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The Ottoman Empire began as a small tribe, but had ambitions to become something bigger than what they were and to expand over other lands. Initially, they were nomads but they wanted more having a legacy that was fleeting, they wanted roots. However, everything changed when Constantinople fell and the Ottoman It was Osman’s wish for the empire to be established. Finkel stated “To them, empire began quite literally with a dream” (p. 2). However, this prophetic dream was not enough; many tested the Ottoman’s power and demanded to see proof of lineage. At some point in time Ottoman’s decided to show off “a fictive genealogy would best assert their legitimacy” (Finkel, 2005, p. 12). However, proving the Ottoman’s ancestry was the least of their problems capturing land from the Byzantine Empire was their top priority.
There were a series of raids on the Byzantine Empire that Osman himself orchestrated. The Byzantine Emperor tried to stop these raids from progressing into his empire but failed. “Before long the Byzantine Emperor dispatched an army against Osman, but Osman ambushed and destroyed it at Baphaeum (Koyunhisar), forcing the local population to flee to Nicomedia (Izmit) while the other Ottoman forces approached Brusa” (Turnbull, 2003, p.12). These military tactics transitioned into the Ottoman’s social order. For example, soldiers or higher ranked military personnel a social class developed, which is called the warrior aristocracy. This class is granted special privileges because they have aided the Ottoman Empire with expansion efforts. “They were granted control over land and peasant producers in annexed areas for the support of their households and military retainers” (Stearns, 2011, p.578). Like everyone who has tasted power, they wanted more and wanted to have a say in how the kingdom is run. However, the warrior aristocracy was not the only source of muscle the Ottoman’s found to rule their empire.
The Janissaries, who “had been forcibly recruited as adolescent boys in conquered areas…” (Stearns, 2011, p.578). Surprisingly enough these boys were extensively educated and were converted to Islamic faith. Despite some Janissaries being foreign born they wanted to translate their “military experience into political influence.” (Stearns, 2011, p.579) The purpose of the Janissaries was primarily to serve the Ottoman sultan, but they wanted poltical influence over the empire. The Ottoman’s did not only focus on the expansion of their empire, but also knowledge, trading and faith. Having strong forces to defend an empire is important, but so is having knowledge and the legacy to follow it.
Knowing subjects besides war was extremely important to the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. “…Mehmed had educated himself in the Classical and Byzantine legacy to which he imagined himself heir; Bayezid sought the company of teachers of Islamic science and philosophy, poets and mystics, men whose intellectual roots lay east.” (Finkel, 2005, p.81) The empire also opened its arms to people who were not Islamic; it served as a place of refuge for Jews who trying to get away from the persecution of the Spanish Crown. The Ottoman was not an empire to be feared but it was also asylum for those who were prosecuted, because they would not convert. “Many went to live in the Ottoman Empire, where they found Greek-speaking Jews, called Romaniotes, and German Jews, called Ashkenazim, who had also been expelled from their homelands.” (Finkel, 2005, p.88) This diverse mix of people also contributed to the empire, because the awareness of different customs contributed to their prosperity. Simply by tolerating other cultures they let into their homeland.
As the Ottoman Empire grew it was than extended into Western Europe; through conquering lands and immediately enforcing their rule. They also influenced many of the nation’s trade, economy, and society. The Ottoman economy was still based on agriculture, “the structure of land tenure lay at the heart of the Ottoman economic system” (Hanioglu, 2008, p.20). The society was a bit more complex since the empire housed an extraordinary amount of diversity of ethnic and religious groups. The Ottoman’s also allowed their subjects to only practice their religions, but they also had the freedom to practice others as well. “Thus an ethnic Albanian, for example, could belong to the Muslim, Greek Orthodox, or Roman Catholic community depending on religious affiliation.” (Hanioglu, 2008, p.24) This showed that not only were the Ottoman Turks strict rulers but they were also cosmopolitan when it came to their subjects.
The parts of Europe who were not conquered still felt its influence through indirect means. Since the Ottoman Turks controlled all of the ports around the Black and Mediterranean Sea, and that meant they controlled the taxation of goods coming into the ports. They have put restrictions on exports to discourage any trading for anyone who were not merchants the Ottoman’s approved of. “The domestic and international customs regime discouraged long-distance trade, including exports, while providing an incentive for local distribution.” (Hanioglu, 2008, p.20) This tactic was basically a form of mercantilism, to basically tell other Western European countries that if they did their exports it would be on their terms. This sense of control was not the only way the Ottoman Empire influenced Western Europe.
They have done so through other means, which made parts of Europe to be extremely gifted in architecture, mathematics and science. However, it was not just the traditional understanding that was changed, but in some form it was also liberation. In the case of the Balkan Peninsula was a blessing in disguise. The peasants were also given a chance to prove themselves, when they were the option to join the ranks of the Ottoman’s military. “They were protected by the new landlords and had their feudal services abolished”. (Woodward, 2001) So the Ottoman Empire was truly unique, because it did not suppress other cultures and tried to replace it with their customs, but let them thrive and practice their way of life.
The Ottoman Empire had been known for their military tactics in and off the battle field, but that did not mean they did not have help with some of their victories. France was an ally to the Ottomans as they tried to take the Holy Roman Empire. “It was Francis I who first encouraged them to attack the Habsburgs and allowed them free access to the ports of Marseilles and Toulon to reduce the Emperor’s power…” (Woodward, 2001) Thanks to these pillages the Ottoman’s were extremely wealthy, and that wealth went into building mosques, gardens and a place of learning.
From a nomadic tribe to an empire that should be feared to a refuge for people who were being religiously persecuted; the Ottoman Turks was an empire to be remembered for it legacy. Their merciless tactic of taking lands for themselves showed European nations they were not to be taken lightly. But they were more the traditional empire; the sultans put a lot of work into rising their empire to it was then.
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