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The Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire is considered to be one of the most powerful as well as the greatest civilization of the modern world. This empire existed in the 13th century all the way to the end of the 20th century, and the period throughout its existence was characterized by an extreme height of human being’s creativity, artistry and optimism (Davis, 2003). This empire was the largest as well as the most influential of the Muslim empires of the contemporary era. The culture in addition to military expansion of this empire spread all over Asia and Europe.

The ottomans, as asserted by Duiker and Spielvogel (2006), set up Islamic traditions as well as a culture in European territories that exist up to date. The Ottoman Empire did not come to an end until the 20th century. Historians have a tendency of talking about empires in terms of rise and fall; the ottomans therefore were a force to be taken into account in terms of military and culture up to the time the empire came to an end. Secularization of turkey, after the Second World War, was a major factor that led to the fall of the Ottoman culture, traditions and heritage (Turnbull, 2003).

The Ottoman Empire, according to Davis (2003), was established by Turkish tribes in Anatolia under the rule of Osman I in the late 13th century. It started as one of the numerous undersized Turkish states that came out in Asia as a result of the disintegration of the Seljuk Turks (Faroqhi, 2008). The ottomans, as pointed out by Faroqhi (2008), started integrating all other communities into their state, and during the rule of Mohamed II all other Turkish dynasties were brought to an end. Some of the greatest ottoman victories, that awakened the entire Europe to the ottoman danger, were those of Kosovo and Nikopol (Duiker and Spielvogel, 2006).

The ease with which the military forces of the ottomans acquired territories as described by Faroqhi (2008), made European nations to fear that the continuous ottoman’s success would destroy the social in addition to the political infrastructure of the West and subsequently result in the downfall of the reign of Christianity. As a result the Europeans established crusades against the ottomans though they did not prevail. They ottoman forces, also referred to as the gazi warriors, continued acquiring more and more territories.

These warriors formed a majority of the military property of the ottomans. They captured Constantinople in 1453 and changed it name to Istanbul (Faroqhi, 2008). The ottomans, within a century, had been transformed from being nomads to heirs of the strongest empires in Europe. Their success was brought about by various factors including disunity and weakness of their enemies, superior and excellent military organization, in addition to religious toleration, which was one greatest features of the ottoman administration to all non-Muslim communities (Quataert, 2005).

Spreitzhofer, (2007) states that even though the Turks of the Ottoman Empire were Muslims they did not force other non-Muslim communities to take on their religion. Jews as well as Christians in the Ottoman Empire carried out their religious practices in the synagogues and churches respectively. They taught their faith in their own schools and seminaries, and got on with their business sometimes acquiring great wealth. Each religious group was allowed to run its own judicial, learning and welfare systems (Spreitzhofer, 2007).

Members of various religious groups were pleased by being allowed to run the affairs of their communities without interference by the Muslims (Faroqhi, 2008). This aspect, to a certain extent, was beneficial to the ottomans; they did not have to bear the burden of running numerous systems of the communities they had conquered. Ottoman toleration, which came from both religious beliefs and practicality at the time, was unique. Jews and Christians freely coexisted with the Muslims, but their leaders were strictly Muslims (Spreitzhofer, 2007).

Non-Muslims were not allowed to convert to Islam, and Muslims were not allowed to convert to other religion (Duiker and Spielvogel, 2006). However, adult Christians and Jews were supposed to pay special taxes for the maintenance of the empire in return for religious tolerance. Non-Muslim males, who paid taxes, were exempted from military operations. Religious tolerance was both grounded on goodwill and cleverness. The main intention of the ottomans was to minimize conflicts with the majority Christians in some of the territories they had conquered, especially in the Balkans (Quataert, 2005).

Quataert (2005) argues that though kings, emperors, borders, and territories changed continually, Christianity remained. The government was a property of the rulers but religion was a property of God and of the people. Through allowing Christians and the Jews to freely practice their faith the ottomans had done away with a most likely cause of revolt (Spreitzhofer, 2007). Even though the Jews as well as the Christians farmers could revolt in defense of their religion, it was highly unlikely that they would revolt against a king they had nothing to do with.

The ottomans also believed that they would have an easy time ruling if various religions were secure and taxes were not too high (Faroqhi, 2008). The other factor that resulted in the rise of the Ottoman Empire is that the Turko-Mongol worriers were strong enough and had the capability of utilizing direct force to acquire its position in the Arab territories. Duiker and Spielvogel (2006), states that the excellent military organization as well as skills of these worriers resulted in a number of victories, which they exploited to acquire even more conquests and consequent territory gains.

The military organization of the Ottoman Empire enabled it to conquer as many communities and acquire as more land as possible in addition to maintaining its superiority. Osman I was a great Muslim warrior who had a determination of extending and establishing the empire further in the southwestern regions (Turnbull, 2003). He captured numerous Christian territories and created the Janizaries, also referred to as the prisoners of war, who he purposely trained for providing protection to the rulers.

The janizaries were the greatest military asset of the ottomans. They were trained as soldier in the Islam faith and were required to offer annual tribute in terms of military service (Davis, 2003). Adrianople was seized in 1361 by Mudrad I. The ottomans made a series of conquests and took control of the Balkan of Peninsula. They also defeated a group of crusaders who had been sent to bring the westward progression of the ottomans to an end. Bajazet I an ottoman ruler was however, defeated and seized in 1402 by Tamerlane a Tartan (Duiker and Spielvogel, 2006).

As a result of the shifting of the center of gravity of the western communities from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic sea territories, the ottomans experienced a string of defeats, which acted as the turning point of their fortunes in the East. The empire during the reign of Mudrad II recovered from these defeats and acquired more territories. Mudrad II was however, killed during the last battles against the allies of the Balkans (Turnbull, 2003). European powers made it very difficult for his successor Bayezid I, to advance in the western regions.

Bayezid, as a result, focused his interest on the eastern Asia Minor, with an aim of dealing with the Karaman, an expanding Turkish principality. Bayezid wagged war against the Karaman and defeated them in 1391; he quelled a rebellion of some of his Balkan subjects and returned to strengthen his interests in Asia Minor (Parry and Cook, 1976). The ottomans, under the leadership of Selim I, who employed cruel warlike tactics, waged war against the Persian and the Egyptian rulers in the early 16th century. Selim made Persia, Egypt, and Palestine three separate provinces of the empire.

He also assisted in the capturing of Algiers. Another major factor the led to the rise of this empire was the holy battle waged by the Muslim warriors against the Christian Byzantine Empire. Muslim warriors had conquered most of the territories surrounding Constantinople, but did not conquer the city until 1453 (Inalcik, 2001). Turnbull (2003), states that a major factor that resulted in the fall of Constantinople was the use of cannons by the Muslim worriers. The walls of the city were reduced to rumbles by the cannons used by the ottoman forces.

Even though Constantinople had for long been a Christian city, it was transformed to a Muslim city after its conquest by the ottomans. Suleiman, who was the ruler during the time of conquering Constantinople, enjoyed victory after victory of over the Christians. He had a very established a very strong military force that captured Belgrade and Bude (Turnbull, 2003). This military force also assassinated the king of Hungary and laid siege to the city of Vienna though they did not succeed. Suleiman installed a governor to rule on his behalf over each and every city that he captured (Turnbull, 2003).

He however, remained the supreme ruler of all conquered territories. He thus established a central form of government. This made sure that he had retained all the powers and gave a go ahead for all governmental operations in all territories. Istanbul was made the center of Islamic world during the reign of Suleiman (Inalcik, 2001). Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque instead of being destroyed. Istanbul was also transformed into a center of Islam’s visual art, architecture, philosophy, writing and music. Many architectural projects that did not match any artistry in the western world were developed during this era.

The role played by Suleiman was a major factor that led to the rise and maintenance of the Ottoman Empire. This empire was a major world power by the time Suleiman died. Vast territories that made up the Ottoman Empire were captured during the reign of Suleiman. Suleiman had developed major reforms in the government during this time and an everlasting relationship was established between the ottomans, France and Turkey. By 1571, Cyprus was captured by the ottoman’s forces and brought into the fold of the empire (Davis, 2003).

As the Ottoman Empire expanded its territories it gained control of major trade routes in the East. Inalcik (2001) states that traders were required to pay large sums so as to b allowed to carry on with their business. As a result it acquired massive wealth which became a vital asset for the empire. The Ottoman Empire had established a strong trade route to the silk of China as well as the spices of the Far East. However, the control of the trade routes by the ottomans suffered a major blow when the European nations bypassed the Middle East thereby withdrawing transit trade through ottoman territories.

Spices from Asia started being shipped directly to Europe. This resulted in a tremendous decline in the wealth acquisition of the ottomans (Duiker and Spielvogel, 2006). While the Christians maintained a stronghold in the western region the Muslims were rapidly spreading to the East. Warlike heritage, superior weapons in addition to the cohesive strength of the Islam faith were some of the major factors that led to expansion of Muslims territories eastwards (Inalcik, 2001).

However, as it was common with all extended empires, the bigger the distance from the central point of administration the more difficult it became to handle the conflicts that arose within the empire. Although they had defeated Byzantine, the Holy Roman Empire, which was characterized by a common bond of Christianity, remained a major stumbling block to the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. According to Parry and Cook, (1976), no new conquests were achieved in the 17th century as a result of internal struggles that greatly deteriorated the activities of the once overwhelming military domination of the ottomans.

The janizaries no longer upheld their earlier level of obedience. They started to frequently rebel against the rulers and became extremely corrupt. The government that was previously characterized by peaceful coexistence was transformed into a chaotic one. The janizaries were against the transference of authority from a departed sultan to his son. Succession was heavily contested if a sultan passed away without leaving a son or if he left a number of sons. To bring this rivalry to an end all male family members of a newly enthroned sultan were killed.

Potential rivals, during the reign of a newly enthroned sultan, were later put imprisoned for life (Parry and Cook, 1976). This is a major factor that historians consider to have resulted in the decline of the ottomans empire, because politically unproven as well as mentally disabled people were rescued from jail and crowned as sultans (Parry and Cook, 1976). However, in spite of the constant disputes over succession, the Ottoman Empire was able to produce efficient leaders during the middle ages and an all inclusive government was established.

A modification was enacted to the law of royal succession in 1617, and this resulted in rulers becoming increasingly ineffectual and the genuine authority fell into the hands of head ministers. The Ottoman Empire came to a standstill and the administration, which was previously characterized by peace and order was riddled with dishonesty. Corruption was rampant in all provinces; an official would buy his way to an office and then introduce more taxes with an aim of reimbursing himself. The great Koprulu family tried to end this corruption, but only succeeded temporarily

This corruption marked the beginning of the end of a world power that had allied with Germany in the First World War. Parry and Cook (1976) argue that European powers started wining battles over the ottomans. The ottomans were finally defeated, in 1683, when they launched a second attack against Vienna (Turnbull, 2003). By the end of the 19th century they signed a peace treaty with some of their European rivals, an act that completely brought their power to an end. All the Arab lands were taken away in accordance with the terms of the treaty.

European intervention in addition to European style of administration, nationalism, was the major external factor that resulted in the end of the Ottoman Empire. European nationalism shattered the centuries-long coexistence between different religions that had characterized the Ottoman Empire (Turnbull, 2003). Reference: Davis, L. (2003). The Ottoman Empire, ISBN 1567117392: Blackbirch Press Duiker, W. & Spielvogel, J. , (edn 5), (2006). World History, Volume 1, ISBN 0495050121: Cengage Learning Faroqhi, S. (2008). The Ottoman Empire: A Short History, ISBN 1558764496 Markus

Wiener Publishers Inalcik, H. (edn 2), (2001). The Ottoman Empire: the classical age 1300-1600, ISBN 1842124420: Phoenix Press Parry, V. & Cook, M. (1976). A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730: chapters from The Cambridge history of Islam and the New Cambridge modern history, ISBN 0521099919: CUP Archive Quataert, D. (edn 2), (2005). The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922, ISBN 0521839106: Cambridge University Press Spreitzhofer M. , (2007). The Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans, ISBN 3638873366: GRIN Verlag Turnbull S. , (2003). The Ottoman Empire, 1326-1699, ISBN 0415969131 Taylor & Francis

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