The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and longest lasting empires in the history of the world. It replaced the Byzantine Empire at its peak in power in the 14th century, lasting all the way from 1301 – 1922.
The Ottoman Empire originated from Eastern Europe/western Asia, but expanded during its time to control most of the Middle East and North Africa. The collection of nations that was the Ottoman Empire eventually shrank until, at its end, it only covered the territory of Turkey.
The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman I. Osman was a leader of various Turkish tribes towards the end of the 13th century. Over time, he expanded his kingdom and united many other independent states under his rule.
His establishment of a formal government and policy of religious tolerance (i.e., his acceptance of religions that weren’t his own) laid the groundwork for what would go on to become the Ottoman Empire after his death.
But despite his enormous importance in the history of the world, there is very little factual information known about him. Only a single written piece of information survived from his reign, and so the most recent information recorded about him was written a hundred years after his death.
However, Osman was undoubtedly a very charismatic and influential leader, and his work laid the foundation of the powerful empire which outlived him by several centuries.
The Ottoman Empire was an empire born of, and shaped by, the religion of Islam. However, despite the fact that the Ottomans were Muslims, this did not inform their government’s policies.
The Ottoman Empire was a secularist government – meaning that religion had no place in the legal running of their country, and people of all religions were allowed to practice their faiths without persecution.
This is a major part of what gave the Ottoman Empire such power – because no religion was treated as a second-class minority, the people had very little reason to rebel against their rulers.
There are multiple factors to the Ottoman Empire’s long-lasting reign. For starters, it was extremely centralized, meaning that all its power lay with a single government and group of people.
This was connected to the Ottomans’ system of dynastic succession – the Empire was successfully ruled by a single family (dynasty) for 700 years, and there were very little power struggles to disturb it.
The second factor was that the government’s secular policies meant the people of the empire were generally satisfied with their lives and had little reason to rebel against their rulers.
While the people of the Ottoman Empire suffered the same cruelties as other peasants of the age – a strict justice system, very little welfare support, and a dependence on the government’s militia for protection – their freedoms weren’t as oppressed as the peasants of some other nations/empires.
Combined with that, the empire was run in such a way that it was impossible for anybody but the ruling class to amass a decent amount of wealth, which made organized rebellion impossible to carry out.
On top of this, the Empire had a very strong military – the military was made up of slaves whose freedom had been bought by the state, and their loyalty to the Ottoman Empire’s “Sultan” (supreme leader) was absolute.
The third factor was that the Ottoman Empire had an extremely efficient economy, and its people generally had a high quality of life.
Following the seizure of Constantinople in 1453, the city became a hub of European trade, and saw goods such as silk, rhubarb, porcelain, and rare spices from Asia being sent to the European countries of the west.
Over hundreds of years, merchants were encouraged to set up business in Constantinople, and the revenue brought in by these merchants helped to fund the empire for centuries.
Ultimately, the Ottoman Empire came to an end because its rival countries developed to match its economic and military might. This decline began in the late 1600s, where the government’s efforts switched from expansion and growth to defeating their new economic competition in Europe.
Over the next three centuries, the country faced a period of crisis were no strong leaders were elected; and eventually, the country of Turkey – the only remnant left of the original Ottoman Empire – was declared a republic in 1923, and the Empire was no more.
– 1301 and 1922.
– The Middle East.
– Osman I.
– The power of the ruling class, the government’s secular policies, and the Empire’s efficient economy.