Earth & Conservation

The Rise Of The Ottoman Empire

While the Ottoman Empire is now long gone, its rule once spanned across three continents. So how did the ancient empire rise to power?

Spanning seven centuries, the Ottoman empire was one of the most durable, and its height, largest empires on Earth. Today, all that remains of the empire, which once spanned from Europe through the Middle East and into North Africa, is Turkey.

But how exactly did the Ottoman empire ascend to power? Put your feet up as today's Seeker Daily video runs down the history.

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The earliest glimmers of what would become an intercontinental empire began at the end of the 13th century. The Ottomans emerged out of Anatolia in the West of Turkey. At the time, the Byzantine empire, which sprang from the rupture of the Roman empire centuries, controlled the region.

The Seljuk Turks controlled most of modern Turkey and the Middle East at the time, far more territory than the Ottomans. But a military state led by Osman I went on to conquer most of Anatolia, extending what had began as a small principality. In 1299, Osman declared himself sultan, becoming the first Ottoman ruler to bear the title.

Conflict between the ascending Ottomans and the Byzantine empire was inevitable. The former was an ascending, Islamic power; the latter a Christian kingdom on the decline. The two would class for a century and a half in what would become known as the Byzantine-Ottoman wars, a period that saw the steady erosion of the Byzantine empire save for a brief reprieve during a civil war among the Ottomans, known as the Ottoman Interregnum, between 1402 and 1413.

In 1453, the Byzantine empire was a shell of its former self when the Ottomans came calling and laid siege to the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, known today as Istanbul. At the end of the 53-day siege on the city, the capital of one empire became the seat of power for another, as the Ottoman victory put the final nail in the coffin of not only the Byzantine but also the Roman empire.

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Although crowning achievement of the Ottoman empire was the conquest of Constantinople, the Turks weren't done expanding, and continued pushing the boundaries of their territory into the 16th century. At their peak, the Ottoman empire governed some 15 million people spread over 2 million square miles.

The Ottomans, however, were not immune to the same political laws of gravity that brought down the Byzantine empire before them.

-- Talal Al-Khatib

Learn More:

BBC: Ottoman Empire (1301-1922)

History: Byzantine Empire

Britannica: Ottoman Empire