The Ottoman Empire

An emerging power

In the early 1300s, a ruler named Osman emerged to unite the Turks of Anatolia and build a new Empire, the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottomans gained most of the territory through conquest. Their military might was based on gunpowder. They were among the first to use cannons.

The Ottomans established systems to govern their empire efficiently. The Sultan was the head of the Empire. He was advised by counsel called the divan. Military and religious leaders and large landowners ran local affairs.

Suleyman, known as “the magnificent”, took control of the Empire in 1520. During his 46 year reign, the Ottomans produced great art, architecture, and literature. He was also known as “the lawgiver”, because he organized a legal code. This code made governing a vast and expanding empire much easier.


The Empire expands

The Ottoman Empire became one of the largest and most powerful empires in the world. The Ottomans captured much of Southwest Asia and northern Africa.

In 1453, the Ottomans of conquered the Byzantine capital Constantinople. They changed the city's name to Istanbul and made it their capital. This marked the end of the Byzantine Empire.

In 1529 Suleyman reached the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, but lack of supplies forced him to withdraw.


Life in the Ottoman Empire

The Ottomans granted freedom of worship to Christians and Jews. These religious groups were allowed to establish their own communities, called millets. In return for their loyalty to the Ottomans, residents of the millets were allowed to follow their own religions, speak their own languages, and govern themselves.

Slaves ran the Ottoman government and also made up a section of the Ottoman army known as the janissaries. These elite troops came mainly from Christian families.

Islamic law gave women the right to own and inherit property and to file for divorce. Women could also work outside of the home. 


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