Tuesday, 4 October 2011

History of the Ottman Empire

This book owes its origins to an event that occurred in Vienna in the
summer of 1983, when lines of schoolchildren wound their way through
the sidewalks of the Austrian capital. The attraction they were lining up for
was not a Disney movie or a theme park, but instead a museum exhibition,
one of many celebrations held that year to commemorate the 300th
anniversary of the second Ottoman siege of Vienna. In the minds of these
children, their teachers, and the Austrian (and, for that matter, the general
European) public, 1683 was a year in which they all were saved ± from
conquest by the alien Ottoman state, the ``unspeakable Turk.''
The Ottoman empire had emerged, c. 1300, in western Asia Minor,
not far from the modern city of Istanbul. In a steady process of state
building, this empire had expanded both west and east, defeating
Byzantine, Serb, and Bulgarian kingdoms as well as Turkish nomadic
principalities in Anatolia (Asia Minor) and the Mamluk sultanate based
in Egypt. By the seventeenth century it held vast lands in west Asia,
north Africa, and southeast Europe. In 1529 and again in 1683,
Ottoman armies pressed to conquer Habsburg Vienna.
The artifacts in the Vienna museum exhibit told much about the
nature of the 1683 events. For example, the display of the captured tent
and personal effects of the Ottoman grand vizier illustrated the panicky
¯ight of the Ottoman forces from their camps that, just days before, had
encircled Vienna. The timely arrival of the central and east European
allies, notably King John ( Jan) Sobieski of Poland, had put the encir-
cling Ottoman armies to ¯ight and turned the second Ottoman effort to
seize the city into a full-blown disaster. For hundreds of years the
Ottoman forces had been pressing northward, ever deeper into the
Balkan peninsula and closer to Vienna and the German-speaking lands.
These Ottomans literally were the terror of their enemies, seemingly
invincible. Viennese mothers put their children to bed warning them to
behave lest the ``Turks'' come and gobble them up. This world changed
in 1683. Somewhat to the surprise of both sets of protagonists, the
Ottoman forces besieging Vienna were catastrophically defeated, an
event that marked the permanent reversal of power relations between
the Ottoman and the Habsburg empires.
By ``Turks,'' these frightened mothers meant a more complex reality ±
the ®ghting forces, who may or may not have been ethnically Turkish, of
the multi-ethnic, multi-religious Ottoman empire. Thus, a word here
about the terms ``Turks'' and ``Ottomans'' seems in order. West, central,
and east Europeans referred to the ``Turkish empire'' and to the ``Turks''
when discussing the state led by the Ottoman dynasty. This was as true
in the fourteenth as in the twentieth centuries. The appellation has some
basis since the Ottoman family was ethnically Turkish in its origins, as
were some of its supporters and subjects. But, as we shall see, the
dynasty immediately lost this ``Turkish'' quality through intermarriage
with many different ethnicities. As for a ``Turkish empire,'' state power
relied on a similarly heterogeneous mix of peoples. The Ottoman
empire succeeded because it incorporated the energies of the vastly
varied peoples it encountered, quickly transcending its roots in the
Turkish nomadic mig rations from central Asia into the Middle East (see
chapter 2). Whatever ethnic meaning the word ``Turk'' may have held
soon was lost and the term came to mean ``Muslim.'' To turn Turk
meant converting to Islam. Throughout this work, the term Ottoman is
preferred since it conjures up more accurate images of a multi-ethnic,
multi-religious enterprise that relied on inclusion for its success.
In hindsight, we can see that after 1683 the Ottomans never again
threatened central Europe. They did, however, stay in occupation of
southeast Europe for 200 more years, dominating the modern-day states
of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania, and others. Finally, in the hardly
unbiased words of the British politician, Gladstone, they were driven
``bag and baggage'' from their possessions. In its Asian and African
provinces, the Ottoman empire persisted even longer. Most parts of
modern-day Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and
Saudi Arabia remained part of the empire until World War I. During the
last decades before it disappeared in 1922 the Ottoman empire existed
without the European provinces that for centuries had been its heart
and soul. In its last days, but only then, it fairly could be called an
Asiatic, Middle Eastern power. Until the 1878 Treaty of Berlin stripped
away all but fragments of its Balkan holdings, the Ottoman empire was a
European power and was seen as such by its contemporaries, being
deeply involved in European military and political affairs. Throughout
nearly all of its 600-year histor y, the Ottoman state was as much a part
Ottoman history in world history
The Ottoman empire was one of the greatest, most extensive, and
longest-lasting empires in history. It included most of the territories of
the eastern Roman empire and held por tions of the northern Balkans
and north Black Sea coast, areas that Byzantium had never ruled. Nor
were these holdings ephemeral ± the Ottoman empire was born before
1300 and endured until after World War I. Thus, it began in the same
century the powerful Sung state in China ended, in the era when
Genghis Khan swept across the Euro-Asiatic world and built an empire
from China to Poland while, in Europe, France and England were about
to embark on their Hundred Years' War. In west Africa the great Benin
state was emerging while, in the Americas, the Aztec state in the valley
of Mexico was being born, both events being nearly contemporaneous
with the Ottomans' emergence in Asia Minor. Born in medieval times,
this empire of the Ottomans disappeared only very recently, within the
memory of many people still living today. My own father was nine years
old and my mother ®ve years old when the Ottoman empire ®nally
disappeared from the face of the earth. Large numbers of persons living
today in the Ottoman successor states ± such as Turkey, Syria, Lebanon,
and Iraq ± bear Ottoman personal names given to them by their parents
and were educated and grew up in an Ottoman world. Thus, for many,
this empire is a living legacy.
In the sixteenth century the Ottoman empire shared the world stage
with a cluster of other powerful and wealthy states. To their far west lay
distant Elizabethan England, Habsburg Spain, and the Holy Roman
empire as well as Valois France and the Dutch Republic. More closely at
hand and of greater signi®cance to the Ottomans in the short run, the
city states of Venice and Genoa exerted enormous political and eco-
nomic power, thanks to their far-¯ung ¯eets and commercial networks
linking India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and west European
worlds. To the east were two great empires, then at their peak of power
and wealth: the Safevid state based in Iran and the Moghul empire in
the Indian subcontinent. The Ottoman, Safevid, and Moghul empires
reached from Vienna in the west to the borders of China in the east and,
in the sixteenth century, all prospered under careful administrators,
enriched by the trade between Asia and Europe. The three (but for
China) held the balance of economic and political power, at the very
moment when Spain and Portugal were conquering the New World and
its treasure. China, in the midst of Ming rule, certainly was the most
powerful and wealthy state in the world at the time.
The Ottomans, in 1453, had destroyed the second Rome, Byzantium,
that had endured for one thousand years, from the fourth through the
®fteenth centuries. As destroyer, the Ottoman empire in some ways
also was the inheritor of the Roman heritage in its eastern Byzantine
form. Indeed, Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople,
explicitly laid down the claim that he was a caesar, a latter-day emperor,
while his sixteenth-centur y successor, SuÈ leyman the Magni®cent,
sought Rome as the capstone of his career. Moreover, the Ottoman
rulers, having conquered the second Rome, for the next four hundred-
plus years honored its Roman founder in the name of the capital city.
Until the end of the empire, the city's name ± the city of Constantine ±
Konstantiniyye/Constantinople ± remained in the Ottomans' of®cial
correspondence, their coins, and on their postage stamps, after these
came into use in the nineteenth century. In some respects, moreover,
the Ottomans followed certain Byzantine administrative models. Like
the Byzantines, the Ottomans practiced a kind of caesaro-papism, the
system in which the state controlled the clergy. In the Ottoman judiciary
the courts were run by judges, members of the relig ious class, the
ulema. The Ottoman sultans appointed these judges and thus, like their
Byzantine imperial predecessors, exercised a direct control over
members of the religious establishment. In addition, to give another
example of Byzantine±Ottoman continuities, Byzantine forms of land
tenure carried over into the Ottoman era. While the Ottomans forged
their own unique synthesis and were no mere imitators of their prede-
cessors, their debt to the Byzantines was real.
Other powerful in¯uences shaped the Ottoman polity besides the
Byzantine. As we shall see, the Ottoman empire emerged out of the
anarchy surrounding the Turkish nomadic movements into the Middle

East after 1000
causes in their central Asiatic homelands. It was the last great Turco-
Islamic state, following those of the Seljuks and of Tamerlane, born of
the migration of the Turkish peoples out of central Asia westward into
the Middle East and the Balkans (see chapter 2). The shamanist beliefs
of those nomads remained deeply embedded in the spiritual practices
and world view of the Ottoman dynasty. Similarly, pre-Islamic Turkish
usages remained important in Ottoman administrative circles, despite
the later in¯ux of administrative and legal practices from the Islamic
world of Iran and the eastern Mediterranean. Ultimately, the Ottoman
system should be seen as a highly effective blend of in¯uences deriving
from Byzantium, the Turkish nomads, and the Balkan states, as well as
the Islamic world.
Shaped by others, the Ottomans in their turn affected the evolution
and formation of many central, east, and west European states and the
shaping of their popular imagination. If there is such a thing as the
paranoid style in twentieth-century Soviet Russian politics, we have the
Ottomans to thank, in large measure. For the Czarist Russian state
based in Moscow the presence of a powerful Ottoman state long
blocked the way to Black Sea and Mediterranean warm water ports. For
centuries, the Ottomans were the single most important foreign enemies
of the Russian state; czars and sultans fought against each other in a
seemingly endless series of wars between the seventeenth and twentieth
centuries, until both disappeared. These wars had a powerful impact on
the evolution and shaping of the emerging Russian power: the Musco-
vite state's deep fears of powerful enemies on its southern (and western)
¯anks permanently marked its polity with a need to seek safety in
expansion and domination. The Habsburg state on the Danube, for its
part, came into existence amid profound regional confusion in order to
check further Ottoman expansion northwards. The Vienna-based state
became a center of resistance and, over time, acquired the role and
identity as the ®rst line of defense for central Europe because the various
kingdoms further south in the Balkan peninsula all had failed to check
the Ottomans. Without question, the Ottomans played a decisive role in
the formation and subsequent evolution of the Habsburg state, de®ning
its very nature.
Its geopolitical position, at the crossroads of the Asian, European, and
African continents, thus gave the Ottoman state an important role to
play in world history. This importance did not vanish after the military
catastrophe of 1683 and the failing ability of the Ottomans to defend
their territorial integrity. Indeed, Ottoman weakness prompted inter-
national instability among expanding neighbors jealous to lop off
Ottoman lands or, at the least, prevent them from falling into the hands
of rivals. This ``Eastern Question'' ± who would inherit which territories
once the Ottoman state vanished ± provoked strife among the Great
Powers of the age and became a leading issue of international diplomacy
in the nineteenth century. In 1914, the failure to resolve the Eastern
Question helped bring on the ®rst great catastrophe of the contemporary
age, World War I.
A far more positive reason to study the Ottoman empire and assign it
an important place in world history concerns the tolerant model of
administration that it offered during most of its existence. For a
contemporary world in which transportation and communication tech-
nologies and the mig rations of peoples have brought about an unpar-
alleled confrontation with difference, the Ottoman case warrants careful
study. For centuries the Ottoman hand rested lightly on its subject
populations. The Ottoman political system required its administrators
and military of®cers to protect subjects in the exercise of their religion,
whether it were Islam, Judaism, or Christianity in whatever variation ±
e.g. Sunni, Shii, Greek or Armenian or Syriac Orthodox or Catholic.
This requirement was based on the Islamic principle of toleration of the
``People of the Book,'' meaning Jews and Christians. These ``people''
had received God's revelation, even if in an incomplete and imperfect
way; therefore, the Ottoman Islamic state had the responsibility to
protect them in the exercise of their religions. Without question,
Christian and Jewish subjects sometimes were persecuted or killed for
their faith. But these were violations of the bedrock principle of tolera-
tion ± a high standard to which the state expected and required
adherence. Such principles governed inter-communal relations in the
Ottoman empire for centuries but, in the ®nal years, there was mounting
disharmony (see chapter 9). For most of its history, however, the
Ottoman empire offered an effective model of a multi-religious political
system to the rest of the world.
The Ottoman empire in European culture
Let us begin with a word of caution about the signi®cance of the
following pages, that outline the place of the Ottoman empire in the
history, imag ination, and culture of western Europe. This discussion is
not intended to imply that the Ottomans are important only to the
extent they contributed to west European development. Instead, the
discussion has this focus because the intended primary audience is those
from the west European cultural tradition. The goal is to demonstrate
for those readers the manner in which the Ottoman empire affected the
course of their own histor y and culture.
Because the Ottomans, by chance, were physically the most proximate
to the west European states that came to dominate the globe in the
modern era, they long bore the brunt of Europe's military, political, and
ideological expansion. This proximity had a profound impact on the
formation of identity, both of the Ottomans and of the Europeans. On
each side proximity structured a complex identity formation process of
repulsion and attraction. After all, a people comes to perceive of itself as
distinct and separate, with particular and unique characteristics, often
through using the ``other'' as a means of de®ning what it is and, equally,
what it is not. Confronting the Byzantine, Balkan, east, and west Euro-
pean states, the Ottomans sometimes emphasized (perhaps like the
Moghuls facing a Hindu enemy) their identity as Muslim warriors for
the faith. This did not prevent the Ottoman rulers from simultaneously
admiring and employing Byzantine, Bulgarian, Serb, west European,
and other Christians as soldiers, artists, and technicians. For Europeans,
including their descendants in the United States and elsewhere, the
Ottomans were a vital means by which European culture de®ned itself
as such. Sometimes the Ottoman served as a model for qualities the
Europeans wished to possess.

Thus Machiavelli and later European
political thinkers such as Bodin and Montesquieu praised the Ottoman
military and administrators' incorruptibility, discipline, and obedience
in order to chastise Europeans. All of them, different political thinkers
in different eras, wrote about the need for effective administrators and
an effective state. In an age when direct criticism of a king might be
dangerous, they used the example of the Ottomans to inspire European
monarchs and their soldiers and statesmen to better behavior. These are
the qualities, such writers were saying, which we in the West should
possess. Further, as Europeans sought to de®ne themselves, they did so
in part by describing what they were not. Europeans made the Ottomans
the repository of evil; Europeans identi®ed the characteristics which
they wished to have by attributing the opposite to their enemy. Thus,
cruelty vs humaneness, barbarism vs civilization, in®dels vs true be-
lievers. You could know who you were by de®ning who and what you
were not. (In the places that we now know as England, France, and
Germany, the inhabitants had assigned this role of ``other'' to the
Muslims of Arab lands during the earliest days of Islam, back in the
seventh century).

In the imagination of these inhabitants whose
identity as Europeans was still in the making , the Ottomans (them) were
described as possessing qualities which civilized persons (we) did/could
not possess. In the world of the European mind, the Ottomans alter-
nately were terrible, savage, and ``unspeakable'' and at the same time
sex-crazed, harem-driven, and debauched. Even in the nineteenth
century, European imag inings marked the Ottoman East as the degen-
erate site of pleasures supposedly absent or forbidden in the civilized
and vigorous West, where Europeans by contrast allegedly were re-
strained, sober, just, sexually controlled, moderate, and rational.
In a truly intimate way the Ottomans became part and parcel of
everyday European life, usually in ways that today are overlooked or
forgotten. For example, most west Europeans or Americans surely
would fail to acknowledge their debt to the Ottomans for the coffee and
tulips they enjoy or the smallpox inoculations that protect their lives.
But indeed, these are Ottoman contributions, arriving in western
Europe between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries. From early
times the Ottoman empire has been intertwined in the daily lives,
religion, and politics of what became Europe. Usually, as a rule of
thumb, the extent of the intertwining is in inverse correlation to the
distance. Hence, probably, the Ottoman legacy is g reater in present day
Austria than in Denmark. And yet, everywhere, including the United
States where so many western European values have been maintained,
the Ottoman presence is felt.
The Ottoman empire played an important role in the European wars
of religion, serving a didactic function. During the Reformation era, for
many of the contesting parties the Ottomans were the veritable scourge
of God on earth. Some radical reformers, called Anabaptists, held that
the Ottomans were God's sign, about to conquer the world. The Anti-
Christ then would come; the Elect would destroy the godless and bring
about the Second Coming of Christ. Martin Luther, for his part,
similarly wrote that the Ottomans were God's punishment for a corrupt
papacy, an instrument of God's anger. Catholics, from their side,
considered these ``Turks'' divine punishment for allowing Luther and his
followers to flourish.
The Ottomans similarly are embedded in European popular culture.
In the seventeenth century, French imaginative literature frequently
focused on the sultans, for example in the story of Sultan Bayezit I
(1389± 1402) in his cage and his captor, Timur (Tamerlane), which was
published in 1648. Most stories, however, related the cruelty of the
Turks, such as that of Sultan SuÈ leyman the Magni®cent towards his
favorite, the Grand Vizier Ibrahim. Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, who
actually was a cosmopolitan, sophisticated, multilingual Renaissance
prince, became a cruel and brutal tyrant in a 1612 French play that
portrayed his mother drinking the blood of a victim. Other, equally
bizarre, stories depicted Ottoman soldiers making sacri®ces to the
Roman god of war, Mars. The receding of the Ottoman threat after
the 1683 failure before Vienna, however, modi®ed the image of the
And so, in the eighteenth century, west, central, and east Europeans
felt safe enough to begin borrowing overtly, actively, from their Ottoman
neighbor. During this period the Ottomans made important contri-
butions in the realm of European classical music, adding to it the
percussion sections of the modern orchestra. From the 1720s until the
1850s, so called ``Turkish music'' ± a term once used for the percussion
instruments in the orchestra ± became the rage in Europe. European
courts vied with one another to produce the Ottoman percussion sounds
± cymbals, the single kettle drum, the side drum, and the bass drum,
plus triangles, tambourines, and the ``Jingling Johnny,'' a pavilion-
shaped instrument of bells. This music had originated with the Janissary
band that marched with the Ottoman armies to inspire the troops and
strike terror into enemies' hearts. King Augustus II of Poland
so admired Janissary music that a sultan gifted him with a
band of twelve to ®fteen players. The king's neighbor, Empress Anne of
Russia, determined she needed one as well, and in 1725 sent to Istanbul
for a similar group. By 1741, the Vienna Habsburgs had their own and,
somewhat later, so did the Prussian king in Berlin. In each of these, the
band members were Ottomans, whose careers abroad in these strange
lands certainly deserve telling. In 1782, London received its own band
but, in this instance, Africans were employed on the drums, cymbals,
and tambourines, probably to further promote the sense of the exotic.
One survival of this Janissary band craze is the mace throwing by drum
majors. Over time, the mace became ceremonial, carried by the head of
the Janissary band to keep time. This ®nally evolved into the baton of the
drum majorettes, thrown into the air in parades and at football games
everywhere in the United States.
The popularity of the Janissary sound spilled over from the orchestra
and entered the mainstream of what we now call Western classical
music. There is a wonderful passage in the ®nal movement of Beetho-
ven's Ninth Symphony, ®rst published in 1824, that conjures up images
of marching Janissaries. ``Turkish music'' can also be heard in the
Fourth Symphony of Brahms and in Haydn's Military Symphony as well
as in Rossini's William Tell overture and in the march of Wagner's
TannhaÈ user. Mozar t's A major piano sonata K. 331 contains a marvel-
lous rondo alla turca, a theme that carried over into American jazz and
the repertories of musicians such as Dave Brubeck and Ahmad Jamal. In
opera, not only Ottoman music but Ottoman settings became popular,
the ®rst being a three-act opera in 1686 produced in Hamburg, on the
fate of Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha after the siege of Vienna.
Handel's opera Tamerlane (1724) portrayed the defeat, capture, and
imprisonment of Sultan Bayezit I (1389± 1402) by the central Asian
world conqueror. The Escape from the Seraglio by Mozar t in 1782 was
preceded by several operas with similar plot lines and characters.
Rossini's The Turk in Italy and to some extent The Italian Girl in Algiers
carried on this tradition of Ottoman operatic themes.
As European music borrowed Ottoman musical themes and settings,
``Turkish'' fashions became the rage of late eighteenth-century Europe.
Pseudo-Ottoman sultans and sultanas appeared everywhere, a fad
started by Madame de Pompadour in the court of King Louis XV.
During the Sarmation movement in Poland, for example, nobles wore
Ottoman costumes and rode ``Arab'' horses. Ottoman-style coffee
houses across Europe became populated with Europeans wearing bright
silks, billowing trousers, and upturned ``Turkish slippers,'' smoking
``Turkish'' pipes and eating ``Turkish'' sweets.
In the nineteenth century this ``Turkomania'' faded, to be replaced by
yet other expressions of the Ottoman presence in European popular
culture. The common motifs of cruelty, intrigue, jealousy and savagery
continued, hence the ready reception accorded to the powerful British
politician Gladstone's rantings against the ``Bulgarian horrors.'' Along-
side this old, ruthless image emerged that of the amorous or the buffoon
Turk. The silly Turk already had become a stock ®gure, as we see in
Áre's The Bourgeois Gentleman (1670), where a major character
babbled gibberish which the audience was meant to understand as
Ottoman Turkish. Now, in the nineteenth century, lustful Turks with
enormous sex organs became an important feature of Victorian porno-
graphic literature. Further, many Europeans, from Lord Byron to the
novelist Pierre Loti to Lawrence of Arabia, came to consider the
Ottoman empire as the land of dreams where sexual or other fantasies
could be realized. These three individuals and thousands of others
sought escape from the tedium and monotony of modern industrial life
in the imagined East ± whether or not they traveled to the Ottoman

The paintings of Delacroix, Ge
Âroà me, and others abound in
images of the exotic and erotic, the primitive, the savage, and the noble.
Thanks to the Ottoman ar tifacts displayed at the various world's fairs
of the nineteenth centur y, including the 1876 American Centennial
Exposition, a ``Turkish corner'' became commonplace in European and
American homes. In the parlors of the wealthier classes overstuffed
armchairs with deep fringes and tassels appeared, often set off with a
copper tray and always ``Oriental'' carpets. In 1900 Paris, for example,
the designer Poiret was famed for his ``Oriental'' fantasies. In the homes
of the less-well-off, a single piece of overstuffed furniture ± a sofa,
ottoman, or divan ± often conjured up the exotic East. The great
German novelist Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (1924) depicts a
``Turkish corner,'' and also a ®gure who used a ``Turkish'' coffee mill
and ``Turkish'' coffee for socializing. The grandfather of one of the main
characters had ``a funny little Turk in ¯owing silk robes, under which
was a hard body with a mechanism inside. Once, when you wound him
up, he had been able to leap about all over the table, but he was long
since out of repair.'' In the United States, for example, in New York
City, Portland, Oregon, and Chicago, architects built scores of motion
picture theaters that borrowed ver y heavily from Islamic and Ottoman
architectural details (as well as from other cultures, including the
ancient Near East).
In sum, as is clear from the above examples, the Ottomans supplied
much grist for the imaginative mill of the Europeans. The Anti-Christ
and enemy of the Reformation and of the French imag inative literature
of the seventeenth centur y had given way to more innocent images in
the age of Ottoman militar y contraction. Hence we ®nd the Janissary
music and Turkomania fads of the eighteenth century, and then the
exoticism and eroticism of the nineteenth century accompanied by the
omnipresent Oriental rug and the movie theater. Even today, in the
cultural world of Europe and its extensions, the Ottoman empire is
gone, but its legacies remain (see chapter 10).
In its last days, the Ottoman empire persevered in the heyday of west
European imperialism, when the empires of Britain and France physi-
cally dominated and occupied much of the globe. Everywhere peoples
had fallen under the control of these and other west European states. In
the late nineteenth-centur y world there were only a handful of indepen-
dent states outside the European continent. The Ottomans, together
with imperial China and Japan, were the most important of such states
which survived with any strength. As independent states, they became
models and sources of hope to the colonized peoples of the world in
their struggles against European imperialism. Thus, peoples as diverse
as Indian Muslims, the Turkic speakers of central Asia and the North
Africans of the Maghreb all looked to the Ottoman empire in their
struggles against British, Russian, and French colonialism.
                _________________   |   __________________

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