The Ottoman Empire is remembered as one of history’s largest and greatest civilizations. What were the Ottomans known for?
The Ottoman Empire lasted for more than 600 years. At its peak, it was vast and was home to a strong military, a religiously and ethnically diverse population, and produced many artistic and architectural masterpieces.
For more on the history and significance of the Ottoman Empire, read on.
The Ottomans emerged from Anatolia in the late 13th Century, led by Osman I. Osman, the leader of a nomadic, Islamic tribe, saw that the Christian Byzantine Empire had been weakened by centuries of internal strife and external threats.
Osman was, by all accounts, a brilliant strategist and a sensible tactician. He saw an opportunity to establish his own territory, leading a series of invasions into the fringe of the Byzantine Empire and conquering large areas of land.
By 1300, the name Ottoman was being used by the group of Turks. In Arabic, Osman was known as “Uthman”, and the Ottoman name derived from this.
Osman’s successors, Orhan, Murad I, and Bayezid I continued expanding the Ottoman territory with further advances into Byzantine land.
Their greatest triumph came in 1453 when Mehmed II led the Ottomans in besieging and conquering Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The city had long been thought unconquerable and the Ottoman victory marked the end of the Byzantine Empire and, by extension, the last remnants of the Roman Empire.
From their beginnings as nomadic tribesmen, the Ottoman Empire now had one of the most renowned cities in the world as its capital. Constantinople, which had been named for Emperor Constantine, was renamed Istanbul. Mehmed appropriately became known as Mehmed II the Conqueror.
Now with a strong capital city, the Ottoman expansion continued throughout the following generations of Sultans. Mehmed’s grandson, Selim I, incorporated Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria into the Ottoman Empire.
The preceding centuries had been marked by warfare and expansion but the mid-1500s were a time of prosperity and stability in the Empire. Suleiman the Magnificent was considered one of the greatest Ottoman rulers.
The changes he oversaw included implementing a new system of law, encouraging artists and writers, and celebrating the creative arts in general. These included poetry, weaving, ceramics, music, and calligraphy.
There were also practical advancements during the period, with science emphasized. Chemistry and physics were both prioritized, as well as the pursuit of medical advancements. Several surgical tools such as scalpels, lancets, forceps, and catheters were used during the period and remain in use today.
Suleiman was revered as a religious leader in addition to being the Empire’s ruler. Though the Ottoman rulers were Muslim, there was more religious tolerance in the Empire than in many other regions of the world during the period. At several points during the history of the Ottoman Empire, there were more Christians than Muslims living within its borders.
Despite the Empire’s status as one of the largest and mightiest in the world, it began falling behind its European counterparts in the 1600s. The opening up of new trade routes made the trade hub of Istanbul less critical, and the Industrial Revolution saw rapid technological advancement by the European powers.
The Ottomans unsuccessfully invaded Vienna in 1683, marking one of their few significant military failures at that time. Further losses followed, eroding the once vast Ottoman territory. Over the following centuries, they lost Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia, and most of their land in Europe.
In 1908, the Young Turk Revolution saw the group seizing power in the Empire. Before World War I, the Ottoman Empire had allied with Germany and entered the war at their side.
The war proved disastrous for the Ottomans and more of their territory was lost and then divided between the Allies. In 1922, the title of Sultan was removed, marking the end of the Ottoman Empire that had stood for more than 600 years. In October 1923, the Republic of Turkey was born.
The Ottoman Empire is remembered as one of history’s greatest empires. It was the home to a mighty military, a diverse population in both ethnicity and religion, and encouraged the creation of artistic and architectural masterpieces.
Though the Ottomans are gone in name, the Turkish Republic is considered by some to be a continuation of its legacy. Istanbul remains one of the world’s most visited cities, renowned for both its beauty and history.