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Islamic world

Ottoman Empire

Suleiman the MagnificentSuleiman the MagnificentThe Ottoman Empire was the one of the largest and longest-lasting empires in history. Bolstered by its powerful army, the empire was at its height during the reign of Suleiman I "the Magnificent" (1520–66), when it encompassed southeastern Europe, most of the Middle East and large parts of North Africa. The Ottoman capital, Istanbul, stood at the centre of a wealthy and glittering Islamic empire. The Ottoman Empire began its long decline after being driven back in Europe by an alliance of Habsburg, German and Polish forces at the Siege of Vienna in 1683. It survived long enough, however, to fight in World War I in 1914–18, before defeat led to its collapse.

Osman I, founder of the Ottoman dynastyOsman I, founder of the Ottoman dynasty

Rise of the Ottomans

The Turks originally settled in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) in the late 1200s. At that time, the land was under the rule of the declining Seljuk Empire. Osman, a Turkish tribal leader, overthrew the local Seljuk ruler in 1299 and proclaimed himself Sultan. The word “Ottoman” comes from his name. 

In the century after the death of Osman in 1326, Ottoman rule began to extend over Anatolia and the Balkans in southeastern Europe. There they inflicted a series of defeats on the Christian Byzantine Empire. The port city of Salonica was captured from the Venetians in 1387 while their victory at Kosovo in 1389 crushed Serbian resistance. The Ottomans were driven back when the Mongol leader Tamerlane (Timur), founder of the Timurid Empire, invaded Ottoman Anatolia from the east. But they renewed their onslaught on the Balkans in the early 1400s, defeating the Hungarian, Polish and Wallachian armies that stood in their way.


The Turks believed in a prophecy called Osman's dream. The story goes that a tree which sprouted from a holy man's navel (belly button) grew until it covered the whole world. They took this to mean that they would one day gain a worldwide empire.

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