The Ottomans, a turkish tribe related to the Selçuks, date their history from the reign of Osman I in the 1290s. Osman’s principality started in the region around Söğüt between Bursa and Kütahya. It abutted on the Byzantine Empire. Through the 12th and 14th centuries the Ottomans were often allies of the Byzantines. But increasingly, the weak Byzantine and Selçuk powers gave way to the vigorous, tolerant Ottomans who often were preferred by the general populace over their former rulers. Except for the interregnum (when there was a power struggle among the sultan’s surviving sons) between 1402 and 1413, until the dissolution of the empire in 1923 the Ottoman power continued without interruption. Equally impressive, the last sultan, Mehmet VI (1918-1922), was a direct descendent of Osman I: the Ottoman family had reigned for over six hundred years.
One of the Ottoman practices instuted by the first sultans was the millet (religious community) system where by the major non-Islamic religious groups were given a degree of autonomy in governing their own people. While this contributed to each community’s sense of seprateness, the official tolerance secured a religious freedom which lasted through the Empire. The end of the system and the Empire came when the weak central government was confronted by outside political interests coupled with 19th century ideas of nationhood.
The reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (152-1566) is considered to be the climax of the Ottoman period. It was a time of great conquest: Süleyman’s father Selim I had taken Tabriz, Damascus, Jerusalem, Median, Mecca and Cairo.
Süleyman added Bagdad, Rhodes, Belgrade and Buda, but failed before Vienna. While people int he West either prayed to be delivered from his military power or envided the splendor of his court, he and his countrymen held that his greatest accomplishment was that of lawgiver: The Ottoman sultans believed that their first responsibility was to ensure justince for their people.
Süleyman’s reign was distinguished by the buildings of his Chief Architect Sinan. Sinan’s works are ound across the width and breadth of Turkey. Of them, his masterpiece is generally considered to be the Mosque of Selim II in Edirne. His genius is not so much in his amazing productivity as it is in his definition and communicated the cultural ideals of his time in his medium, and one who created works of art that have transcended his age. He stated in architectural terms the spiritual vitality of Islam and the political power of the Ottoman Empire.
The command which the sultan had over his empire lessened after Süleymans’s death, though the Empire continued to expand well into the 17th century. The early 17th century was the time of very young and/or weak sultans controlled by their mothers. Some of the sultans in the 18th…