The Ottoman Empire - Most Influential and the Largest of the Many Muslim Empires


The Ottoman Empire was one of the most successful empires and one of the most powerful civilizations of the modern period, it had many sultans that achieved and overtook many lands throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa. The empire built was the most influential and the largest of the many Muslim empires. Their military and culture expanded over and into most of Europe. The empire lasted many years for it a strong janissary army and ruled many cities.

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire stretched out from a small territory near Constantinople to overthrow and control the remnant of the Byzantine empire in the late thirteenth century, Successfully seizing the empire it centralized to a Sunni Islamic state. Suleyman the Magnificent (1494-1566) the greatest ruler of the empire expanded the empire to its greatest extent; at that time it reached from the Near East west to the Balkans and south to North Africa. Although the empire began to slowly shrink after Suleyman, it persisted until overthrown in the early twentieth century.

Rise of Ottomans

The Ottoman Empire conquered and expanded under its Sultan Selim I, who ruled from (1512 to1520). But his son Sultan Suleyman, he strove the Ottoman Empire to conquer many and most of its lands, Sultan Suleyman conquered great cities and brought military machines, a lasting culture to the great Ottoman Empire. Most of the history of this empire lies in the achievements around this one ruler who was high-minded and had lots of dignity and pride. Suleyman called was now called 'The Magnificent' for his numerous achievements and was also named the 'Law-Giver' for the laws he established as he conquered many cities. Suleyman ruled with self-respect and fairness according to the Ottoman political theory. In the Ottoman state, most of the power rested with the monarch. The Monarch's main idea was to establish justice, it meant shielding the poor and the helpless from shady officials and unfair taxation. The Sultan had a central bureaucracy, which was led by the Grand Vizier, to be able to govern the Empire. He also had the authority to capsize the verdicts of the courts if he thought that the decisions were unjust. This did not put the Sultan above law instead he was chosen as the keeper of a lawful government and fair government. The Sultan was given the title of 'Caliph' as well, meaning the supreme leader of Islam. When Suleyman became grew old, his two sons plotted to remove him from power and achieve access to the crown. The crown in the empire did not pass from father to son or the next oldest brother but, it was given to the most worthy successor. Because of this, there was always a struggle for the crown. Once a successor was crowned, the other contenders were killed to eliminate any future competition as well as to have full control and restore order. This devilish practice was later removed and replaced by making the eldest son the heir and he should be kept insulated in lavish imprisonment.

Imperial Expansion

Once the dynastic civil war was done, the determined Mehemed II the conqueror, who many people considered the real creator of the empire, brought in European artillery knowledge and took his newly built navy across Pera into an inlet of the Bosporus, to attack both the seaward and landward walls of Constantinople to conquer the city. He later renamed is Istanbul. Selim the Grim who created an Ottoman navy, which effectively captured Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Syria by capturing these countries he was able to acquire the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Suleyman the Magnificent's reign was the main cause of the Ottomans' expansion and its importance. He made his way through Europe conquering many places.

The culture of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire evolved and expanded over several centuries, as the ruling organization of the Turks absorbed, modified, and adapted the cultures of many different dominated lands and their peoples. There was a powerful influence from the languages and customs of Islamic societies. Throughout its history, the Ottoman Empire had large subject populations of Jews, and Byzantine Greeks, who were allowed a certain amount of independence under the millet system of the powerful Ottoman government. However, as the Ottomans moved further into the west and the incorporation of the Balkan and Greek populations progressed, the Turkish and Arabic-Persian-Greek influenced the culture of its leaders, for itself to absorb some of the cultures of the conquered people.

Islam in the Ottoman Empire

When the Ottomans conquered Medina and Mecca, the Empire achieved speculative leadership privileges over mostly all the Muslim Sunni states. The Ulama helped the sultan by watching and accepting his actions under Islamic law. Charitable foundations supplied schools and mosques.

Ottoman Society

Five classes were divided among the people of the Ottoman Empire: First, was the ruling class, all of who were linked to the sultan. Under the ruling class were the merchant class, which had a largely free form of government taxation and regulation. The Artisans were a separate class; they organized themselves according to guilds. The largest group in the Ottoman Empire was the peasant class. They farmed leased land. The leased land was passed along from generation to generation. The final groups were the pastoral people. They were clans and tribes who lived by their own rules under the guidance of their chiefs, who swore allegiance to the Ottoman sultan.

Ottoman Law

The legal system approved in the Ottoman law was the religious law over its subjects. The Empire always planned around a system of jurisprudence (the science of philosophy and law). Power in the Ottoman Empire revolved around the administration of the rights to land, which gave space for the local authority to develop local crops. The Ottoman Empire aimed to permit the incorporation of religious and cultural groups. Ottomans had different court systems: One for non-Muslims which appointed Jews and Christians to rule over their religious communities and another for Muslims, the sultan ruled these laws but he could also interfere with the court laws of non-Muslims if needed to.

Army and Military ranks of the Ottoman Empire

The Cavalry: Until the middle of the 18th century the sipahi cavalry formed most of the Ottoman armies, Numbered around forty thousand men half of them were from European provinces. Regular timar fiefs supported one horseman, the larger zaemets were expected to equip mounted retainers. The Largest were the Hass fiefs of the Sultan's family, favorite ministers, and viziers. Spies lived in a village, work their lands, and pay the peasants for most of their services and gained no salary.

The Infantry

Infantry forces in the Ottoman state went by many confusing names, meaning that would change over the centuries. The first was the zaps. Most of these were Anatolian Turks and in the beginning, were only paid for how long a campaign was. After a while, they got regular salaries and they acted as garrison troops. The Gonulluyan which were called volunteer infantry, they could be Muslim or Christian and were supported similarly like their neighbor villagers. The Voyniks were Balkan Christians, first recorded as the infantry followers of Christian sipahis that fight under Murat I.

The Janissaries

The janissaries were two institutions created by sultans of the Ottoman Empire and they were the military organization and civil service. This institution came from the practice by ottomans leaders in Anatolia of hiring prisoners as troops. During the conquest of the Balkans, they took slaves which later became slaves of the sultan. These salves were Christian but were brought up as Muslims and were devoted to loyalty to the sultan and Islam. The better troops were enrolled in the palace corps, and trained to become officials in the Ruling Institution. The rest were taught military education and later became part of the janissary army. They were known to be the best and most effective soldiers in Europe.

The Decline of the Ottoman Empire

One primary cause of the decline of the Empire was the decline of the Sultanate. The Sultanate was a powerful organization where the sultan would choose a capable successor from his many sons. Over periods, the sultanate weakened gradually. The weakening of the empire began late in the ruling of Suleyman the Magnificent. Although he was at the height of the Golden Age, Suleyman became less concerned with the affairs of state and added to that his two qualified successors went against him, and they were later executed. As Selim II became Sultan he did not have much experience in the running of the government. He was fond of physical pleasures rather than taking the governing responsibility seriously. After him, the decline of the Sultanate continued. Because the brothers of the Sultans were restricted in the harem, they became incompetent. Another reason for the decline of the empire was that the Sultans deserted the tradition of training their sons in related affairs and government. The collapse of the empire focused mainly on the corruption of the government's control over the empire. Added to this problem was the major factor which was the change in the balance of power. Because of the Ottoman military division called the janissary kept fighting and always conquering new lands and became the most powerful state in the world. As time passed the janissaries and their fighting methods became old-fashioned and no longer became an unmatched army. In the end, the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the government declined with the degeneration of the sultanate as well as the Ottomans failed to industrialize and the empire was destroyed when war overwhelmed it during World War I.

At the start of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was already in decline. The Ottoman Turks entered the war in 1914 on the side of the Central Powers (including Germany and Austria-Hungary) and were defeated in 1918. Under a treaty agreement, most Ottoman territories were divided between Britain, France, Greece, and Russia. The Ottoman Empire officially ended in 1922 when the title of the Ottoman Sultan was eliminated. Turkey was declared a republic in 1923. After ruling for more than 600 years, the Ottoman Turks are often remembered for their powerful military, ethnic diversity, artistic ventures, religious tolerance, and architectural marvels. The mighty empire's influence is still very much alive in the present-day Turkish Republic, a modern, mostly secular nation thought of by many scholars as a continuation of the Ottoman Empire.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Ottoman Empire is that many of the 'Turks' mentioned in the European chronicles were no such thing. It is thanks to European ignorance (that has lasted centuries) and to nation-building in Turkey that the Ottoman sultans have become 'Turkish' sultans. Quite often in European Renaissance literature, the sultan was referred to as the 'Great Turk', a title that would have meant nothing to the Ottoman court. So let's clear this up: the Ottoman Empire, for most of its existence, predated nationalism. The attacking forces at the famous 'Fall of Constantinople' against the Byzantine Empire in 1453 weren't all 'Turks'; in fact, not all of the besieging forces were even Muslim. More than 30 of the sultans were the sons of women from the harem. Why is that salient? Because none of these women were Turkish; it's unlikely any of them were even born Muslim. Most of their backgrounds have been lost to the mists of time, but it seems most were European women, so Serbs, Greeks, and Ukrainians. Likely, later 'Turkish' sultans were genetically far more Greek than Turkish.


As stated above, the Ottoman Empire was the greatest and one of many empires that still lead to influence and remembrance throughout history. It had many great leaders and each brought great changes through their reigns in the empire. The Ottoman Empire accepted many religions and brought in many cultures, their established laws caused people to move to its empire but in the end, all great empires fail to maintain their strong and well-built structures. Unfortunately, the Ottoman Empire dealt with bad economic outcomes and failed leadership of its sultanate which caused its fall and collapse.

Works Cited

  1. “The Ottoman Empire.” RSS,
  2. Wilde, Robert. “The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire: 1300 to 1924.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 10 July 2019,
  3. Wilde, Robert. “The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire: 1300 to 1924.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 10 July 2019,
  4. “The Ottoman Empire.” The Ottoman Empire - All About Turkey,
07 July 2022
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