding Mongols in the late thirteenth century. The name Ottoman is a term derived from the name Osman (Arabic: Uthman) who founded the empire. At the height of its power in the mid-sixteenth century, the empire encompassed much of south Eastern Europe, the Balkans, parts of the Middle East, North Africa and the horn of Africa. It was a Sunni Islamic state transformed into a transcontinental power by continual conquests in wars of expansion between the mid-14th and mid-15th centuries.

The rise and expansion of the Ottoman Empire between 1453 and 1566 marked the end of the Byzantine Empire particularly with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottoman Empire achieved its greatest height during this period starting with the reign of Mehmed II, son of Murad II, who reorganized both the state and the military. During this time the rise and prosperity of the Ottoman Empire was aided by several factors. A series of sultans who were committed and effective enabled the Empire to overcome rival empires and kingdoms who were beset with decadence through a combination of various factors, particularly the Byzantine Empire.

Sultan Selim (1512-1520) succeeded in establishing a naval presence for the Empire in the Red Sea thereby enabling it to control the major overland trade routes between Europe and Asia leading to economic prosperity. The conquered territories added to the already significant economic and military strength of the Ottoman Turks. Bad relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Christian populations meant that they preferred the rule of the Turks to that of the Venetians.

The decline and subsequent dissolution of the Ottoman Empire began in 1566 and culminated in its replacement by the modern state of Turkey in 1922. Some of the factors highlighted by historians all boiled down to a failure of leadership with disastrous consequences in a highly centralized system. While the armies of her European enemies continued to grow from strength to strength that of the Ottoman Turks became debilitated and ill-equipped. Consequent upon poor leadership by a succession of corrupt and incompetent Sultans and Grand Viziers, grasping enemies and treacherous friends laid siege on the territories controlled by the Empire at the height of its glory leading to loss of territories either by outright rebellion or by annexation by rival states. The aftermath of the First World War in which the Ottomans fought on the side of the central powers was its dissolution and subsequent replacement by the modern republic of Turkey in 1922.

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