The Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkish: دَوْلَتِ عَلِيّهٔ عُثمَانِیّه Devlet-i ʿAliyye-yi ʿOsmâniyye, Modern Turkish: Yüce Osmanlı Devleti or Osmanlı İmparatorluğu) was an empire that lasted from 27 July 1299 to 29 October 1923.
At the height of its power, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the empire spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. The Ottoman Empire contained 29 provinces and numerous vassal states, some of which were later absorbed into the empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy during the course of centuries. The empire also temporarily gained authority over distant overseas lands through declarations of allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan and Caliph, such as the declaration by the Sultan of Aceh in 1565; or through the temporary acquisitions of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, such as Lanzarote in 1585.
With Constantinople as its capital city, and vast control of lands around the eastern Mediterranean during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520 to 1566), the empire was at the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries.
The Ottoman Empire came to an end, as a regime under an imperial monarchy, on November 1, 1922. It formally ended, as a de jure state, on July 24, 1923, under the Treaty of Lausanne. It was succeeded by the Republic of Turkey which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923.
The empire was also known in English as the Osmanic Empire, the Osmanian Empire or the Ottoman State and Osmanlı İmparatorluğu in Turkish. Some referred to it colloquially as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey (see the other names of the Ottoman State).
With the demise of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rūm (circa 1300), Turkish Anatolia was divided into a patchwork of independent states, the so-called Ghazi emirates. By 1300, a weakened Byzantine Empire had lost most of its Anatolian provinces to ten Ghazi principalities. One of the Ghazi emirates was led by Osman I (from which the name Ottoman is derived), son of Ertuğrul, around Eskişehir in western Anatolia. Osman I extended the frontiers of Ottoman settlement toward the edge of the Byzantine Empire. He moved the Ottoman capital to Bursa, and shaped the early political development of the nation. Given the nickname "Kara" (which means "black" in modern Turkish, but alternatively meant "big/great" or "strong" in old Turkish) for his courage, Osman I was admired as a strong and dynamic ruler long after his death. This is shown by the centuries-old Turkish phrase, "May he be as good as Osman."
His reputation was burnished by the medieval Turkish story known as "Osman's Dream". In this foundation myth, the young Osman was inspired to conquest by a prescient vision of empire (according to his dream, the empire is a big tree whose roots spread through three continents and whose branches cover the sky). In this period, a formal Ottoman government was created whose institutions would change drastically over the life of the empire. The government used the legal entity known as the millet, under which religious and ethnic minorities were allowed to manage their own affairs with substantial independence from central control.
In the century after the death of Osman I, Ottoman rule began to extend over the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. The important city of Thessaloniki was captured from the Venetians in 1387. The Turkish victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 effectively marked the end of Serbian power in the region, paving the way for Ottoman expansion into Europe. The Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, widely regarded as the last large-scale crusade of the Middle Ages, failed to stop the advance of the victorious Ottomans. With the extension of Turkish dominion into the Balkans, the strategic conquest of Constantinople became a crucial objective. The Empire controlled nearly all former Byzantine lands surrounding the city, but the Byzantines were temporarily relieved when Timur invaded Anatolia in the Battle of Ankara in 1402. He took Sultan Bayezid I as a prisoner. Part of the Ottoman territories in the Balkans (such as Thessaloniki, Macedonia and Kosovo) were temporarily lost after 1402, but were later recovered by Murad II between the 1430s and 1450s.
The capture of Bayezid I threw the Turks into disorder. The state fell into a civil war which lasted from 1402 to 1413, as Bayezid's sons fought over succession. It ended when Mehmed I emerged as the sultan and restored Ottoman power, bringing an end to the Interregnum. His grandson, Mehmed the Conqueror, reorganized the state and the military, and demonstrated his martial prowess by capturing Constantinople on May 29, 1453, at the age of 21.
Mehmed II made the city the new capital of the Ottoman Empire, and he assumed the title of Kayser-i Rûm (Caesar Romanus = Roman Emperor). But, Greeks and other western European peoples did not recognize this title. The Russian Tsars also claimed to be the successors to the eastern imperial title. To consolidate his claim, Mehmed II wanted to gain control over the Western capital, Rome, and Ottoman forces occupied parts of the Italian peninsula. They started with the invasion of Otranto and Apulia on July 28, 1480. After Mehmed II's death on May 3, 1481, the campaign in Italy was cancelled and Ottoman forces retreated.
This period in Ottoman history can roughly be divided into two distinct eras: an era of territorial, economic, and cultural growth before 1566, followed by an era of relative military and political stagnation.
The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II cemented the status of the Empire as the preeminent power in southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. After taking Constantinople, Mehmed met with the Orthodox patriarch, Gennadios and worked out an arrangement in which the Orthodox Church in exchange for being able to maintain its autonomy and land accepted Ottoman authority. Because of bad relations between the latter Byzantine Empire and the states of western Europe as epitomized by Loukas Notaras's famous remark "Better the Sultan's turban than the Cardinal's Hat", the majority of the Orthodox population accepted Turkish rule as preferable to Venetian rule.
During this period in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Ottoman Empire entered a long period of conquest and expansion, extending its borders deep into Europe and North Africa. Conquests on land were driven by the discipline and innovation of the Ottoman military; and on the sea, the Ottoman navy aided this expansion significantly. The navy also contested and protected key seagoing trade routes, in competition with the Italian city states in the Black Sea, Aegean and Mediterranean seas and the Portuguese in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The state also flourished economically thanks to its control of the major overland trade routes between Europe and Asia. This lock-hold on trade between western Europe and Asia is often cited as a primary motivational reason for Isabella I of Castile to fund Christopher Columbus's westward journey to find a sailing route to Asia.
Several historians such as British historian Edward Gibbon and the Greek historian Dimitri Kitzikis have argued that after the fall of Constantinople, the Ottoman state took over the machinery of the Byzantine state, and that in essence the Ottoman empire was a continuation of the Eastern Roman empire under a thin Turkish Islamic guise. Kitzikis called the Ottoman state "a Greek-Turkish condominium". The American historian Speros Vryonis wrote that the Ottoman state was centered on "a Byzantine-Balkan base with a veneer of the Turkish language and the Islamic religion". Other historians have followed the lead of the Austrian historian Paul Wittek who emphasized the Islamic character of the Ottoman state, seeing the Ottoman state as a "Jihad state" dedicated to expanding the world of Islam. Another group of historians led by the Turkish historian M. Fuat Koprulu championed the "gazi thesis" that saw the Ottoman state as a continuation of the nomadic Turkic tribes on a much larger scale, and argued that the most important influences on the Ottoman state came from Persia. More recently, the American historian Heath Lowry called the Ottoman state a "predatory confederacy" led in equal parts by Turks and Greeks converted to Islam. At the same time, Lowry attacked Wittek for his "Jihad state" thesis, and accused Wittek of engaging in unscholarly behavior. The British historian Norman Stone suggested many continuities between the Eastern Roman and Ottoman empires such as the zeugarion tax of Byzantium becoming the Ottoman cift resmi tax, the pronoia land-holding system which linked the amount of land one owned with one's ability to raise cavalry becoming the Ottoman timar system, and the Ottoman measurement for land the donum was the same as the Bzyantine stremma. Stone also pointed out that despite the fact that Sunni Islam was the state religion, the Eastern Orthodox Church was supported and controlled by the Ottoman state, and in return to accepting that control became the largest land-holder in the Ottoman empire. Despite the similarities, Stone argued that a crucial difference was that the land grants under the timar system were not hereditary at first. Even after land grants under the timar system became inheritable, land ownings in the Ottoman empire remained highly insecure, and the sultan could and did revoke land grants whenever he wished. Stone argued this insecurity in land tenure strongly discouraged Timariots from seeking long-term development of their land, and instead led the timariots to adopt a strategy of short term exploitation.
The Empire prospered under the rule of a line of committed and effective Sultans. Sultan Selim I (1512–1520) dramatically expanded the Empire's eastern and southern frontiers by defeating Shah Ismail of Safavid Persia, in the Battle of Chaldiran. Selim I established Ottoman rule in Egypt, and created a naval presence on the Red Sea. After this Ottoman expansion, a competition started between the Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire to become the dominant power in the region.
Selim's successor, Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566), further expanded upon Selim's conquests. After capturing Belgrade in 1521, Suleiman conquered the southern and central parts of the Kingdom of Hungary. (The western, northern and northeastern parts remained independent.) After his victory in the Battle of Mohács in 1526, he established Ottoman rule in the territory of present-day Hungary (except the western part) and other Central European territories, (See also: Ottoman–Hungarian Wars). He then laid siege to Vienna in 1529, but failed to take the city after the onset of winter forced his retreat. In 1532, he made another attack on Vienna with an army thought to be over 250,000 strong, but was repulsed south of the city at the fortress of Güns.
After further advances by the Ottomans in 1543, the Habsburg ruler Ferdinand officially recognized Ottoman ascendancy in Hungary in 1547. During the reign of Suleiman, Transylvania, Wallachia and, intermittently, Moldavia, became tributary principalities of the Ottoman Empire. In the east, the Ottomans took Baghdad from the Persians in 1535, gaining control of Mesopotamia and naval access to the Persian Gulf. By the end of Suleiman's reign, the Empire's population totaled about 15,000,000 people.
Under Selim and Suleiman, the Empire became a dominant naval force, controlling much of the Mediterranean Sea. The exploits of the Ottoman admiral Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, who commanded the Ottoman Navy during Suleiman's reign, led to a number of military victories over Christian navies. Among these were the conquest of Tunis and Algeria from Spain; the evacuation of Muslims and Jews from Spain to the safety of Ottoman lands (particularly Salonica, Cyprus, and Constantinople) during the Spanish Inquisition; and the capture of Nice from the Holy Roman Empire in 1543. This last conquest occurred on behalf of France as a joint venture between the forces of the French king Francis I and those of Barbarossa. France and the Ottoman Empire, united by mutual opposition to Habsburg rule in both Southern and Central Europe, became strong allies during this period. The alliance was economic and military, as the sultans granted France the right of trade within the Empire without levy of taxation. By this time, the Ottoman Empire was a significant and accepted part of the European political sphere. It made a military alliance with France, the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic against Habsburg Spain, Italy and Habsburg Austria.
As the 16th century progressed, Ottoman naval superiority was challenged by the growing sea powers of western Europe, particularly Portugal, in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and the Spice Islands. With the Ottomans blockading sea-lanes to the East and South, the European powers were driven to find another way to the ancient silk and spice routes, now under Ottoman control. On land, the Empire was preoccupied by military campaigns in Austria and Persia, two widely separated theatres of war. The strain of these conflicts on the Empire's resources, and the logistics of maintaining lines of supply and communication across such vast distances, ultimately rendered its sea efforts unsustainable and unsuccessful. The overriding military need for defence on the western and eastern frontiers of the Empire eventually made effective long-term engagement on a global scale impossible.