The Ottoman Empire
S O CIA L ST UDIES F O R 1 0 ° E G B
T E ACHE R : MA UR I CI O TO R R E S
Introduction & Background
• In the 13th century Anatolia, a new nation was
rising under the flag of Osman I.
• This powerful nation rose mostly based on a
combination of military and religious forces
which gave it impetus and power.
• From here, they advanced towards the West, to
the lands of the “Rumeli” (Romans).
• Under the leadership of Murad (late 1300s), they
conquered or had these nations paying tribute to
• Serbia, Bulgaria and even the Byzantines. Also, some other
Muslim nations to the East.
• Under the leadership of Mehmed II (second half of the
1400s) the Ottomans conquered:
• Hungary and many Balkan kingdoms. But most importantly:
• His successors, Selim I and Suleyman the Magnificent
in turn (mid 1500s) conquered:
• Iraq, defeated the Shiite Safavids, Syria and Egypt, Mecca and
Medina; much of the eastern Mediterranean and as far as failing
to capture Vienna.
Secrets of their Success: Adaptability
• The Ottomans owed much to their first ten Sultans, but in reality
their capability to adapt and overcome gave them remarkable
• Good leadership
• Champions of Islamic faith
• Flexible military ideology
• Lack of elaborate traditions made them flexible
• They were both tolerant and fanatics
• Learned from their enemies (ex: their fleet was based on the Venetians’)
• Conscription through “child tribute” (Janissaries)
• All means were acceptable if they served the ends of a holy war.
The Sultan and Sunni beliefs
• The state was designed to be a centralized entity, focused on the Sultan.
• As many other Islamic states, the sultan, being the leader was also the
eternal defender of the faith.
• They would enforce the Shariah under their reign
• Faced with the threat of the Safavids from Shiite Iran, their Sunni orthodoxy
Tolerance and Segregation
• Even though the Turks were very orthodox in their faith, they
allowed other religious groups to exist within their empire, without
• But even though there was tolerance, they were segregated to their own
communities, called millets. Just like the ghettos during WWII.
• In these communities, Patriarchs or Rabbis were responsible for all the
• But there was a special group called the Kapi Kullari:
• They were legally slaves of the Sultan.
• They had been born Christians and converted to Islam.
• They were trained by the state to serve official functions.
• The Ottomans enjoyed many of these external
factors to increase their power outside of the
• Kapi Kullari system
• Technological superiority in war.
• Centralized supervision of state in all matters.
• Exploiting the skills of the Jews who fled persecution in
Spain and sought asylum in a more tolerant society.
• Wealth derived from trade.
• A far superior system of government (at that time)
• Between the years 1683 and 1827, the empire no longer grew in huge
steps as it did on its golden years.
• The Sultans became less interested in becoming able rulers and instead
were turning into pompous princes.
• But even through this change, they did realize they had to modernize their
country, because the West was quickly surpassing them: the Ottomans could no
longer rely in old formulas of success that were now obsolete.
• Many reforms were attempted and they were continuously blocked by
• When it the turn came to reform the army, the Janissaries turned on the Sultan
Selim III and killed him!
• His successor eliminated them in turn, in what was called the Auspicious Event.
• Finally, nationalist awakening in the Balkans, led to internal and