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The Ottoman Empire is considered very significant in history. The empire is known for its large size and power in the face of many other empires that ever existed. Even though the Ottoman Empire was very large and powerful, with time, it declined (Catherwood and Docket 12). External, as well as internal wrangles, are considered to be some of the main factors that contributed to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. For example, Sultan Suleiman disagreed with two of his immediate successors, who were later executed. This weakened the government, a factor that contributed to the decline of the empire. As such, weakening of the empire’s economy, poor governance by some of the rulers, lack of military training, intense corruption, as well as the high influence of power led to the decline of the Ottoman Empire (Goodwin 20). This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, with a lot of focus on the factors that were very instrumental in the decline of the Empire.
This essay is based on one research question: What were the factors that led to the decline of the Ottoman Empire? By addressing this research question, the essay will be in a position to provide insight on the decline of the Ottoman Empire, by comparing the Empire’s transition to power, as well as power decline within the empire. Such a comparison will outline the reasons behind the rise and fall of the empire.
The Ottoman Empire was very strong and powerful following successful conquest missions in Africa, Europe, and Asia (Catherwood and Docket 13). The empire covered large stretches of land, including a small section near Constantinople, and later a great percentage of the Byzantine Empire (Goodwin 23). The Empire of Ottoman was divided into five classes, with the first-class considered to be the class of the ruling family. This class comprised of the merchants and enjoyed a certain degree of freedom as far as government regulation and taxation were concerned. In addition, there was a class of artisans, peasants, and pastoral people. Even though there were different tribes and clans in the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Sultan was the overall ruler, who ensured that there were law and order within the empire.
Sultan Suleiman is considered one of the successful rulers, who ruled the empire from 1494 to 1566. Under the reign of Sultan Suleiman, the Ottoman Empire expanded towards the Balkans, as well as some parts of Northern Africa. In spite of Suleiman’s success as a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, the decline of the empire begun in the later years of his rule.
The rise of the Ottoman Empire
Initially, the Ottomans formed a great percentage of warriors in Turkey, who guarded the Islamic faith. During this period, the Ottomans were in a constant fight with the Christian Byzantine state, and the Mongols in an effort to prevent them from invading Anatolia (Catherwood and Docket 12). One of the factors that led to the rise of the Ottoman Empire was the weakening of the defense system in Byzantine, which gave the Ottomans a military advantage. Secondly, the Byzantine Empire experienced a social, religious, and economic discontent, making it possible for the Ottomans to take over Byzantine territories (Goodwin 23).
According to Catherwood and Docket, the initial expansion of the Ottoman Empire gave it a considerable amount of wealth as well as the privilege to have power over a large population (12). The power and wealth gained from this original expansion became very instrumental in the process of assimilating Anatolia’s territories to the east. The leader of the Ottoman, Osman, was in charge of the land that covered the whole of Dorylaeum and the Nicaea’s plains. This piece of land was acquired following the defeat of the Byzantine. Osman was able to defeat Byzantine easily because of the emperor of Byzantine over-relied on Western Europe’s mercenary troops, which destroyed the territory as opposed to providing the required help (Quataert 21).
When troops of the Ottoman Empire entered Europe, they discovered a direct chance of conquest following the decadence of the Byzantine. Additionally, when Umur Bey, the ruler of Aydin, died, the Ottomans became the only existing group fighting against the Byzantines. Thus, Ottoman raiders continued their exploration and fought to expand the empire, enabling the empire to remain strong and powerful following the capture of various territories.
During the Ottoman Empire’s golden age, several parts of Asia and Europe were under its control. This was attributed to the fact that the empire had a strong administration and government (Quataert 21). The large size of the empire played a crucial role in ensuring its success through effective control of government and administrative structures. During the golden age of the Empire, Suleiman, the reigning sultan, was very significant in providing encouragement as far as the empire’s expansion was concerned.
In addition, Sultan Suleiman provided avenues to seize and control Europe’s and Asia’s trade taxes. The resources acquired from the empire’s expansion were used wisely in ensuring that the empire was self-reliant and providing platforms for advanced technology, and improved knowledge and skills. As the empire expanded in size and grew economically, many people from other territories migrated to join the Ottoman Empire. As such, the Ottoman Empire comprised of people from different parts of the world, religion, and race (Haniogu 11). The mixture of people of different backgrounds ensured that the empire was united under their elected rulers.
Most of the historical success of the Ottoman Empire is largely attributed to the rule of Sultan Suleiman. He played a great role in ensuring that the empire was stable. Suleiman’s rule was characterized by fairness and self-respect, with much of the power being allocated to the monarch. In the empire, the monarch was mandated to ensure that every citizen received justice where it was necessary, with a special focus on the helpless and the poor. For this reason, the monarch provided avenues to protect the needy in the society from unscrupulous business people, unfair taxation, as well as shady officials (Quataert 21).
In addition, the presence of a central bureaucracy within the empire ensured the effective governance of the empire. According to the laws of the Ottoman Empire, the sultan was considered a very important person in that he was given the mandate of ensuring fairness, law, and order in the governance of the empire. In spite of the growth and effective rule of the Sultan, the Ottoman Empire later became weak and declined (Pamuk 2).
The fall of the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire is considered one of the strongest and powerful empires in history. Its successful fights and raids led to the expansion of the empire, gaining a lot of wealth and power (Quataert 17). The influence of power affected the governance of the empire, and with time, it became impossible for the sultan to concentrate on the general governance of the empire. For this reason, the empire became weak following its overdependence on forces outside the empire, as well as a decline in power and knowledge. Such a state played a significant role in encouraging people to move to other parts of the world. Thus, the government weakened further because there was no effect between the government and its people. For this reason, people’s loyalty was directed to the leaders they chose as opposed to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. As such, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire lost significance as time went by (Shaw and Kural 109).
Following the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Law lost meaning among most countries. As such, most of the countries under the Ottoman rule started enforcing their own laws. Such a move was a clear indication that the empire had lost control of its law, and largely its governance.
Another factor that contributed to the decline of the Ottoman Empire was the reluctance and weakening of the empire’s military forces. At the time of the gold age of the Ottoman Empire, the empire’s military forces were considered the strongest in the region (Haniogu 45). Such strength and power had led to successful raids and capture of different territories. However, such commitment on the side of the forces was attributed to the fact that the reigning sultan motivated the officers through the provision of high salaries and other incentives (Goodwin 19). For example, individuals in the army were not restricted to a given religion since joining the military forces was based on one’s merit. In addition, the empire had a section of the military forces that comprised of special and strong men who received special training. However, the fall of the Ottoman’s rule was characterized by intense corruption among the military forces, as well as a lack of necessary training for the forces (Pamuk 16). For this reason, the forces lacked the necessary knowledge in weapon technology and innovation. As such, the military forces became entirely weak.
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The weakening of the economy in the Ottoman Empire was also very instrumental in its decline. At the time of the empire’s golden age, the Ottoman was known for economic power. Such a situation was largely attributed to the rapid expansion of the empire that was characterized by a lot of wealth and power. This situation led to the independence of the Ottoman, as far as food and other necessary resources were concerned (Pamuk 10). For this reason, big cities under the Ottoman Empire, such as Istanbul, gained trade significance since they were some of the largest trading points. However, west countries interfered with the independence of the Ottoman Empire by making trading agreements with several countries (Shaw and Kural 15). As such, most of the countries over-relied on the west, following the weakening of the Ottoman’s economy. The weak economy led to an increase in external trade, as well as influence.
Primarily, the decline of the Ottoman Empire can be largely attributed to the decline of the Sultanate. According to the Ottoman Law, the Sultanate was considered a strong organization that ensured leadership succession. However, there was a gradual weakening of the sultanate over time. During the late years of Suleiman’s rule, the Ottoman Empire became weak following the reluctance of the sultanas far as state affairs were concerned (Shaw and Kural 15). The weakening of the empire during this period was contributed immensely by the execution of two of the possible successors of Suleiman after they differed with him. Suleiman became so much inclined to physical pleasures at the expense of governance, a factor that contributed to the sultanate decline (Pamuk 12).
The restriction of Sultans’ brothers in the harem denied them the competence needed to ensure the success of the Ottoman Empire. In addition, the empire had abandoned one of its traditions, whereby sons of the empire would be trained on matters related to governance (Goodwin 23). As such, most of the successors of the sultans were incompetent and contributed to weakening the empire’s governance structures as opposed to strengthening them. This can be attributed to the lack of governance skills and knowledge, as well as increased level of corruption of the government officials and the military forces. Intensified corruption and lack of concern for the military officials affected the unity of the military forces, and eventually became weak following overreliance on old-fashioned fighting methods (Quataert 17). For this reason, it was easy for other empires and countries to defeat the Ottoman’s military forces. Eventually, the Ottoman Empire declined.
From the above discussion, it can be seen that the Ottoman Empire was a great empire that was governed by the Ottoman Law. The empire covered large stretches of land, including ranging from Constantinople to the Byzantine Empire. The rise of the Ottoman Empire was largely attributed to the availability of able leaders and the need to expand the empire to cover many countries (Pamuk 25). However, the rule of each of these leaders had its significance since different leaders had different ideologies and interests. For example, even though Sultan Suleiman was very instrumental in the growth of the Empire, his personal pleasures played a significant role in the decline of the empire. One of the significant factors that led to the success of the Ottoman Empire was the fact that the leaders united people of different backgrounds in terms of laws, religion, and culture.
However, just like most historical empires, the Ottoman Empire declined due to several reasons. Weak economy, poor governance, lack of military training, intensified corruption, and power influence were very instrumental in the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and its eventual destruction during World War 1. For these reasons, it suffices that the decline of the Ottoman Empire was instigated by a lack of government control since most of the leaders were bent on changing the government. However, such changes would not have been possible given that the influence of power hindered innovation and change. In addition, the rulers during this period put a lot of emphasis on art and sociology, as opposed to military power, economics, and government. For this reason, the government and the military forces became very weak such that it lost control of its territory.
Therefore, had the leaders of the Ottoman Empire been focused on governance, they would have ensured a strong economy and trained military forces, as well as a stable empire.
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Goodwin, Jason. Lords of the Horizons. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.
Haniogu, Sukru. A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008. Print.
Pamuk, Sevket. “Fiscal Centralization and the Rise of the Modern State in the Ottoman Empire”. The Medieval History Journal 17.1 (2014): 1-26. Print.
Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.
Shaw, Stanford, and Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.