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The Rise Of The Ottoman Empire

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The Rise of The Ottoman Empire

By: Hunter Starr

HIST 130: Muslim History From the Rise of Islam to 1500 CE

Professor Matthee

November 27, 2007.

The Ottoman Turks emerged on the periphery of the Byzantine Empire and the Saljuk Turks. Under a Turkish Muslim warrior named Osman, raids were conducted in western Anatolia on Byzantine settlements and a vast number of Turks were united under his banner. Those Turks who flocked to Osman's banner and followed him into the history books came to be called the Ottomans. The word Ottoman, fits these Turks well as it roughly translates from Turkish as "those associated with Oman."

At its outset, the Ottoman emirate was comparatively weak and of little consequence to its much larger and more powerful neighbors, the Saljuk Turks in the east and the Byzantines in the west. From the modest beginnings of a small, compressed territory on the north-western Anatolian Peninsula, the minor Turkish state grew to unprecedented heights in the fifteenth century, forging the borderland principality into one of history's greatest states, the Ottoman Empire.

Prior to the fifteenth century, the Ottoman sultanate was known only regionally and to the outside eye could not easily be discerned from the many other Turkish sultanates on the Peninsula. Before this, Anatolia was hostile territory to Muslims who had dreams of expanding the Dar al Ð'- Islam westward, and presented an almost impenetrable barrier for Muslim expansion. In 1071, the barrier broke down when the Byzantines were soundly defeated by the Saljuq army at Manzikert, and for the first time the peninsula was open for migration. The land that marked the frontier of the Christian and Turkish controlled area became home to the revered Muslim warriors known as the gazis.

Turkish immigration onto the peninsula was sparked again in the mid-thirteenth century when the Mongol armies swept across Asia, leaving many displaced and in desperate straits, while others who had served as troops in came in search of adventure. When they entered the Anatolian peninsula, Turkification of the area accelerated as it never had before. Many of the new Turkish migrants continued to the borderland joining forces with the gazi warriors, causing their ranks to swell. The gazi tradition gained a new life with the arrival of the large number of Turkish immigrants and set its sights on the Christian Byzantine Empire.

Organized into emirates or principalities, the gazi regimes were a product of decade long borderland warfare, instilled with the warrior faith spirit. From these sultanates, the Emirate of Osman took its roots, attracting an ever growing number of gazis and adventurers. Turks gathered under Osman's banner for two important and complimentary reasons. The first reason is a geographical one. The early emirate was a frontier state centered on Soghut, giving the Ottomans the most advantageous position of all the Turkish states near the Byzantine frontier because of its close location to Nicaea area.

Nicaea served as the capital for the Byzantine Empire from 1204 to 1261 after Constantinople was sacked in the early thirteenth century by the army of the Fourth Crusade, driving the Byzantines to settle the area around Nicaea. When the Byzantines recaptured the city of Constantinople fifty seven years later in 1261 they focused their attention and energy to the west, neglected the defense of the Nicaea area and their other territories in Anatolia as they sought to reassert their control over the Balkan Peninsula. With its borders right against the Byzantine defense perimeter and because of the proximity to Nicaea during this time, the Ottoman Turks enjoyed the best opportunities for plunder, faced a stronger external resistance than other frontier emirates and grew in stature during long years of struggle with their great Christian adversary that attracted many Turkish leaders to Osman as his fame spread, especially after the defeat of a large Byzantine force at the battle of Baphaeon in 1301.

The second reason for the initial rise of the Ottomans is found in the fact that the Ottoman emirate was a gazi state. Those associated with Osman, more than any other Turkish state had as their guiding principle the concept of being a gazi, gearing the emirate for conquest. As mentioned earlier, a gazi was a Muslim warrior who inhabited the military borderland between Byzantium and Islam; he was a warrior of the faith. A gazi held the sacred duty to extend and expand Islamic territory at the expense of the non-Muslim's who inhabited the land. The gazi performed his duty to the Umma by means of the gaza, or raid. These raids evolved into perpetual warfare carried out against the nonbelievers, especially the Christians, in the interests of Islam. Because of the Ottomans beneficial location, and their guiding principle, the early Ottoman state did not disintegrate under pressure from internal feuds that plagued other rival emirates because it constantly expanded, gained new territory and relentlessly provided new outlets for the energies of the gazi warriors.

Under Osman, the Ottomans took advantage of the bloody and deadly rivalries that existed between the Byzantines, the Bulgars, Serbs, Venetians, Genoans, and other Christian powers in Eastern Europe, laying siege to, and capturing the main Byzantine strongholds between Soghut and Nicaea. After Osman died in 1326, his son and successor Orhan came to power, reigning from 1326 to 1362; he continued the extended siege of Bursa and took the city in 1326. After the city fell under Ottoman control, Orhan shifted his capital from Soghut and moved it to Bursa.

From their new capital at Bursa, the Ottomans extended their grip over the surrounding territory capturing the last major Byzantine cities in Anatolia, Nicaea in 1329, renaming it Iznik, and the city of Nicomedia in 1337, later giving it the name Izmit. The Ottomans then absorbed the Turkish frontier state of Karasi, extending their influence to the Sea of Marmara and to the Aegean Sea. Because their victories produced new recruits, recruits who were in search of glory and wealth, while at the same time, the veterans of previous campaigns felt the need for new exploits and battles, success generated more success for the Ottomans.

Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, the great Christian bastion in the East and the goal of Islamic conquest since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, was now a stones throw away across the Sea of Marmara. Orhan and his Ottoman followers were poised to strike a crippling blow to Byzantine power in the Balkans. The Ottomans, however, were not yet strong



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