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Ottoman Empire

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Ottoman Empire
دَوْلَتِ عَلِيّهٔ عُثمَانِیّه
Devlet-i Âliyye-i Osmâniyye
Flag Coat of arms
دولت ابد مدت
Devlet-i Ebed-müddet
(The Eternal State)
Ottoman imperial anthem
Expansion of the Ottoman Empire between 1481 and 1683 (excluding Algeria, Sudan, Hejaz, Asir and Yemen)
Capital Söğüt (1299–1309)
Yarhisar (1309-1314)
İnegöl (1314-1326)
Bursa (1326–1365)
Adrianople (1365–1453)
Constantinople (1453–1922)
Languages Ottoman Turkish (official), many others
Religion Official religion:
Sunni IslamP islam.svg
Minority religions:
Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Judaism, Shiaism
Government Absolute monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
 -  1281–1326 (first) Osman I
 -  1918–1922 (last) Mehmed VI
Grand Vizier
 -  1320–1331 (first) Alaeddin Pasha
 -  1920–1922 (last) Ahmed Tevfik Pasha
Legislature Imperial Parliament
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house Chamber of Deputies
 -  Founded 1299
 -  Interregnum 1402–1414
 -  1. Constitutional 1876–1878
 -  2. Constitutional 1908–1922
 -  Sultanate abolished (Departure of Mehmed VI, the last Sultan: 17 November 1922) 1 November 1922
 -  Republic of Turkey 29 October 1923
 -  1683 5,200,000 km² (2,007,731 sq mi)
 -  1914 1,800,000 km² (694,984 sq mi)
 -  1856 est. 35,350,000 
 -  1906 est. 20,884,000 
 -  1912 est. 24,000,000 
Currency Akçe, Para, Kuruş, Lira, Sultanî
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Byzantine Empire
Sultanate of Rûm
Empire of Trebizond
Despotate of the Morea
Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of Dobruja
Kingdom of Bosnia
Bulgarian Empire
Serbian Empire
League of Lezhë
Mamluk Sultanate
Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages
Algeria and Tunis
Turkish Provisional Government
Hellenic Republic
Sultanate of Egypt
Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Principality of Serbia
Provisional Government of Albania
Kingdom of Romania
Principality of Bulgaria
British Cyprus
French Algeria
French Tunisia
Sheikhdom of Kuwait
Italian North Africa
Today part of
Timeline of the Ottoman Empire
Index of Ottoman Empire-related articles

The Ottoman Empire ( Ottoman Turkish: دَوْلَتِ عَلِيّهٔ عُثمَانِیّه Devlet-i ʿAliyye-yi ʿOsmâniyye Modern Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu), also historically referred to as the Turkish Empire or Turkey, was a state founded by Turkish tribes under Osman Bey in north-western Anatolia in 1299. With the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed II in 1453, the Ottoman state became an empire.

The conquest of Constantinople was a pivotal event in the evolution of Turkish statehood, since the victory of 1453 cemented its Eurasian nature, which remains one of the essential characteristics of Modern Turkey. The empire reached its peak at 1590, covering parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. The reign of the long-lived Ottoman dynasty lasted for 623 years, from 27 July 1299 to 1 November 1922, when the monarchy in Turkey was abolished.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful states in the world – a multinational, multilingual empire that stretched from the southern borders of the Holy Roman Empire on the outskirts of Vienna, Royal Hungary (modern Slovakia) and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the north to Yemen and Eritrea in the south; from Algeria in the west to Azerbaijan in the east; controlling much of southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.

At the beginning of the 17th century the empire contained 32 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. With Constantinople as its capital and vast control of lands around the Mediterranean basin, the empire was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for over six centuries.

After the international recognition of the new Turkish parliament headquartered in Ankara, by means of the Treaty of Lausanne signed on 24 July 1923, the Turkish parliament proclaimed on 29 October 1923 the establishment of the Republic of Turkey as the continuing state of the defunct Ottoman Empire, in line with the treaty. The Ottoman Caliphate was abolished on 3 March 1924; the Caliphate's authority and properties were transferred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.


In Ottoman Turkish the Empire was referred to as Devlet-i ʿAliyye-yi ʿOsmâniyye (دَوْلَتِ عَلِيّهٔ عُثمَانِیّه), or alternatively Osmanlı Devleti (عثمانلى دولتى). In Modern Turkish it is known as Osmanlı Devleti or Osmanlı İmparatorluğu. In older English usage, mostly the 19th century and earlier, it was usually referred to as the Turkish Empire or Turkey. In western accounts, the two names "Ottoman" and "Turkey" - were used interchangeably in relation to the Turkish state during the age of the Empire. This dichotomy was officially ended in 1920–23 when the Ankara-based Turkish regime favoured Turkey as a sole official name, which had been one of the European names of the state since Seljuq times.


Rise (1299–1453)

Battle of Nicopolis, 1396

Upon the demise of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, precursor of Ottomans, in 1300s, 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 (1258 – 1326), from which the name Ottoman is derived, son of Ertuğrul, around Eskişehir in western Anatolia. Osman I extended the frontiers of Turkish settlement toward the edge of the Byzantine Empire. In this period, a formal Ottoman government was created whose institutions would change drastically over the life of the empire, but that would prove vital to the Ottoman Empire's rapid expansion. The government used the socio-political institution known as the millet system, under which religious and ethnic minorities were allowed to manage their own affairs with substantial independence from central control. Such religious tolerance resulted in limited opposition when conquering other territories and peoples. Osman I openly welcomed any and all fighting men dedicated to the advancement of his cause.

In the century after the death of Osman I, Ottoman rule began to extend over the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. Osman's son, Orhan, captured the city of Bursa in 1324 and made it the new capital of the Ottoman state. The fall of Bursa meant the loss of Byzantine control over Northwestern Anatolia. The important city of Thessaloniki was captured from the Venetians in 1387. The Ottoman victory at 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 Ottoman Turks.

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. The capture of Bayezid I threw the Turks into disorder. The state fell into a civil war that 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, also known as the Fetret Devri in Ottoman Turkish.

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. On 10 November 1444, Murad II defeated the Hungarian, Polish and Wallachian armies under Władysław III of Poland (also King of Hungary) and János Hunyadi at the Battle of Varna, which was the final battle of the Crusade of Varna. Four years later, János Hunyadi prepared another army (of Hungarian and Wallachian forces) to attack the Turks, but was again defeated by Murad II at the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448.

Growth (1453–1683)

Expansion and apogee (1453–1566)

Ottoman Army before Constantinople in 1453, Moldovița Monastery

The son of Murad II, Mehmed II, reorganized the state and the military, and conquered Constantinople on 29 May 1453. Mehmed allowed the Orthodox Church to maintain its autonomy and land in exchange for accepting Ottoman authority. Because of bad relations between the latter Byzantine Empire and the states of western Europe, the majority of the Orthodox population accepted Ottoman rule as preferable to Venetian rule.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Ottoman Empire entered a period of expansion. The Empire prospered under the rule of a line of committed and effective Sultans. It also flourished economically due to its control of the major overland trade routes between Europe and Asia.

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.

Battle of Mohács, 1526

Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566) captured Belgrade in 1521, conquered the southern and central parts of the Kingdom of Hungary as part of the Ottoman–Hungarian Wars, and, after his historical victory in the Battle of Mohács in 1526, he established Turkish rule in the territory of present-day Hungary (except the western part) and other Central European territories. He then laid siege to Vienna in 1529, but failed to take the city. In 1532, he made another attack on Vienna, but was repulsed in the Siege of Güns. Transylvania, Wallachia and, intermittently, Moldavia, became tributary principalities of the Ottoman Empire. In the east, the Ottoman Turks took Baghdad from the Persians in 1535, gaining control of Mesopotamia and naval access to the Persian Gulf.

France and the Ottoman Empire, united by mutual opposition to Habsburg rule, became strong allies. The French conquests of Nice (1543) and Corsica (1553) occurred as a joint venture between the forces of the French king Francis I and Suleiman, and were commanded by the Ottoman admirals Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha and Turgut Reis. A month prior to the siege of Nice, France supported the Ottomans with an artillery unit during the Ottoman conquest of Esztergom in 1543. After further advances by the Turks in 1543, the Habsburg ruler Ferdinand officially recognized Ottoman ascendancy in Hungary in 1547.

By the end of Suleiman's reign, the Empire's population totaled about 15,000,000 people extending over three continents. Plus, the Empire became a dominant naval force, controlling much of the Mediterranean Sea. By this time, the Ottoman Empire was a major part of the European political sphere with the success of its political and military establishment often drawing a comparison in the West to the Roman Empire, for instance from the Italian scholar Francesco Sansovino and the French political philosopher Jean Bodin. Bodin wrote: "The only power who with justification can lay claim to the title of universal ruler is the Ottoman Sultan. Only he can justifiably claim to be the descendant of the Roman Emperor."

Revolts and revival (1566–1683)

Ottoman miniature about the Szigetvár campaign showing Ottoman troops and Tatars as avantgarde.

The effective military and bureaucratic structures of the previous century came under strain during a protracted period of misrule by weak Sultans. The Ottomans gradually fell behind the Europeans in military technology as the innovation that fed the Empire's forceful expansion became stifled by growing religious and intellectual conservatism. But in spite of these difficulties, the Empire remained a major expansionist power until the Battle of Vienna in 1683, which marked the end of Ottoman expansion into Europe.

The discovery of new maritime trade routes by Western European states allowed them to avoid the Ottoman trade monopoly. The Portuguese discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 initiated a series of Ottoman-Portuguese naval wars in the Indian Ocean throughout the 16th century. Economically, the huge influx of Spanish silver from the New World caused a sharp devaluation of the Ottoman currency and rampant inflation.

Under Ivan IV (1533–1584), the Tsardom of Russia expanded into the Volga and Caspian region at the expense of the Tatar khanates. In 1571, the Crimean khan Devlet I Giray, supported by the Ottomans, burned Moscow. The next year, the invasion was repeated but repelled at the Battle of Molodi. The Crimean Khanate continued to invade Eastern Europe in a series of slave raids, and remained a significant power in Eastern Europe until the end of the 17th century.

In southern Europe, a Catholic coalition led by Philip II of Spain won a victory over the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto (1571). It was a startling, if mostly symbolic, blow to the image of Ottoman invincibility. The battle was far more damaging to the Ottoman navy in sapping experienced manpower than the loss of ships, which were rapidly replaced. The Ottoman navy recovered quickly, persuading Venice to sign a peace treaty in 1573, allowing the Ottomans to expand and consolidate their position in North Africa.

Battle of Lepanto in 1571

By contrast, the Habsburg frontier had settled somewhat, a stalemate caused by a stiffening of the Habsburg defences. The Long War against Habsburg Austria (1593–1606) created the need for greater numbers of infantry equipped with firearms, resulting in a relaxation of recruitment policy. This contributed to problems of indiscipline and outright rebelliousness within the corps, which was never fully solved. Irregular sharpshooters (Sekban) were also recruited, and on demobilization turned to brigandage in the Jelali revolts (1595–1610), which engendered widespread anarchy in Anatolia in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. With the Empire's population reaching 30,000,000 people by 1600, shortage of land placed further pressure on the government.

Second Siege of Vienna in 1683.

During his brief majority reign, Murad IV (1612–1640) reasserted central authority and recaptured Yerevan (1635) and Baghdad (1639) from the Safavids. The Sultanate of women (1648–1656) was a period in which the mothers of young sultans exercised power on behalf of their sons. The most prominent women of this period were Kösem Sultan and her daughter-in-law Turhan Hatice, whose political rivalry culminated in Kösem's murder in 1651. During the Köprülü Era (1656–1703), effective control of the Empire was exercised by a sequence of Grand Viziers from the Köprülü family. The Köprülü Vizierate saw renewed military success with authority restored in Transylvania, the conquest of Crete completed in 1669 and expansion into Polish southern Ukraine, with the strongholds of Khotyn and Kamianets-Podilskyi and the territory of Podolia ceding to Ottoman control in 1676.

This period of renewed assertiveness came to a calamitous end when Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha in May 1683 led a huge army to attempt a second Ottoman siege of Vienna in the Great Turkish War of 1683–1687. The final assault being fatally delayed, the Ottoman forces were swept away by allied Habsburg, German and Polish forces spearheaded by the Polish king Jan at the Battle of Vienna. The alliance of the Holy League pressed home the advantage of the defeat at Vienna, culminating in the Treaty of Karlowitz (26 January 1699), which ended the Great Turkish War. The Ottomans surrendered control of significant territories, many permanently. Mustafa II (1695–1703) led the counterattack of 1695–96 against the Habsburgs in Hungary, but was undone at the disastrous defeat at Zenta (11 September 1697).

Stagnation and reform (1683–1827)

Selim III receiving dignitaries during an audience at the Gate of Felicity, Topkapı Palace.

During this period Russian expansion presented a large and growing threat. Accordingly, King Charles XII of Sweden was welcomed as an ally in the Ottoman Empire following his defeat by the Russians at the Battle of Poltava in 1709 (part of the Great Northern War of 1700–1721.) Charles XII persuaded the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III to declare war on Russia, which resulted in the Ottoman victory at the Pruth River Campaign of 1710–1711. The subsequent Treaty of Passarowitz signed on 21 July 1718, brought a period of peace between wars. However, the Treaty also revealed that the Ottoman Empire was on the defensive and unlikely to present any further aggression in Europe.

Ottoman troops desperately attempt to halt advancing Russians during the Siege of Ochakov in 1788.

The Austro-Russian–Turkish War (1735–1739), which was ended by the Treaty of Belgrade in 1739, resulted in the loss of Serbia and "Little Walachia" to Austria and the port of Azov to the Russians. After this treaty the Ottoman Empire was able to enjoy a generation of peace, as Austria and Russia were forced to deal with the rise of Prussia.

Educational and technological reforms were made, including the establishment of higher education institutions such as the Istanbul Technical University. In 1734 an artillery school was established to impart Western-style artillery methods, but the Islamic clergy successfully objected under the grounds of theodicy. In 1754 the artillery school was reopened on a semi-secret basis. In 1726, Ibrahim Muteferrika convinced the Grand Vizier Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha, the Grand Mufti, and the clergy on the efficiency of the printing press, and Muteferrika was later granted by Sultan Ahmed III the permission to publish non-religious books (despite opposition from some calligraphers and religious leaders). Muteferrika's press published its first book in 1729, and, by 1743, issued 17 works in 23 volumes, each having between 500 and 1,000 copies.

Under the pretext of pursuing fugitive Polish revolutionaries, Russian troops entered Balta an Ottoman-controlled city on the border of Bessarabia and massacred its citizens and burned the town to the ground. This action provoked the Ottoman Empire into the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774. The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca of 1774 ended the war and provided freedom to worship for the Christian citizens of the Ottoman-controlled provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia. By the late 18th century, a number of defeats in several wars with Russia led some people in the Ottoman Empire to conclude that the reforms of "Deli Petro" (Peter the Mad, as Peter the Great was known in Turkey) had given the Russians an edge, and the Ottomans would have to keep up with Western technology in order to avoid further defeats.

Selim III (1789–1807) made the first major attempts to modernize the army, but reforms were hampered by the religious leadership and the Janissary corps. Jealous of their privileges and firmly opposed to change, the Janissary created a revolt. Selim's efforts cost him his throne and his life, but were resolved in spectacular and bloody fashion by his successor, the dynamic Mahmud II, who eliminated the Janissary corps in 1826.

The Serbian revolution (1804–1815) marked the beginning of an era of national awakening in the Balkans during the Eastern Question. Suzerainty of Serbia as a hereditary monarchy under its own dynasty was acknowledged de jure in 1830. In 1821, the Greeks declared war on the Sultan. A rebellion that originated in Moldavia as a diversion was followed by the main revolution in the Peloponnese, which, along with the northern part of the Gulf of Corinth, became the first parts of the Ottoman empire to achieve independence (in 1829). By the mid-19th century, the Ottoman Empire was called the "sick man" by Europeans. The suzerain states – the Principality of Serbia, Wallachia, Moldavia and Montenegro – moved towards de jure independence during the 1860s and 1870s.

Decline and modernisation (1828–1908)

During the Tanzimat period (1839–1876), the government's series of constitutional reforms led to a fairly modern conscripted army, banking system reforms, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the replacement of religious law with secular law and guilds with modern factories. The Ottoman Ministry of Post was established in Istanbul on 23 October 1840.

Samuel Morse received his first ever patent for the telegraph in 1847, which was issued by Sultan Abdülmecid who personally tested the new invention. Following this successful test, installation works of the first telegraph line (Istanbul- Adrianople- Şumnu) began on 9 August 1847. The reformist period peaked with the Constitution, called the Kanûn-u Esâsî. The empire's First Constitutional era, was short-lived. The parliament survived for only two years before the sultan suspended it.

The Christian population of the empire, owing to their higher educational levels, started to pull ahead of the Muslim majority, leading to much resentment on the part of the latter. In 1861, there were 571 primary and 94 secondary schools for Ottoman Christians with 140,000 pupils in total, a figure that vastly exceeded the number of Muslim children in school at the same time, who were further hindered by the amount of time spent learning Arabic and Islamic theology. In turn, the higher educational levels of the Christians allowed them to play a large role in the economy. In 1911, of the 654 wholesale companies in Istanbul, 528 were owned by ethnic Greeks.

Turkish troops storming Fort Shefketil during the Crimean War

The Crimean War (1853–1856) was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining Ottoman Empire. The financial burden of the war led the Ottoman state to issue foreign loans amounting 5 million pound sterling on 4 August 1854. The war caused an exodus of the Crimean Tatars, about 200,000 Crimean Tatars moved to the Ottoman Empire in continuing waves of emigration. Toward the end of the Caucasian Wars, 90% of the Circassians were exiled from their homelands in the Caucasus and settled in the Ottoman Empire.

Opening ceremony of the First Ottoman Parliament at the Dolmabahçe Palace in 1876

The Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) ended with a decisive victory for Russia. As a result, Ottoman holdings in Europe declined sharply; Bulgaria was established as an independent principality inside the Ottoman Empire, Romania achieved full independence. Serbia and Montenegro finally gained complete independence, but with smaller territories. In 1878, Austria-Hungary unilaterally occupied the Ottoman provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Novi Pazar, but the Ottoman government contested this move and maintained its troops in both provinces.

In return for British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli's advocacy for restoring the Ottoman territories on the Balkan Peninsula during the Congress of Berlin, Britain assumed the administration of Cyprus in 1878 and later sent troops to Egypt in 1882 with the pretext of helping the Ottoman government to put down the Urabi Revolt; effectively gaining control in both territories.

From 1894–96, between 100,000 to 300,000 Armenians living throughout the empire were killed in what became known as the Hamidian massacres.

As the Ottoman Empire gradually shrank in size, many Balkan Muslims migrated to the empire's remaining territory in Balkans or to the heartland in Anatolia. By 1923, only Anatolia and eastern Thrace remained as the Muslim land.

Dissolution (1908–1922)

Declaration of the Young Turk Revolution by the leaders of the Ottoman millets.

The Second Constitutional Era began after the Young Turk Revolution (3 July 1908) with the sultan's announcement of the restoration of the 1876 constitution and the reconvening of the Ottoman Parliament. It marked the beginning of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. This era is dominated by the politics of the Committee of Union and Progress, and the movement that would become known as the Young Turks.

Profiting from the civil strife, Austria-Hungary officially annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, but it pulled its troops out of the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, another contested region between the Austrians and Ottomans, to avoid a war. During the Italo-Turkish War (1911–12) in which the Ottoman Empire lost Libya, the Balkan League declared war against the Ottoman Empire. The Empire lost the Balkan Wars (1912–13). It lost its Balkan territories except East Thrace and the historic Ottoman capital city of Adrianople during the war. Some 400,000 Muslims, out of fear of Greek, Serbian or Bulgarian atrocities, left with the retreating Ottoman army. By 1914 the Ottoman Empire had been driven out of nearly all of Europe and North Africa. It still controlled 28 million people, of whom 17 million were in modern-day Turkey, 3 million in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and 2.5 million in Iraq. Another 5.5 million people were under nominal Ottoman rule in the Arabian peninsula.

Mehmed VI, last Sultan of the Ottoman State, 1922.

In November 1914, the Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers, in which it took part in the Middle Eastern theatre. There were several important Ottoman victories in the early years of the war, such as the Battle of Gallipoli and the Siege of Kut, but there were setbacks as well, such as the disastrous Caucasus Campaign against the Russians. The United States never declared war against the Ottoman Empire.

In 1915, as the Russian Caucasus Army continued to advance in eastern Anatolia, aided by some Ottoman Armenians, the Ottoman government started the deportation and massacre of its ethnic Armenian population, resulting in what became known as the Armenian Genocide.

The Arab Revolt which began in 1916 turned the tide against the Ottomans at the Middle Eastern front, where they initially seemed to have the upper hand during the first two years of the war. The Armistice of Mudros, signed on 30 October 1918, ended the hostilities in the Middle Eastern theatre, and was followed with occupation of Constantinople and subsequent partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. Under the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres, the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire was solidified.

The occupation of Constantinople and İzmir led to the establishment of a Turkish national movement, which won the Turkish War of Independence (1919–22) under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. The sultanate was abolished on 1 November 1922, and the last sultan, Mehmed VI (reigned 1918–22), left the country on 17 November 1922. The Grand National Assembly of Turkey declared the Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923. The caliphate was abolished on 3 March 1924.


Ambassadors at Topkapı Palace

The state organisation of the Ottoman Empire was a very simple system that had two main dimensions: the military administration and the civil administration. The Sultan was the highest position in the system. The civil system was based on local administrative units based on the region's characteristics. The Ottomans practiced a system in which the state (as in the Byzantine Empire) had control over the clergy. Certain pre-Islamic Turkish traditions that had survived the adoption of administrative and legal practices from Islamic Iran remained important in Ottoman administrative circles. According to Ottoman understanding, the state's primary responsibility was to defend and extend the land of the Muslims and to ensure security and harmony within its borders within the overarching context of orthodox Islamic practice and dynastic sovereignty.

The " Ottoman dynasty" or, as an institution, " House of Osman" was unprecedented and unequaled in the Islamic world for its size and duration. The Ottoman dynasty was Turkish in origin. On eleven occasions, the sultan was deposed because he was perceived by his enemies as a threat to the state. There were only two attempts in Ottoman history to unseat the ruling Osmanlı dynasty, both failures, which suggests a political system that for an extended period was able to manage its revolutions without unnecessary instability.

Bâb-ı Âlî, the Sublime Porte

The highest position in Islam, caliphate, was claimed by the sultan, which was established as Ottoman Caliphate. The Ottoman sultan, pâdişâh or "lord of kings", served as the Empire's sole regent and was considered to be the embodiment of its government, though he did not always exercise complete control. The Imperial Harem was one of the most important powers of the Ottoman court. It was ruled by the Valide Sultan. On occasion, the Valide Sultan would become involved in state politics. For a time, the women of the Harem effectively controlled the state in what was termed the " Sultanate of Women". New sultans were always chosen from the sons of the previous sultan. The strong educational system of the palace school was geared towards eliminating the unfit potential heirs, and establishing support among the ruling elite for a successor. The palace schools, which would also educate the future administrators of the state, were not a single track. First, the Madrasa ( Ottoman Turkish: Medrese) was designated for the Muslims, and educated scholars and state officials according to Islamic tradition. The financial burden of the Medrese was supported by vakifs, allowing children of poor families to move to higher social levels and income. The second track was a free boarding school for the Christians, the Enderûn, which recruited 3,000 students annually from Christian boys between eight and twenty years old from one in forty families among the communities settled in Rumelia and/or the Balkans, a process known as Devshirme (Devşirme).

Though the sultan was the supreme monarch, the sultan's political and executive authority was delegated. The politics of the state had a number of advisors and ministers gathered around a council known as Divan (after the 17th century it was renamed the " Porte"). The Divan, in the years when the Ottoman state was still a Beylik, was composed of the elders of the tribe. Its composition was later modified to include military officers and local elites (such as religious and political advisors). Later still, beginning in 1320, a Grand Vizier was appointed to assume certain of the sultan's responsibilities. The Grand Vizier had considerable independence from the sultan with almost unlimited powers of appointment, dismissal and supervision. Beginning with the late 16th century, sultans withdrew from politics and the Grand Vizier became the de facto head of state.

Throughout Ottoman history, there were many instances in which local governors acted independently, and even in opposition to the ruler. After the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, the Ottoman state became a constitutional monarchy. The sultan no longer had executive powers. A parliament was formed, with representatives chosen from the provinces. The representatives formed the Imperial Government of the Ottoman Empire.

This eclectic administration was apparent even in the diplomatic correspondence of the Empire, which was initially undertaken in the Greek language to the west.

The Tughra were calligraphic monograms, or signatures, of the Ottoman Sultans, of which there were 35. Carved on the Sultan's seal, they bore the names of the Sultan and his father. The statement and prayer, “ever victorious,” was also present in most. The earliest belonged to Orhan Gazi. The ornately stylized Tughra spawned a branch of Ottoman-Turkish calligraphy.


A kazasker or chief judge, 18th century

The Ottoman legal system accepted the religious law over its subjects. The Ottoman Empire was always organized around a system of local jurisprudence. Legal administration in the Ottoman Empire was part of a larger scheme of balancing central and local authority. Ottoman power revolved crucially around the administration of the rights to land, which gave a space for the local authority develop the needs of the local millet. The jurisdictional complexity of the Ottoman Empire was aimed to permit the integration of culturally and religiously different groups. The Ottoman system had three court systems: one for Muslims, one for non-Muslims, involving appointed Jews and Christians ruling over their respective religious communities, and the "trade court". The entire system was regulated from above by means of the administrative Kanun, i.e. laws, a system based upon the Turkic Yassa and Töre, which were developed in the pre-Islamic era. The kanun law system, on the other hand, was the secular law of the sultan, and dealt with issues not clearly addressed by the sharia system.

These court categories were not, however, wholly exclusive: for instance, the Islamic courts—which were the Empire's primary courts—could also be used to settle a trade conflict or disputes between litigants of differing religions, and Jews and Christians often went to them to obtain a more forceful ruling on an issue. The Ottoman state tended not to interfere with non-Muslim religious law systems, despite legally having a voice to do so through local governors. The Islamic Sharia law system had been developed from a combination of the Qur'an; the Hadīth, or words of the prophet Muhammad; ijmā', or consensus of the members of the Muslim community; qiyas, a system of analogical reasoning from earlier precedents; and local customs. Both systems were taught at the Empire's law schools, which were in Istanbul and Bursa.

An Ottoman trial, 1877 (see image detail for explanation)

In the late 19th century, the Ottoman legal system saw substantial reform. This process of legal modernization began with the Edict of Gülhane of 1839. These reforms included the “fair and public trial[s] of all accused regardless of religion,” the creation of a system of “separate competences, religious and civil,” and the validation of testimony on non-Muslims. Specific land codes (1858), civil codes (1869-1876), and a code of civil procedure also were enacted.

These reforms were based heavily on French models, as indicated by the adoption of a three-tiered court system. Referred to as Nizamiye, this system was extended to the local magistrate level with the final promulgation of the Mecelle, a civil code that regulated marriage, divorce, alimony, will, and other matters of personal status. In an attempt to clarify the division of judicial competences, an administrative council laid down that religious matters were to be handled by religious courts, and statute matters were to be handled by the Nizamiye courts.


Sketch of a Janissary (c. 1480) by Gentile Bellini.

The first military unit of the Ottoman State was an army that was organized by Osman I from the tribesmen inhabiting the hills of western Anatolia in the late 13th century. The military system became an intricate organization with the advance of the Empire. The Ottoman military was a complex system of recruiting and fief-holding. The main corps of the Ottoman Army included Janissary, Sipahi, Akıncı and Mehterân. The Ottoman army was once among the most advanced fighting forces in the world, being one of the first to use muskets and cannons. The Ottoman Turks began using falconets, which were short but wide cannons, during the Siege of Constantinople (1422). The Ottoman cavalry depended on high speed and mobility rather than heavy armour, using bows and short swords on fast Turkoman and Arabian horses (progenitors of the Thoroughbred racing horse), and often applied tactics similar to those of the Mongol Empire, such as pretending to retreat while surrounding the enemy forces inside a crescent-shaped formation and then making the real attack. The decline in the army's performance became clear from the mid-17th century and after the Great Turkish War. The 18th century saw some limited success against Venice, but in the north the European-style Russian armies forced the Ottomans to concede land.

The modernization of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century started with the military. In 1826 Sultan Mahmud II abolished the Janissary corps and established the modern Ottoman army. He named them as the Nizam-ı Cedid (New Order). The Ottoman army was also the first institution to hire foreign experts and send its officers for training in western European countries. Consequently, the Young Turks movement began when these relatively young and newly trained men returned with their education.

A German postcard depicting the Ottoman Navy, led by Yavuz (ex-Goeben). At top left is a portrait of Sultan Mehmed V.

The Ottoman Navy vastly contributed to the expansion of the Empire's territories on the European continent. It initiated the conquest of North Africa, with the addition of Algeria and Egypt to the Ottoman Empire in 1517. Starting with the loss of Algeria (1830) and Greece (1821), Ottoman naval power and control over the Empire's distant overseas territories began to decline. Sultan Abdülaziz (reigned 1861–1876) attempted to reestablish a strong Ottoman navy, building the largest fleet after those of Britain and France. The shipyard at Barrow, England, built its first submarine in 1886 for the Ottoman Empire.

However, the collapsing Ottoman economy could not sustain the fleet's strength for too long. Sultan Abdülhamid II distrusted the admirals who sided with the reformist Midhat Pasha, and claimed that the large and expensive fleet was of no use against the Russians during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). He locked most of the fleet inside the Golden Horn, where the ships decayed for the next 30 years. Following the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, the Committee of Union and Progress sought to develop a strong Ottoman naval force. The Ottoman Navy Foundation was established in 1910 to buy new ships through public donations.

The history of Ottoman military aviation dates back to 1909 between June 1909 and July 1911. The Ottoman Empire started preparing its first pilots and planes, and with the founding of the Aviation School (Tayyare Mektebi) in Yeşilköy on 3 July 1912, the Empire began to tutor its own flight officers. The founding of the Aviation School quickened advancement in the military aviation program, increased the number of enlisted persons within it, and gave the new pilots an active role in the Ottoman Army and Navy. In May 1913 the world's first specialized Reconnaissance Training Program was started by the Aviation School and the first separate reconnaissance division was established. In June 1914 a new military academy, the Naval Aviation School (Bahriye Tayyare Mektebi) was founded. With the outbreak of World War I, the modernization process stopped abruptly. The Ottoman aviation squadrons fought on many fronts during World War I, from Galicia in the west to the Caucasus in the east and Yemen in the south.

Administrative divisions

The Administrative divisions of the Ottoman Empire were administrative divisions of the state organisation of the Ottoman Empire. Outside this system were various types of vassal and tributary states.


20 kurush banknote (1852)

Ottoman government deliberately pursued a policy for the development of Bursa, Adrianople and Constantinople, successive Ottoman capitals, into major commercial and industrial centres, considering that merchants and artisans were indispensable in creating a new metropolis. To this end, Mehmed and his successor Bayezid, also encouraged and welcomed migration of the Jews from different parts of Europe, who were settled in Istanbul and other port cities like Salonica. In many places in Europe, Jews were suffering persecution at the hands of their Christian counterparts. The tolerance displayed by the Turks was welcomed by the immigrants.

The Ottoman economic mind was closely related to the basic concepts of state and society in the Middle East in which the ultimate goal of a state was consolidation and extension of the ruler's power, and the way to reach it was to get rich resources of revenues by making the productive classes prosperous. The ultimate aim was to increase the state revenues without damaging the prosperity of subjects to prevent the emergence of social disorder and to keep the traditional organization of the society intact.

The organization of the treasury and chancery were developed under the Ottoman Empire more than any other Islamic government and, until the 17th century, they were the leading organization among all their contemporaries. This organization developed a scribal bureaucracy (known as "men of the pen") as a distinct group, partly highly trained ulama, which developed into a professional body. The effectiveness of this professional financial body stands behind the success of many great Ottoman statesmen.

The economic structure of the Empire was defined by its geopolitical structure. The Ottoman Empire stood between the West and the East, thus blocking the land route eastward and forcing Spanish and Portuguese navigators to set sail in search of a new route to the Orient. The Empire controlled the spice route that Marco Polo once used. When Vasco da Gama bypassed Ottoman controlled routes and established direct trade links with India in 1498, and Christopher Columbus first journeyed to the Bahamas in 1492, the Ottoman Empire was at its zenith, an economic power that extended over three continents.

Modern Ottoman studies think that the change in relations between the Ottoman Turks and central Europe was caused by the opening of the new sea routes. It is possible to see the decline in the significance of the land routes to the East as Western Europe opened the ocean routes that bypassed the Middle East and Mediterranean as parallel to the decline of the Ottoman Empire itself. The Anglo-Ottoman Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Balta Liman that opened the Ottoman markets directly to English and French competitors, would be seen as one of the staging posts along this development.

By developing commercial centres and routes, encouraging people to extend the area of cultivated land in the country and international trade through its dominions, the state performed basic economic functions in the Empire. But in all this the financial and political interests of the state were dominant. Within the social and political system they were living in Ottoman administrators could not have comprehended or seen the desirability of the dynamics and principles of the capitalist and mercantile economies developing in Western Europe.


View of Old Istanbul and the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn, ca. 1880-1893.
View of Galata ( Karaköy) and the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn, ca. 1880-1893.
Year Population
1520 11,692,480
1566 15,000,000
1683 30,000,000
1831 7,230,660
1856 35,350,000
1881 17,388,604
1906 20,884,000
1914 18,520,000
1919 14,629,000

Censuses of Ottoman territories only began in the early 19th century. Figures from 1831 onwards are available as official census results, but the censuses did not cover the whole population. For example, the 1831 census only counted men and did not cover the whole empire. For earlier periods estimates of size and distribution of the population are based on observed demographic patterns.

It is unclear why the population in the 18th century was lower than that in the 16th century. However, it began to rise to reach 25-32 million by 1800, with around 10 million in the European provinces (primarily the Balkans), 11 million in the Asiatic provinces and around 3 million in the African provinces. Population densities were higher in the European provinces, double those in Anatolia, which in turn were triple the population densities of Iraq and Syria and five times the population density of Arabia. In 1914, the Ottoman population was 18.5 million, similar to that of 1800. Over this time the empire's size was reduced from over 3 million square kilometres to around 1 million square kilometres. This means there was a doubling of population, increasing population densities in the empire.

Towards the end of the empire's existence life expectancy was 49 years, compared to the mid-twenties in Serbia at the beginning of the 19th century. Epidemic diseases and famine caused major disruption and demographic changes. In 1785 around one sixth of the Egyptian population died from plague and Aleppo saw its population reduced by twenty percent in the 18th century. Six famines hit Egypt alone between 1687 and 1731 and the last famine to hit Anatolia was four decades later. They were brought under control in the 19th century with improvements in sanitation, healthcare and transportation of foodstuffs.

The rise of port cities saw the clustering of populations caused by the development of steamships and railroads. Urbanization increased from 1700–1922, with towns and cities growing. Improvements in health and sanitation made them more attractive to live and work in. Port cities like Salonica, in Greece, saw its population rise from 55,000 in 1800 to 160,000 in 1912 and Izmir which had a population of 150,000 in 1800 grew to 300,000 by 1914. Some regions conversely had population falls - Belgrade saw its population drop from 25,000 to 8,000 mainly due to political strife. Population statistics thus mask varying experiences in different regions.

Economic and political migrations made an impact across the empire. For example the Russian and Austria-Habsburg annexation of the Crimean and Balkan regions respectively saw large influxes of Muslim refugees – 200,000 Crimean Tartars fleeing to Dobruja. Between 1783 and 1913, approximately 5-7 million refugees flooded into the Ottoman Empire, at least 3.8 million of whom were Russians. Some migrations left indelible marks such as political tension between parts of the empire (e.g. Turkey and Bulgaria) whereas centrifugal effects were noticed in other territories, simpler demographics emerging from diverse populations. Economies were also impacted with the loss of artisans, merchants, manufacturers and agriculturists. Since the 19th century, the exodus to present-day Turkey by the large portion of Muslim peoples from the Balkans. These people were called Muhacir under a general definition. By the time the Ottoman Empire came to an end in 1922, half of the urban population of Turkey was descended from Muslim refugees from Russia.


Ottoman Turkish was the official language of the Empire. It was a Turkic language highly influenced by Persian and Arabic. The Ottomans had three influential languages: Turkish, spoken by the majority of the people in Anatolia and by the majority of Muslims of the Balkans except in Albania and Bosnia; Persian, only spoken by the educated; and Arabic, spoken mainly in Arabia, North Africa, Iraq, Kuwait and the Levant. In the last two centuries, usage of these became limited, though, and specific: Persian served mainly as a literary language for the educated, while Arabic was used for religious rites.

Because of a low literacy rate among the public (about 2–3% until the early 19th century and just about 15% at the end of 19th century), ordinary people had to hire special "request-writers" (arzuhâlcis) to be able to communicate with the government. The ethnic groups continued to speak within their families and neighborhoods ( mahalles) with their own languages (e.g., Jews, Greeks, Armenians, etc.). In villages where two or more populations lived together, the inhabitants would often speak each other's language. In cosmopolitan cities, people often spoke their family languages, many non-ethnic Turks spoke Turkish as a second language.


Until the second half of the 15th century, the empire, had a Christian majority, under the rule of a Muslim minority. By 1914, only 19.1% of the empire's population was non-Muslim, mostly made up of Christian Greeks, Assyrians, Armenians, and some Jews.


Calligraphic writing on a fritware tile, depicting the names of God, Muhammad and the first caliphs. c. 1727, Islamic Middle East Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Before adopting Islam (a process that was greatly facilitated by the Abbasid victory at the 751 Battle of Talas, which ensured Abbasid influence in Central Asia) the Turkic peoples practiced a variety of shamanism. After this battle, many of the various Turkic tribes—including the Oghuz Turks, who were the ancestors of both the Seljuks and the Ottomans—gradually converted to Islam, and brought the religion with them to Anatolia beginning in the 11th century.

In 1514, Sultan Selim I, nicknamed “the Grim” because of his cruelty, ordered the massacre of 40,000 Anatolian Shi'ites, whom he considered heretics, reportedly proclaiming that "the killing of one Shiite had as much otherworldly reward as killing 70 Christians."

Christianity and Judaism

Mehmed the Conqueror and Patriarch of Constantinople Gennadius II.

In the Ottoman Empire, in accordance with the Muslim dhimmi system, Christians were guaranteed limited freedoms (such as the right to worship), but were treated as second-class citizens. Christians and Jews were not considered equals to Muslims: testimony against Muslims by Christians and Jews was inadmissible in courts of law. They were forbidden to carry weapons or ride atop horses, their houses could not overlook those of Muslims, and their religious practices would have to defer to those of Muslims, in addition to various other legal limitations.

In the system commonly known as devşirme, a certain number of Christian boys, mainly from the Balkans and Anatolia, were periodically conscripted before they reached adolescence and were brought up as Muslims.

Under the millet system, non-Muslim people were considered subjects of the Empire, but were not subject to the Muslim faith or Muslim law. The Orthodox millet, for instance, was still officially legally subject to Justinian's Code, which had been in effect in the Byzantine Empire for 900 years. Also, as the largest group of non-Muslim subjects (or zimmi) of the Islamic Ottoman state, the Orthodox millet was granted a number of special privileges in the fields of politics and commerce, and had to pay higher taxes than Muslim subjects.

Similar millets were established for the Ottoman Jewish community, who were under the authority of the Haham Başı or Ottoman Chief Rabbi; the Armenian Orthodox community, who were under the authority of a head bishop; and a number of other religious communities as well.


Yeni Cami and Eminönü bazaar, Constantinople, circa 1895

The Ottomans absorbed some of the traditions, art and institutions of cultures in the regions they conquered, and added new dimensions to them. Numerous traditions and cultural traits of previous empires (in fields such as architecture, cuisine, music, leisure and government) were adopted by the Ottoman Turks, who elaborated them into new forms, which resulted in a new and distinctively Ottoman cultural identity. Intercultural marriages also played their part in creating the characteristic Ottoman elite culture. When compared to the Turkish folk culture, the influence of these new cultures in creating the culture of the Ottoman elite was clear.

Slavery was a part of Ottoman society. As late as 1908 women slaves were still sold in the Empire. During the 19th century the Empire came under pressure from Western European countries to outlaw the practice. Policies developed by various Sultans throughout the 19th century attempted to curtail the slave trade but, since slavery did have centuries of religious backing and sanction, they never directly abolished the institution outright.

Plague remained a major event in Ottoman society until the second quarter of the 19th century. Between 1701 and 1750, 37 larger and smaller plague epidemics were recorded in Istanbul, and 31 between 1751 and 1801.


Evliya Celebi, 17th century adventurer and travel writer

The two primary streams of Ottoman written literature are poetry and prose. Poetry was by far the dominant stream. Until the 19th century, Ottoman prose did not contain any examples of fiction: there were no counterparts to, for instance, the European romance, short story, or novel. Analogue genres did exist, though, in both Turkish folk literature and in Divan poetry.

Ottoman Divan poetry was a highly ritualized and symbolic art form. From the Persian poetry that largely inspired it, it inherited a wealth of symbols whose meanings and interrelationships—both of similitude (مراعات نظير mura'ât-i nazîr / تناسب tenâsüb) and opposition (تضاد tezâd) were more or less prescribed. Divan poetry was composed through the constant juxtaposition of many such images within a strict metrical framework, thus allowing numerous potential meanings to emerge. The vast majority of Divan poetry was lyric in nature: either gazels (which make up the greatest part of the repertoire of the tradition), or kasîdes. There were, however, other common genres, most particularly the mesnevî, a kind of verse romance and thus a variety of narrative poetry; the two most notable examples of this form are the Leyli and Majnun of Fuzûlî and the Hüsn ü Aşk of Şeyh Gâlib.

Ahmet Nedîm Efendi, one of the most celebrated Ottoman poets

Until the 19th century, Ottoman prose never managed to develop to the extent that contemporary Divan poetry did. A large part of the reason for this was that much prose was expected to adhere to the rules of sec (سجع, also transliterated as seci), or rhymed prose, a type of writing descended from the Arabic saj' and which prescribed that between each adjective and noun in a string of words, such as a sentence, there must be a rhyme. Nevertheless, there was a tradition of prose in the literature of the time, though exclusively non-fictional in nature. One apparent exception was Muhayyelât ("Fancies") by Giritli Ali Aziz Efendi, a collection of stories of the fantastic written in 1796, though not published until 1867.

Due to historically close ties with France, French literature came to constitute the major Western influence on Ottoman literature throughout the latter half of the 19th century. As a result, many of the same movements prevalent in France during this period also had their Ottoman equivalents: in the developing Ottoman prose tradition, for instance, the influence of Romanticism can be seen during the Tanzimat period, and that of the Realist and Naturalist movements in subsequent periods; in the poetic tradition, on the other hand, it was the influence of the Symbolist and Parnassian movements that became paramount.

Many of the writers in the Tanzimat period wrote in several different genres simultaneously: for instance, the poet Namik Kemal also wrote the important 1876 novel İntibâh ("Awakening"), while the journalist İbrahim Şinasi is noted for writing, in 1860, the first modern Turkish play, the one-act comedy "Şair Evlenmesi" ("The Poet's Marriage"). An earlier play, a farce entitled "Vakâyi`-i `Acibe ve Havâdis-i Garibe-yi Kefşger Ahmed" ("The Strange Events and Bizarre Occurrences of the Cobbler Ahmed"), dates from the beginning of the 19th century, but there remains some doubt about its authenticity. In a similar vein, the novelist Ahmed Midhat Efendi wrote important novels in each of the major movements: Romanticism (Hasan Mellâh yâhud Sırr İçinde Esrâr, 1873; "Hasan the Sailor, or The Mystery Within the Mystery"), Realism (Henüz On Yedi Yaşında, 1881; "Just Seventeen Years Old"), and Naturalism (Müşâhedât, 1891; "Observations"). This diversity was, in part, due to the Tanzimat writers' wish to disseminate as much of the new literature as possible, in the hopes that it would contribute to a revitalization of Ottoman social structures.


Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge, completed in 1577 by Mimar Sinan, the greatest architect of the classical period of Ottoman architecture.

Ottoman architecture was influenced by Persian, Byzantine Greek and Islamic architectures. During the Rise period the early or first Ottoman architecture period, Ottoman art was in search of new ideas. The growth period of the Empire become the classical period of architecture, when Ottoman art was at its most confident. During the years of the Stagnation period, Ottoman architecture moved away from this style, however.

During the Tulip Era, it was under the influence of the highly ornamented styles of Western Europe; Baroque, Rococo, Empire and other styles intermingled. Concepts of Ottoman architecture mainly circle the mosque. The mosque was integral to society, city planning and communal life. Besides the mosque, it is also possible to find good examples of Ottoman architecture in soup kitchens, theological schools, hospitals, Turkish baths and tombs.

Examples of Ottoman architecture of the classical period, besides Istanbul and Edirne, can also be seen in Egypt, Eritrea, Tunisia, Algiers, the Balkans and Romania, where mosques, bridges, fountains and schools were built. The art of Ottoman decoration developed with a multitude of influences due to the wide ethnic range of the Ottoman Empire. The greatest of the court artists enriched the Ottoman Empire with many pluralistic artistic influences: such as mixing traditional Byzantine art with elements of Chinese art.

Decorative arts

Painting by Abdulcelil Levni, early 18th century

The tradition of Ottoman miniatures, painted to illustrate manuscripts or used in dedicated albums, was heavily influenced by the Persian art form, though it also included elements of the Byzantine tradition of illumination and painting. A Greek academy of painters, the Nakkashane-i-Rum was established in the Topkapi Palace in the 15th century, while early in the following century a similar Persian academy, the Nakkashane-i-Irani, was added.

Ottoman illumination covers non-figurative painted or drawn decorative art in books or on sheets in muraqqa or albums, as opposed to the figurative images of the Ottoman miniature. It was a part of the Ottoman Book Arts together with the Ottoman miniature (taswir), calligraphy (hat), Islamic calligraphy, bookbinding (cilt) and paper marbling (ebru). In the Ottoman empire, illuminated and illustrated manuscripts were commissioned by the Sultan or the administrators of the court. In Topkapi Palace, these manuscripts were created by the artists working in Nakkashane, the atelier of the miniature and illumination artists. Both religious and non-religious books could be illuminated. Also sheets for albums levha consisted of illuminated calligraphy (hat) of tughra, religious texts, verses from poems or proverbs, and purely decorative drawings.

The art of carpet weaving was particularly significant in the Ottoman Empire, carpets having an immense importance both as decorative furnishings, rich in religious and other symbolism, and as a practical consideration, as it was customary to remove one's shoes in living quarters. The weaving of such carpets originated in the nomadic cultures of central Asia (carpets being an easily-transportable form of furnishing), and was eventually spread to the settled societies of Anatolia. Turks used carpets, rugs and kilims not just on the floors of a room, but also as a hanging on walls and doorways, where they provided additional insulation. They were also commonly donated to mosques, which often amassed large collections of them.

Performance arts

The shadow play Karagöz and Hacivat was widespread throughout the Ottoman Empire
Miniature from " Surname-i Vehbi" showing the Mehteran, the music band of the Janissaries.

Ottoman classical music was an important part of the education of the Ottoman elite, a number of the Ottoman sultans were accomplished musicians and composers themselves, such as Selim III, whose compositions are often still performed today. Ottoman classical music arose largely from a confluence of Byzantine music, Armenian music, Arabic music, and Persian music. Compositionally, it is organised around rhythmic units called usul, which are somewhat similar to meter in Western music, and melodic units called makam, which bear some resemblance to Western musical modes.

The instruments used are a mixture of Anatolian and Central Asian instruments (the saz, the bağlama, the kemence), other Middle Eastern instruments (the ud, the tanbur, the kanun, the ney), and—later in the tradition—Western instruments (the violin and the piano). Because of a geographic and cultural divide between the capital and other areas, two broadly distinct styles of music arose in the Ottoman Empire: Ottoman classical music, and folk music. In the provinces, several different kinds of folk music were created. The most dominant regions with their distinguished musical styles are: Balkan-Thracian Türküs, North-Eastern ( Laz) Türküs, Aegean Türküs, Central Anatolian Türküs, Eastern Anatolian Türküs, and Caucasian Türküs. Some of the distinctive styles were: Janissary Music, Roma music, Belly dance, Turkish folk music.

The traditional shadow play called Karagöz and Hacivat was widespread throughout the Ottoman Empire and featured characters representing all of the major ethnic and social groups in that culture. It was performed by a single puppet master, who voiced all of the characters, and accompanied by tambourine (def). Its origins are obscure, deriving perhaps from an older Egyptian tradition, or possibly from an Asian source.


Turkish women baking bread, 1790

Ottoman cuisine refers to the cuisine of the capitalIstanbul, and the regional capital cities, where the melting pot of cultures created a common cuisine that all the populations enjoyed. This diverse cuisine was honed in the Imperial Palace's kitchens by chefs brought from certain parts of the Empire to create and experiment with different ingredients.

The creations of the Ottoman Palace's kitchens filtered to the population, for instance through Ramadan events, and through the cooking at the Yalıs of the Pashas, and from there on spread to the rest of the population. Today, Ottoman cuisine lives in Turkey, the Balkans, and the Middle East, "common heirs to what was once the Ottoman life-style, and their cuisines offer treacherous circumstantial evidence of this fact".

It is typical of any great cuisine in the world to be based on local varieties and on mutual exchange and enrichment among them, but at the same time to be homogenized and harmonized by a metropolitan tradition of refined taste.

Science and technology

The Ottomans managed to build a very large collection of libraries. Sultan Mehmet II ordered Georgios Amirutzes, a Greek scholar from Trabzon, to translate and make available to Ottoman educational institutions the geography book of Ptolemy. One of the oldest sources on the history and philosophy of Christianity was also developed for the palace school: the İ'tikad nâme, a work on Christian beliefs by Patriarch Gennadious. Another example is mathematician Ali Qushji from Samarkand, who wrote twelve volumes on mathematics.

Ali Kuşçu (1403–1474) found empirical evidence for the Earth's rotation through his observation on comets and concluded, on the basis of empiricism rather than speculative philosophy, that the moving Earth theory is just as likely to be true as the stationary Earth theory.

Kuşçu also improved on Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī's planetary model and presented an alternative planetary model for Mercury.

Taqi al-Din later built the Istanbul observatory of Taqi al-Din in 1577, where he carried out astronomical observations until 1580. He calculated the eccentricity of the Sun's orbit and the annual motion of the apogee.

In 1660 the Ottoman scholar Ibrahim Efendi al-Zigetvari Tezkireci translated Noël Duret's French astronomical work (written in 1637) into Arabic.

Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu was the author of the first surgical atlas and the last major medical encyclopedia from the Islamic world. Though his work was largely based on Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi's Al-Tasrif, Sabuncuoğlu introduced many innovations of his own. Female surgeons were also illustrated for the first time.

An example of a watch which measured time in minutes was created by an Ottoman watchmaker, Meshur Sheyh Dede, in 1702.

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