The first important civilization in Anatolia was that of the Hittites, around 1900 – 1200 BC, a people originating from the central plateau. This civilization was destroyed by the invasions of the ‘peoples of the sea’, who devastated Asia Minor and Syria at the end of the 12th century BC The destruction of Troy, a city in western Anatolia, was an event that probably occurred during these invasions and that later it was commemorated in Greek legends.
One of the groups of the ‘peoples of the sea’, the Phrygians, established a kingdom that happened to be the dominant power in Anatolia between the 9th and 8th centuries BC During this period, the Greeks founded Miletus, Ephesus, Priene and many other cities in Ionia, an area located along the coast of the Aegean Sea. Around 700 BC the hegemony of the Phrygians ended at the hands of the Cimmerians, a nomadic people who settled in western Asia Minor.
In the 7th century BC, the Lydians founded a kingdom on the Aegean coast whose capital was Sardis. This kingdom was occupied by the Persians under Cyrus II the Great in 546 BC
From the middle of the 6th century to 333 BC most of the territories of Asia Minor, including Anatolia, belonged to the Persian Empire, although Greek cities often enjoyed of considerable autonomy. In the 4th century BC, Persian power declined and shortly after 333 BC the territory was occupied by Macedonian Alexander III the Great. In the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, Asia Minor was progressively occupied by the Romans.
In the 4th century AD, Asia Minor became part of the Byzantine Empire, whose capital was Constantinople or Byzantium (today Istanbul), located on the European side of the Bosphorus, in the center of the western coast of Anatolia. During the 11th century, Asia Minor was invaded by the Seljuk Turks.
In 1071 they defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert and during the 12th century they occupied most of central Anatolia. Although at that time the objective of the Seljuks was not to attack the Byzantines but to eliminate the heterodox threat of the Islamic Shiites, represented by the Fatimids of Egypt, some members of the Seljuk dynasty established the Sultanate of Rum (whose capital was Konya), from where they would rule central Anatolia during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Most of the nomadic tribes that made possible the first victories of the Seljuks, were quickly pushed towards the west of Anatolia, where they faced the last Byzantine defenses. Although the Sultanate of Rum imitated the Seljuk government of Baghdad, the presence of a significant number of Christians within its borders generated an environment different from that of the rest of the Islamic states, facilitating the basis of the systems of government and society. Ottomans that would emerge in the fourteenth century.
The Seljuks of Baghdad and Konya were soon defeated by the invasions of the Mongol people, under Genghis Khan, which would culminate in the occupation and sacking of Baghdad in 1258. In Anatolia the Turkmen nomads took advantage of the ensuing anarchy to form a series of principalities, nominally under the sovereignty of Rum which was already dominated by the Mongols. These principalities were maintained thanks to the incursions that they carried out among themselves and the raids carried out in the last Byzantine territories that resisted in western Anatolia.
The rise of the Ottomans
In this confrontation against the Byzantines in western Anatolia the Ottomans soon distinguished themselves, placing themselves at the head of the Turkmen principalities. Osman I, founder of the Ottoman dynasty, knew how to take full advantage of the enemy’s weakness and secure good booties in his forays into Christian territory, attracting thousands of Turkmen nomads and a large number of Arabs and Iranians fleeing from the Mongols. Osman’s conquests in Anatolia were crowned with the occupation, in 1326, of the provincial capital of Bursa by his son Orjan (reigned 1326 – 1369), which allowed the Ottomans to control the administrative, financial and military system of the area. Thus the Ottoman power began to expand at the expense of the declining western Christian states, but not against the Turkmen principalities located to the east, with whom agreements were reached through purchases or marriages, which served for the Ottomans to take possession. of all the territories of western Anatolia.
According to Thedresswizard.com, Ottoman expansion in Europe began with the reign of Orjan. Ottoman soldiers (Janissaries) fought as mercenaries in support of the Byzantine Emperor John VI Cantacuceno, who was thus able to secure his position on the Byzantine throne in 1347. In return, the Ottomans occupied various Byzantine territories in Thrace and Macedonia and the emperor’s daughter was given to Orjan in marriage. The Ottomans occupied Gallipolis (1354) and carried out continuous attacks on the remaining Byzantine possessions in Europe.
The transformation of the Ottoman principality into a vast empire encompassing southeastern Europe, Anatolia and the Arab world, was consummated between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The recent Ottoman Empire, which stretched from the Danube to the Euphrates, was founded by Murad I and developed by his son Bayezid I. Murad reached the Danube after defeating the allied forces of Serbs, Bosnians and Bulgarians in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. On Murad’s death, his son Bayezid completed the victory of the Ottomans. Over the next ten years, Bayezid broke tradition and conquered most of the Turkmen principalities in Anatolia, bringing the newly created empire to its culmination.
Fall and restoration
However, this conquest weakened the foundations of the Ottoman state. Muslim elements and Turkish nobles, who helped the Ottomans achieve their victories in Europe, refused to participate in the Anatolian campaign, and instead Bayezid Isought the support of the Christians. At the same time, the resurgence of the Ottomans as the maximum power in Anatolia threatened the lateral flanks of the Mongol Empire of Tamerlane, which had recently conquered much of the territories of Iran and Central Asia; in 1402 Tamerlane also occupied Anatolia, capturing Bayezid I, who died a prisoner in 1403.
Bayezid I’s youngest son, Mehmed I, restored the Ottoman Empire after having eliminated his brothers in the power struggle, and having subdued the Christian and Turkmen vassals of Europe and Anatolia. His son Murat II reestablished Ottoman rule up to the Danube, after defeating the different Christian princes of Serbia and Bulgaria, territories where a direct Ottoman administration was installed. This policy continued with the reign of Mehmet II the Conqueror, who wiped out the last Christian princes established south of the Danube. His conquests culminated in the taking of Constantinople (1453) and the subjugation of Anatolia to the territories situated on the Euphrates. Bayezid II consolidated the territories that had been occupied during previous reigns. His son, Selim I, continued the military campaigns, taking Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Arabia from the Mamluks in 1517, thus incorporating the heart of the ancient Islamic caliphate into the Ottoman Empire. Suleiman I the Magnificent completed the expansion of the Empire by crossing the Danube to conquer Hungary after the Battle of Mohács (1526) and besiege Vienna in 1529 ; in the east, he conquered the last strongholds of Anatolia and the former Abbasid and Seljuk center of Iraq.
Ottoman society and state
With the conquests of Suleiman I, the Ottoman Empire established several social, governmental and administrative institutions, already developed in the 14th century, formalizing them in a series of codes that lasted until the end of the Empire. As reflected in these codes, society was subject to the will of the Sultan, who imposed his authority over the entire Empire, and was considered the shadow of God on earth.
The basic attribute of the sultan’s authority was the right to exploit the wealth of the Empire, which was divided into administrative and financial units governed by government representatives, considered slaves of the sultan, although in reality it was they who constituted the ruling class of Ottoman society.. His authority, however, was limited to functions relating to the exploitation of the wealth of the Empire and the expansion and defense of the State, organized in such a way that the first purpose could be secured. In order for these functions to be carried out, the ruling class organized itself into four basic institutions: the imperial court, in which the personal servants of the sultan and other officials who attended the external services that guaranteed the functioning of the system were found; the military institution, which maintained order through various military corps, the most important of which was the Janissaries and the cavalry; the public treasury that advised the sultan and the ruling class in the establishment and collection of taxes that would guarantee the administration of the Empire, and finally the religious institution that gave religious and cultural leadership to the sultan, who was responsible for education and the maintenance of justice.
The ruling class was made up of two differentiated elements and, at times, confronted: on the one hand the Turkmen, Arab and Iranian Muslims who formed the aristocracy that dominated the Ottoman administration during the 14th and 15th centuries, and on the other hand the prisoners and slaves. Christians who were recruited, converted, and trained in Islamic principles through the famous devshirme system; in the middle of the 16th century, this last group controlled the main institutions of power.
The rest of the social functions were carried out by communities created with religious criteria and called millets, and others with social and economic criteria. The millets of Jews, Greek Orthodox, Armenians and Muslims were later joined by the millets made up of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Bulgarians who had religious and cultural autonomy.
Fall and traditional reform
The decline of the Ottoman Empire began after the end of the reign of Suleiman I and continued until the end of World War I. The official reaction to this decline went through different phases: that of the traditional reform (1566 – 1807), in which several attempts were made to restore the old institutions, and that of the modern reform (1807 – 1918), in the one in which the old methods were abandoned in favor of more modern ones from the West.
Reasons for decline
Until the middle of the 16th century The sultans relied on both the Turkish aristocracy and the Christian devshirme to carry out the administration of the Empire, ensuring that there was a certain balance between the two groups; However, during the reign of Suleiman, Christian converts gained control of power and began to exploit the state for their own benefit. At the same time, the Empire began to suffer from a population surplus as a consequence, in part, of the establishment of a stable peace. The high birth rates in both rural and urban areas were the result of unemployment caused by the limited availability of land and by the restrictive economic policies established for urban unions. Jobless, the oppressed masses formed groups of bandits whose activities affected both cities and towns. With a government made up of an incompetent ruling class and dubious moral integrity, the lands ceased to be cultivated and the Empire suffered severe endemic epidemics and diseases, as a result of which entire districts, sometimes even provinces, fell under the control of the notables of the provinces. In addition, the millets and guilds increased their autonomy and carried out the functions of the government whenever they considered it necessary. At the same time, nation states were beginning to emerge in Europe far more powerful than those that the Ottoman Empire had faced in previous centuries.
The Ottoman reaction to this decline was not very decisive for different reasons: firstly, the European countries were very busy with their own affairs, confronted by political and religious questions; For at least a century, the Ottoman Empire made no effort to take advantage of this situation; second, most of the members who belonged to the ruling class benefited from chaos that allowed them to make huge profits. Finally, the Ottomans assumed that the Islamic world was still ahead of Christian Europe, so the ruling class did not find the need for changes or reforms, favoring political and cultural isolation, being unable to increase the power they had established in Europe long ago.
However, Europe began to make attempts to achieve the internal weakening of the Ottoman Empire. In 1571, a fleet made up of several Catholic countries and led by the Spanish Juan de Austria advanced towards the eastern Mediterranean and destroyed the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto. This victory was counteracted with the construction of a new fleet with which the Ottomans resumed naval control of the eastern Mediterranean that they would be able to maintain for another half century. However, in Europe began to have the impression that the Ottomans were not invincible, and the war against Austria (1593 – 1606), forced the Sultan to withdraw the taxes that Austria had previously agreed to pay; all this made Europe pay attention to the situation of the Ottoman Empire.
Reforms and losses
Only when there were foreign attacks that affected the privileges and wealth of the ruling class was it accepted to implement some type of reform. In 1623, Shah Abbas I the Great of Iran conquered Baghdad and eastern Iraq and incited several Turkmen revolts in eastern Anatolia. In response, Sultan Murat IV established the so-called traditional reforms that were supported by the ruling class and the Army. After the ruthless execution of thousands of members of the guilds (without respecting Islamic law and tradition), the Iranians were expelled from Iraq and the conquests in the Caucasus began (1638). On Murat’s death the previous decline resumed. A long war broke out with Venice (1645 – 1669), which came to bombard Istanbul ; The seriousness of the situation caused Sultan Mehmet IV (reigned between 1648 – 1687) to hand over the government, with full powers, to the Grand Vizier Mehmet Köprülü, a member of an Albanian family, thus initiating a dynasty of viziers (heads of government) who It lasted until the beginning of the 18th century and it aimed to carry out the most important reform attempt of the Ottoman Empire.
The restoration of Ottoman power spurred the last of the great Köprülü viziers, Kara Mustafá Pachá, to make further attempts to conquer Vienna in 1683. After a long siege, the Ottoman army was totally defeated, which made possible the creation of a new League formed by Austria and Venice, with the support of Poland and Russia that conquered some European areas of the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) confirmed the loss of Hungary and Transylvania to Austria, Podolia and southern Ukraine to Poland, and Azov and the lands north of the Black Sea for Russia.
Few gains and many losses
At the beginning of the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire showed sufficient internal strength to correct mistakes and adopt new European weapons and tactics, even to the point of regaining some territories. In 1711, the Ottomans destroyed a campaign organized by Tsar Peter I the Great, after which they forced him to return the lost territories in Karlowitz; however, the war against Venice and Austria (1714 – 1717) meant the loss of Belgrade and northern Serbia. This stimulated a new era of reforms aimed at the Europeanization of the country during the reign of Ahmed III (1703 – 1730), Which is known as ‘period tulips’ (1715 – 1730); The Ottoman army was reorganized and modernized in keeping with this effort during the reign (1730 – 1754) of Mahmud I, when the French artillery officer Claude de Bonneval, with the help of Humbaraci Ahmed Pachá, created a new European-style artillery corps.
When the war against Russia and Austria broke out (1736 – 1739), the Ottomans were able to regain most of the lost territories in northern Serbia and on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Then followed a period of peace with the European powers, partly thanks to wars between them; but this truce made the ruling class believe once again that the danger had passed and put an end to the modernizing reforms of the Empire, maintaining its decline. The Ottomans succumbed in the two disastrous wars that took place between 1768 and 1792, and there were new losses of territories with what the Empire was close to a total collapse.
Era of modern reforms
During the 19th century, the continuing threat of foreign conquest was compounded by the rise of nationalism among the non-Turkish peoples of the Empire who fought for their independence. Greece was the first country to do so in 1829, and revolts followed by Serbs, Bulgarians, Albanians, and Armenians from eastern Anatolia. The Ottoman survival was due not so much to its own strength, but to European disagreement on how to divide the spoils, which is historically known as the ‘Eastern Question’.
Ottoman ruling class responded to this crisis by trying to establish Western – style reforms through a reform movement (1839 – 1876) known as Tanzimat (Turkish ‘reorganization’). Devised and initiated by Mahmud II and culminated with the rigid autocracy of Abdülhamit II (1876 – 1909), the Tanzimat modernized the Ottoman Empire by expanding the scope of government in all aspects of the country’s life, overlapping the autonomous millets and guilds they had previously monopolized most of the government functions. A new administration was created and a strong centralized bureaucracy was set up in the Army, following Western guidelines.
The secular education and justice systems were overhauled to staff the new administration; Public works, carried out on a large scale, modernized the physical structure of the Empire with the construction of new cities, roads, railways and telegraph lines, in addition to the establishment of modern farming methods, which also contributed to the Ottoman revitalization. Another of the measures adopted consisted in suppressing the existing minorities within the Empire. This policy resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians between 1894 and 1923. (The Turkish government rejects that the policy of the Ottoman Empire towards the Armenians had a genocidal nature, arguing that the majority of the Armenians who died were during World War I, so their death was caused by the armed conflict itself, or disease and famine consequence of it).
Establishing these Tanzimat reforms involved solving numerous economic, political and financial problems. The newly industrialized European states preferred to keep the Ottoman Empire as a cheap source of raw materials and a market for their products. With the use of capitulation treaties – by which, as of the 16th century, the sultans allowed Europeans to live and work within the empire’s domains according to their rules and laws, and under the control of their own rulers – the Europeans prevented the Ottomans from limiting foreign imports and avoided competition with their own industries, that on the other hand were booming. Since the Ottomans depended on capital and technology from foreign industries, the Europeans were also able to weaken and destroy all attempts at industrial development.
The Empire requested loans from European banks that in the last years of the regime were destined to pay more than half of the interest. The authoritarianism of the new and modern bureaucracy developed a broad opposition movement.
A group of intellectuals and liberals known as the Young Turks then began to demand a limit to the power of the ruling class and the bureaucracy, in order to reinforce the rights of the people. Oppressed by the Tanzimat leaders, the Young Turks had to go into exile, where they published their demands in books and pamphlets that were sent to the Empire through foreign post offices that, being protected by capitulations, were free from government control. Ottoman. At the same time, the newly independent Balkan states began to organize large-scale revolts to occupy Macedonia, where the population was almost completely divided between Muslims and Christians.
In Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria secret societies who fought to secure their claims through terrorist actions that significantly damaged the ability of the Ottomans to maintain control of the state were established. Finally, the deaths of the main leaders of the Tanzimat movement around 1870, put the autocratic government structure that they had created in the hands of politicians who resumed the government’s corrupt regime, a measure that inspired the Tanzimat in the first instance.