The Ottoman Empire: A Brief History
The Ottoman Empire was a large and resilient empire; it lasted more than 600 years and was a force to be reckoned with during its Golden Age. In the early 16th century, the tenth sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, came into power. His coronation heralded the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s most prosperous era. In the mid-1500s, during Suleiman’s reign, the Ottomans reached their Golden Age; culture and arts blossomed and the empire grew even more as the sultan continued to conquer land until his death in 1566.
Over the next half-century, the sultans were not nearly as “magnificent” as Suleiman was, but they were more than competent and the empire kept expanding. 1593, however, was the beginning of a slow-but-sure end for the Ottomans; the powerful Catholic Hapsburg family had begun waging Thirteen Years’ War (also known as the Long War) against the Ottoman empire. At 1600, they were still fighting the war. The Thirteen Years’ War was the end of the Golden Age for the Ottomans, and by 1600 the empire was beginning to decline.
The timeline of the Ottoman empire is quite similar to that of the Mughal empire, though the Mughal empire is about a quarter century behind the Ottoman empire in terms of each empire’s Golden Age. Both the Mughals and the Ottomans were ruled by Muslims in the year 1600, and it is thought that both of them experienced a Golden Age just recently before then, as well. However, the Mughal emperor during the turn of the 16th century was only the third ruler of that particular dynasty; the Ottoman emperor was the 13th. The Ottoman reign was much longer, and the size of the Ottoman empire was much greater than that of the Mughals’ in both area and population. While much of the Mughals’ conflict seems to come from the inside (eg. rebellions, corruption within the monarchy, etc.), the Ottomans appear to have been involved with many more wars with outsiders than the Mughals. In the beginning of the Mughal empire, the second emperor was deemed incompetent by some and was overthrown by another man, who began the Suri Dynasty. However, the man he overthrew then overthrew the second Suri emperor and re-installed the previous dynasty. However, the Ottomans’ monarchy was able to stay in power for more than 600 years, despite multiple rebellions, wars, and failed conquests. In the 19th and 20th centuries, at the very end of each empire, the monarchs were in very different positions. For the Mughals, last two emperors had been reduced to a mere figureheads, puppets being pulled by British strings as Europeans began to take control of India. Meanwhile, the Ottoman sultan remains an absolute monarch until the sultanate is abolished completely in 1922. Though the two empires were relatively near each other, they were still very different not only in their rise but also in their fall.
The beginning of the decline of the Ottoman empire was also around the same time as the decline of the Ming Dynasty in China, though the events are not exactly simultaneous, nor does the Ottoman empire fall as quickly as the Ming Dynasty did. While the Ming Dynasty’s fall did not necessarily signify the end of the Chinese empire, the transition from the Ming Dynasty to Qing Dynasty was a drastic change for the empire and the people. Around the time the Thirteen Years’ War started for the Ottomans, the Ming rulers noticed that the Mongols were beginning to rally against them. The invasion of China didn’t truly begin until 1936, but, even then, Beijing would not fall for another eight years. However, in contrast, the Ottoman empire would live on under the rule of the same family until the empire became a republic in 1922. Similarly, the monarchy in the Chinese empire would also fall in the early 1900s, but while China was then plunged into a violent civil war, the years after Turkey’s abolishment of the sultanate, but before World War I, were relatively peaceful. While the Chinese empire and the Ottoman empire are very different, there are certain similarities between the end of the Ottoman empire’s initial growth period and China’s Ming Dynasty.