Skip Navigation Links

[Anatolian Civilizations] [Ottoman Empire]


Skip Navigation Links.
Collapse Culture and Art - Anatolian CivilizationsCulture and Art - Anatolian Civilizations
Turkey in the World Heritage List …
Expand First settlements in AnatoliaFirst settlements in Anatolia
Expand Ancient civilisationsAncient civilisations
Expand Turkish civilizationTurkish civilization
Expand SeljuksSeljuks
Expand Ottoman EmpireOttoman Empire

There are some reasons behind the great successes of the Ottomans. The Ottomans had been settled on land which has the potential to grow, of strategic importance and close to the straits moving to the Byzantine border from the Northwestern Anatolia.

The first administrators were people of high morality, high ideals, great determination and will, and also of never ending energy and effort. And this was a huge asset which can not be realized in all the dynasties. The fact that they were one of the most respected and honorable ‘boy’ s (tribes) of the Oguzs was also one of the factors that paved the way of being the Great Turkish Dynasty, which was about to fall, and it also paved the way for being the world sovereignty for them. The Anatolian Seljuk State defeated by the Mongols in Kosedag Battle in 1243, got into an unending and unavoidable circle of civil unrest, collapse and dissolution. The authority of the states uniting the people in Anatolia had ended and the dissolution and the worries concerning the future took their place instead. People used to regard the good old glorious days as if they were the parts of a tale. Anatolia was now looking for a leader, who would maintain the natural fate of the Turkish history going on for 1500 years, would fulfill this gap of authority and power and who would reunite the people living on this land then would realize the ideal of world sovereignty. Despite the fact that the then empty throne was attractive for the entire bey’s (tribes), the gravity of the situation and the greatness of the targets and expectations made everybody fearful.

It was under those conditions that the Ottoman Empire was born and it rose. The Ottomans had arrived at the Byzantine border with their horses, tents and carpets and had depended on these goods since then. They had unbelievable skills at the art of war and organization. The horses also provided them with a superior movement and organization capability. They were not used to live in luxurious and comfortable conditions. They had had great adventures until they came to the winter and summer houses between today’s Eskisehir- Bursa and these adventures went on afterwards, too. Actually, they did not intend to deal with adventures. However, they had great goals and they were people who would not give upon their dreams and who would sacrifice all they have to reach those goals.

The Kayi tribe, to which the Ottomans belong, was a nomadic tribe in the beginning. Afterwards, they moved on to the permanent style of life. Living in tents has so great an importance for them that the remarks of this life style can be seen on their mosques with glorious domes, which will be built in the future, as well. It is sure that these buildings were inspired by their nomadic life in the tents.

They were the nation which was most interested in architecture. They used to start architecture activities on the lands they conquered, they would build schools, mosques, bridges, fountains, roads, hospitals, inns, and hamams and would make the city a civilized place within a very short time, and they used to found brand new cities and establishments on the lands conquered.

Despite the great glory and splendor, they never used give up on modesty and humbleness. This interesting mixture of splendor, neatness, and humbleness had its marks even on the palaces they had. Even the Topkapi Palace, from where the continent has been ruled for centuries, did not have much more luxury than a military building made up of stone. They used to name the places they used to stay in long journeys and the houses built in the cities “konak”- a temporary place to stay, bearing in mind the fact that world is a temporary place to live, not a permanent place to stay forever. The Ottomans used to put great emphasis on art and aesthetic concerns, and they used to embellish their religious and civil structures via decorative figures, writings and ceramic tiles.

As the young nomadic force was brought to the area, they found the other Turkmens on the other side, trying to defend their borders against Byzantine and having lost their tenacity and action to a great extent. They were more eager to wage holy wars in comparison to the other groups as they felt the void of having left their mainland deeply, they desperately needed a new land, and the belief and love of war for religion in their hearts, and their superior capabilities in administration and organization. Their energy and eagerness affected the other Turkmens nearby, as well. Despite the fact that the Turkish groups were not literate, they had good insight. They had a unique understanding. It did not take long for them to sense that this new group was promising.

Ertugrul Gazi had three sons. Their names were Osman, Gunduz and Savci. Osman Gazi, who was born in 1258, got married to Mal Hatun, the daughter of Seyh Edebali, one of the spiritual builders of Ottoman Empire.

When Ertugrul Gazi died at the age of nearly ninety, he left a mediocre amount of land for his son, at about 4800 kilometer squares around Karacadag, Sögüt, Domanic and nearby. It is assumed that this land or with an optimistic prediction 1000 or 2000 squaremetres has been provided to the Kayi group by the Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat as the ‘residence’(yurt) and the rest has been taken from the Byzantine Empire by Ertugrul Bey. It is on this land that the Ottoman tribe has been established with so small a group. Ottomans have expanded this land 20000 times in thirteen and a half centuries. No dynasty in the humanitarian history has had so great a success.

After Ertugrul Gazi’s death, Osman Gazi continued on the expeditions against the Byzantine Empire. He became the leader (bey) with the unanimous decision of the Turkish tribes in the vicinity. He united the Turkish tribes in a short time and was able to establish the Turkish union.

The newly founded state was named after not Ertugrul Gazi, but his son. Osman Gazi, son of Ertugrul Gazi has always been a half mystical and legendary character for the Ottomans.

As the other families (principalities) in Anatolia fought against each other, Osman Bey waged war against Byzantine. Osman Gazi, receiving the indications of sovereignty sent by the Seljuk Sultan in 1288, accepted the responsibility of defending his area of influence and the people there (reaya) against Byzantine and the neighboring groups. He initiated the conquest movements with the tribal leaders around him like Samsa Cavus, Konuralp, Akcakoca, Aykut Alp, Abdurrahman Gazi, Turkmens and the leaders of the nomads, and then took Inonu, Eskisehir, Karacahisar, Yarhisar, Inegol and Bilecik, in a short time.

The conquest of Bilecik and the transition of the centre to this area, the “Ilhanli”s taking Alaeddin Keykubat III, the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan, to Iran, and therefore the failure of Seljuk State are the events that have happened almost simultaneously. Due to the lack of authority in the region, Osman Gazi, stated his independence and established the Ottoman State (1299).

The men of Osman Bey, taking advantage of the situation of the area, have invaded until Bursa. After the conquest of the Lefke, Mekece, Akhisar, Geyve ve Leblebici castles, Osman Gazi made his son Orhan Gazi, the head of the military invasion troops. (1320). Osman Gazi has dealt with problems of organization from this date until his death.

When Osman Bey died, presumably 1326, the Ottomans had not taken Bursa yet. Osman Gazi wanted his body be buried Bursa as he was about to die and he asked Bursa be made the capital. In this way, he pointed out the enlargement would be towards west in his will. After the conquest of Bursa, it became the centre of the tribe, and the city was embellished with new buildings.

As the Seljuk moved out of the scene of history, Anatolia was devastated. Because the effect of Mongols was felt overall in Anatolia. However, there were some treasures of great importance left from the Ottomans. These were unity in religion, language and alphabet. The war for the sake of religion was the immaterial and spiritual aspect of this heritage. Ottomans had all these aspects of unification. With the effects of the unity in religion, language and alphabet the people of Anatolia were moving towards Ottoman land in large and crowded groups. The martyrs, who were ready to wage war at any time, provided even a stronger dynamism to the Ottomans. It was again with this love and will that the subjects of the other principalities moved to the Ottoman land or at least provided spiritual support to the successes of the Ottomans by praying. Especially the religious sect known as the “Horasan Erenleri” and coming from the east, from Turkmenia inspired the spirit of a great ideal, gaza and jihad( holy wars for the sake of religion) on the Turkish groups at the borders with their enthusiastic propaganda. These dervishes called “Alp”, “Eren”, “Abdal” were running for success as they were ready to leave their land for this great ideal and looked for happiness via gaza and sehadet (praying). The religious leaders and the leaders of the religious sects like Seyh Edebali, Davud-i Kayseri. Dursun Fakih having left Karaman and moving onto the Ottoman land, have eagerly supported the struggle of the Ottomans against the Byzantine Empire, and they have had intense educational and cultural activities to transform the region into a Turkish and Muslim land.

The Turkish people brought peace, welfare, order, wealth and happiness to the places they have taken. The residents of those newly taken areas and starting to live within the administration of the Ottomans have taken benefit from all positive aspects of order and welfare, which have long been forgotten during the reign of the Byzantine Empire.

The biggest church of a city that has let the Ottomans have it itself, would be turned into a mosque and there was no other way that the benefits of the Christian community would be restricted. The sentence of a soldier giving harm to a Christian community in any way while passing from the land of that particular group at the time of war would be capital punishment. The Turkish Courts which were appealed to in time of peace protected everybody’s rights. There was no religious pressure at all. As Islam forbade religious pressure, there was no religious fanaticism or intolerance in the Turkish tradition, going on for thousands of years. Everybody was free to choose his/her religion and live accordingly.

When Orhan Gazi learnt that his father was about to die he went to see his father with the high officials of the city. As Osman Gazi was lying on his death bed, he had some advices for his son his will. Here is the summary of Osman Gazi’s will, which is assumed to be the law by the Ottoman Sultans and the implementation of which is an obligation according to the Ottoman Sultans:

"Do not ever do something which is not in line with the rules put forward by God. When you do not know, ask the wise men about it and try to understand. Do not start a job that you are not sure of. Behave in a good way towards your subjects. Show your respect and love to your soldier. Be fair and merciful! Do not be cruel. Be fair in the world and remember me by working hard for the sake of God. Wherever you hear of a literate and wise person, show him respect, behave in an understanding way. Do not bring honor to your soldier and goods and turn away from wisdom. The case we have is not a case of empty fight and valor. Our case is a case of “Ila-i Kelimetullah= (honoring the religion of the God) Be good towards everybody! Behave in an equal way towards all your subjects! Our aim is to make people aware of the God’s religion. Our way is the way of God and to make the religion of the God more common. That is the only way for you to reach the goodness of the God”

Osman Gazi, was fair, generous and far sighted. When he died he did not leave a heritage made up of precious metals like gold or silver. He did not have anything precious like pots and pans. His clothes were as simple as that of veterans. He did not leave anything behind except some animals and herds of sheep. And these were the things which any mediocre type of family could have.

Osman Gazi, was incredibly courageous, he had great ideals, initiative ideas. He possessed so important moral and ethical values that this earned him the love of millions. He was so much liked by the generations for many centuries that each time a new sultan was throned, the public candidly wished that this new sultan would have the similar moral values as Osman Gazi.

As Orhan Gazi became the ‘bey’ as his father’s successor, his first act was to suggest his son, Alaaddin, to share the principality. Although Orhan had made himself the heir in his father’s will, the throne belonged to the governor’s family according to the Turkish norms and customs. His brother himself had the same rights as Orhan. However, Alaaddin did not accept this to show his reverence to the will of his father’s. In fact he did not take even half of the herds his father had left for him. He just asked for a village to graze his own animals. On this occasion, Orhan Gazi made an offer to him. He told his brother: “So that you do not accept any of my offers, any hoses, any sheep, any herds, then be my vizier, instead of being a shepherd of other people”. Thus, Orhan asked Aladdin to rule the state together. Aladdin accepted this job, which is likened to being a carrier among the folk as the vizier has a huge burden. As his brother expanded the land of the state, Aladdin, having not much experience in martyr art, built the institutional structure of the Ottomans with the establishments he has founded. He established the first financial institution, the first regular and paid army. He printed the first money in the name of his brother. The harmonious deeds carried out by the two brothers brought great benefits to the Ottomans. This harmony was something new for the Ottomans as they were used to brothers being in conflict and competition.

The Janissaries, an important force of the Ottoman army, was established with the suggestion of Candarli Kara Halil in this period. Orhan Gazi, took a group of these soldiers and went to visit Haci Bektaşi Veli. He demanded his prayers upon him and the newly founded army. Haci Bektasi Veli prayed as in the following: “The name of this new army will be Janissaries. Their face will be light, their sword will be sharp. They will gain victories in the wars and battles all the time and they will return home in victory”. As the sheikh put his arm on the soldier’s head, the longer sleeve of his dress was pulling towards the back of the soldier. For the sake of this memory, the famous Janissary cap, a part of which was falling towards the back, was made.

Transition to Europe

One of the most important events in the Ottoman history and the reign of Orhan Gazi, is the transition to Rumeli with a legendary expedition carried out by Suleyman Pasha, Orhan Gazi’s son. The Ottomans sent their forces to the Byzantine to fight against the Bulgarian forces as the Byzantine asked for help. Meanwhile, they got to know Rumeli. The Byzantine king Kantakuzen gave the Cimpe castle to the Ottomans as they as they helped him get throned. In that way, the Ottomans settled on the European side (1353). This area provided an important base for the following conquests. After the conquest of Gelibolu (Gallipoli), the Turks took all the Marmara coast until Tekirdag. The death of the successor Suleiman in 1357, and consequently of Sultan Orhan Gazi mad the conquest stop for a while. However, as Sultan Murad I maintained the Turkish unification in Anatolia (1361-1389), he turned to Rumeli region again and he provided a sound settlement in Europe for the Ottomans. Edirne was conquered in 1363, and then Gumilcine and Filibe were conquered. With the conquest of Catalca in the east, the Ottomans got even much closer to Istanbul

The Ottomans gained victory in Sirpsindigi in 1364 and Cirmen in 1371. As a result of these conquests and victories the Ottomans settled in Europe permanently and their area of influence extended to cover the whole Balkan land. Bulgaria and Serbia accepted the Ottoman dominion. The Ottoman forces took North Macedonia, Nis, Manastir, Sophia, and Ohri with the three operations going on simultaneously.

Only a short time after the establishment of the Ottoman state, the Turks have stepped on the Balkan land. There was an atmosphere of turmoil on these lands at that time. Therefore, the people of Balkan land regarded the Turkish people as rescuers. Because they had already learned that the Turkish people did not wage war on the naive and innocent people, but on the cruels and tyrants, feudal lords, and their armies. They were also aware of the fact that the Turkish administration regarded people of the conquered area as the trust of God, and therefore protected and took care of them. If it were not that way, it would not be possible for the Ottomans to have so large lands in such a short time. The new order was adopted within a short time period. Because thanks to that new order, the peasants would get rid of the feudal burden, and the goods and associations of the churches, monasteries and the clergy would be under protection.

The developing Ottoman system affected the Anatolia as well. The capable warriors of the Anatolia principalities (beylik), saw that the Ottomans held the future and therefore, chose to take place within their protection. All these events did not happen at once. These happened in a slow, stable and consistent way. This policy was effective not only in terms of the method implemented for settlement but also with the fairness of the management.

On the one hand, the Ottomans fended for the Turkish union in Anatolia. The Ottomans took Aksehir, Beysehir, Seydisehir, Yalvac and Sarkikaraagac from Hamidogullari principality (beylik) and Kutahya, Simav, Tavsanli, Emet and Simav, and its vicinity form the Gemiyanogullari strained the relationship between Karamans and Ottomans. After a short while, a war broke out between the two states. The Ottomans defeating the Karaman forces have gained a certain victory.

On the other hand, Serbian, Hungarian, Ulah, Bosnian, Albanian, Latvian and Czech forces have formed an army of Crusaders so as to make the Ottomans evict the Balkan land. The Kosova Battle, being one of the most important events in the Turkish history, determined the fate of the Eastern Europe. At the end of this battle, in June 20, 1389, the Crusaders were defeated in Kosova. The Turkish sovereignty in Balkan Peninsula, which will continue for centuries, was strengthened with this victory. However, Murad I (Murad-i Hudavendigar) was killed by a Serbian as he was wandering around the war scene after the victory. As he was being taken to his tent when wounded he had an advice for his son Yildirim Beyazit and his commanders: “Don’t you ever step down from your horses. Put your swords into their sheath”.