After the period of disintegration of the Seljuks Kingdom due the Mongol attacks, Anatolia lost its unity and divided into numerous regions of warrior Turk bands. All the while, the Byzantine was too weak to intervene in the situation in Anatolia to control the lands they had once beheld. This panorama in Anatolia signaled the Ottomans coming from the Oguz (Uz) Turks’ Kayi branch. The Ottomans located in the lands between the south west of Marmara and east of Black Sea and their territory was confined by the stronger Germiyan Turks. That is why the Ottomans expanded farther west (Byzantine lands). In 1300 the founder of the Ottoman principality Osman Sultan (ruler) conquered Iznik and Eskisehir. After his death, his son Orhan took Bursa which served as a capital until it was followed by Iznik in 1326. Bursa kept the Ottomans one step closer to the doors of west, they established an ordered army and turned the principality into a state. Izmit, Uskudar (Scutari) and other Byzantine cities were taken under control between 1330-1338 after these changes.


Orhan also helped the Byzantines to control the lands in the Balkans and obtained a fortress in Gallipoli in return. Edirne, the first step into Europe was seized by Murat I, Orhan’s son, and served as a capital . Under the reign of Beyazit I (1389-1403) the territories of Mentese, Aydin and Karaman bands were restrained. Beyazit I also vanquished a Crusader Army in 1396 in Nicopolis and expanded control into Europe but he could not withstand the attacks of Timur (Mongolian) which destroyed the unity built by the Ottomans in Anatolia.

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Suleymaniye Mosque Istanbul

This period of disintegration resulted in the conflicts between the sons of Beyazit I. Finally Mehmet I regained control and provided peace. He and his successors until Mehmet II (1451-1481) extended the frontiers into the Eastern Europe with the notable exception of Constantinople. Mehmet II after considering the pros and cos of conquering Constantinople, layed siege to it and finally took over the city which in return brought the decline of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 . After his conquest he ruled with respect to the religious beliefs and daily life of the citizens of Constantinople. He initiated the reconstruction of the city, improved the commercial life of Constaninople which was renamed Istanbul. Istanbul became the capital city of the Ottomans. Mehmet the Conqueror was a very intelligent sultan. He also had a great tendency towards art, philosophy and learning. He immediately realized that the institution and army required restoration. So he introduced structural changes. His time saw the extenuation of the Empire. Trebizond was held from the eastern Anatolia. Bosnia, Albania, Serbia with the exception of Belgrade were taken under control from the eastern Europe.And the island of Mtylene was gained.

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Suleymaniye Mosque

After Mehmet II’s death, Beyazit II came to power. However, his ambitious son Selim I had a lot to do. He defeated Persians from the eastern Anatolia, and in 1517 paved his way to Syria, Palestine and Egypt; the doorsteps towards the northern Africa. Selim I was assumed to be the Caliph after he conquered Egypt. Between the years 1520-1566 Suleyman I The Lawgiver and Magnificent brought the Ottomans their most brilliant years and enabled them to reach their peak of success. He captured Belgrade, Buda, Rhodes even knocked the door of Vienna but he failed to capture this city. In the east he took possession of Azerbaijan and Mesopotamia. Suleyman’s fleet was given special importance and was strengthened under the administration of admiral Hayrettin Pasa known as Barbarossa. This fleet was successful against the combined fleets of Pope and Venetians and conquered the north eastern Africa to the borders of Morocco.

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Furthermore, Turkish sailors were involved in producing useful books on seafaring and atlases. Suleyman’s period also prepared an environment in which every artisan could be purely engulfed with his specific subject matter and could produce magnificent works of art. Matrakci Nasuh and Osman engaged in Turkish miniature painting to bring it to its height. Suleyman not only encouraged the Turkish artisans but also Hungarian, Persian and Eastern European artists as well. Baki can be considered as one of the most important characters of poetic life. Sinan opened the door towards a highly sophisticated and elegant architectural structure . The balance and purity in his works enlightened his successors.

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Ihlamur Pavillion Istanbul

Most of the successors of Suleyman were not eligible enough to govern the empire and they put the country in to a terminal decline. However, there were skillful viziers and revolutionist sultans who tried to improve the administration from time to time. Besides the Janissaries ( the Sultan’s personal guard) were a major problem and caused changes in military and administrative issues. The Ottoman Empire was not flexible and fast enough to catch up with the post Renaissance developments in Europe. Even more, rapid economic growth combined with colonization and the slave trade made itself evident everywhere in Europe. The European kingdoms rich to economic prosperity and well-being.

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Tiles from Suleymaniye Mosque

Developments in navigation lessened the importance of the Mediterranean as the Atlantic Ocean were domesticated after the discoveries of new and richer continents. The diverse ethnic religious rank structure of the empire became a threat due to their interrupted rights and declining wealth.

Waves of Nationalism in the 19th century onwards influenced these minorities negatively. They struggled for their freedom and they finally gained it. In 1832 the Kingdom of Greece was established and others like Serbs, Albanians, Arabians, Armenians, Rumanians, Bulgarians followed their path. For the developed European countries these nationalistic waves in the Ottoman Empire enhanced opportunities to extend their colonies. Though some sultans such as Osman II (1618-22) and Murat IV (1623-1640) understood development as possible and tried to make reformations, their attempts were not effective or permanent enough to change the faith of the empire. Furthermore, the faith of a few sultans is clearly not sufficiency unless it was continued by the others.

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Topkapi Palace

In the last hundred years of the empire there were number of uprises of Jannisaries, defeats in wars and loss of territory. Mahmut II was a sultan who tried to change these detrimental effects by applying some revolutionary measures. He disbanded the Jannisary cast after their rebellion and founded a new and modern army and established a cabinet on the bases of division of different governmental issues which would in return limit the range of the grand vizier’s duty. In addition, the rights of the minorities were taken into consideration and the doors were opened to novelties from Europe. The Tanzimat era (1839-1876) was a concluding period of Mahmut II and seemed like an era when all disasters could be avoided and problems solved at once. However, the measures which were taken in the Tanzimat period were not efficient enough to revolutionize the weak Empire. To achieve recovery, strict measures were continuously reinforced and first and second constitutional acts were applied subsequently (1876-1908).

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Topkapi Palace, Harem

In 1914 the Ottoman Empire joined World War I together with Germany and the Central Powers but in 1918 when the war ended with the absolute superiority of the Allies, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Allies were free to devour the remains of the Ottoman Empire. They occupied the country, from one end to the other.

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The door of Suleymaniye Mosque

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General view of the mosques from Eminonu, Istanbul

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Textile from the Topkapi Museum

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Tiles from the Topkapi Museum

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