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The Safavid and the Ottoman Empires

Without a doubt, two of the most powerful empires in the Middle East during the Middle Ages were the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Empire. Both empires had certain similarities as well as start differences. And, unfortunately, they did not always co-exist in harmony. In fact, many conflicts erupted between the two at various times. More often than not, these conflicts centered on territorial disputes. Of course, in order to truly understand their conflicts, one needs to look at each empire’s individual history and cultural aspects.

The Safavid Empire was based primarily and Iranian Empire although its territory extended into what is modern day Turkey and Georgia. The Safavid Empire was a theocracy that set up Shi’a Islam at the state religion. The setup of the theocracy was not a benevolent one. Other religions were outlawed and suppressed including other forms of Islam. Because this empire rested on important trade routes, it was able to amass significant economic strength and wealth.

This allowed the empire to be able to fund a powerful military that kept the empire stable for many, many years. However, the empire soon grew corrupt and this lead to significant complacency in the leadership. These factors would eventually erode the stability of the empire and lead to its collapse. The rise of the Ottoman Empire was based on a number of factors. These factors included the commitment to the Osman and Orhan Dynasties; a devotion to the Turkish speaking elite; an adherence to Pan-Islam; and the institution of the Sultnate.

Also, the Ottoman Empire had developed a very powerful military. This includes the Sipahi The Safavid and the Ottoman Empires – Pg 2 Calvary and the Janissary Infantry. Also, the Ottoman Empire was a theocracy that adhered to the divine rule of the Sultan and to adherence to Islam. (This system was known as the Millet system) This theocracy was help in place by powerful military rule which kept the Ottoman Empire powerful and stable. The early Ottoman tribes existed on the frontier of the Byzantine Empire.

Eventually, they would begin expansions into Turkish territory following the collapse of the Seljuk Turks. In time, the Black Death would decimate the populations of many countries providing an opportunity for the Ottomans to expand and conquer into these territories. This expansion continued far westward and into the Balkans. In time, the Ottoman Empire controlled what is now considered modern day Iraq, Palestine, and Syria. This solidified the huge territorial base of the Empire making it one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Middle East.

This powerbase eventually lasted into the early 20th century until the Ottoman Empire made the fatal mistake of aligning with Germany during World War I. When Germany lost World War I, the Ottoman Empire would collapse among the rubble with the rest of Germany’s allies. The Safavid and the Ottomans did have many battles over what is modern day Iraq. These battles did not destroy either empire, but both empires eventually did fall. This is the case of all empires that make fatal decisions that lead to their collapse.

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