The Ottoman Empire – Where it all began


Ottoman Empire

OTTOMAN EMPIRE

OTTOMAN EMPIRE. The Ottoman Empire emerged circa 1300 with the establishment by the first Ottoman ruler, Osman, of a small principality bordering on Byzantine territory in western Anatolia. It reached its greatest extent in 1590, when the empire comprised central Hungary, the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia, Mespotamia, Syria and Palestine, western Arabia, Egypt, and lands in the Caucasus and western Iran. In Europe, Transylvania, Walachia, Moldavia, and theCrimea were tributary principalities, while in North Africa, Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers were semiautonomous provinces. Between 1603 and 1606, the Ottomans lost the lands in Iran and the Caucasus that had been ceded to them in 1590. In 1669, however, they took control of Crete.

By 1450, the Ottoman Empire was a regional power, comprising western and northern Anatolia and much of the Balkan Peninsula. Mehmed II (ruled 1451–1481) expanded and consolidated Ottoman rule in this region. His conquest of Constantinople in 1453 finally extinguished theByzantine Empire. In the Balkans, he annexed Serbia between 1455 and 1458, Bosnia in 1463, and, in 1466, defeated George Kastriote (Scanderbeg) in central Albania. In 1460 he removed the last two Byzantine rulers of the Peloponnese, and in 1461 conquered Trebizond, the last independent Greek city.

In 1463, fearing for its Greek colonies, Venice declared war. The war was fought in the Peloponnese, in Albania, and on the Aegean, the naval conflict encouraging the growth of the Ottoman fleet. Mehmed had used a fleet at the siege of Constantinople, and he inherited the naval dockyard at Pera when he annexed this Genoese colony in 1453. He used the fleet first against the Genoese, taking Enez and Phokaia in the 1450s, Amasra on the Black Sea in 1459, and Lesbos in 1462. The amphibious war with Venice culminated with the conquest of the Venetian island of Evvoia (Negroponte) in 1470.

To defeat the Ottomans, Venice allied with Hungary in 1464, with no results, and then with the Akkoyunlu Sultan Uzun Hasan, lord of much of Iran, Iraq, and eastern Anatolia. In 1467–1468, Mehmed had conquered and annexed the emirate of Karaman in south-central Anatolia, bringing him into dispute with Uzun Hasan, who also coveted the principality. The dispute led to war in 1473 and an Ottoman victory that secured Ottoman territories in Anatolia.


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The removal of this danger allowed Mehmed to extend his conquests to the Black Sea. Using a dispute within the Tatar khanate as a pretext, in 1475 he sent a fleet to the Crimea, reducing the khan to the status of Ottoman tributary, and capturing the Genoese city of Caffa. An attempt to strengthen his domination of the region with an incursion into Moldavia in 1476 merely provoked a Hungarian counterattack. Two years later, Mehmed led an assault on Venetian settlements in northern Albania, persuading the Venetians to cede Shkodër and to conclude a peace in 1479. In the same year, the Ottomans occupied Cephalonia, Levkas, and Zante as a preliminary to capturing Otranto on the Italian mainland in 1480. Simultaneously, Mehmed’s fleet unsuccessfully attacked Rhodes.

Mehmed’s son Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512) withdrew the garrison from Otranto and adopted a conciliatory policy toward the West. In 1482 his brother Jem had fled to Rhodes, and the threat to foment civil strife in the Ottoman Empire by releasing him from captivity provided Catholic Europe with a new weapon. It was only after Jem’s death in 1495 that Bayezid opened hostilities in the West. Before this, in 1483, he had attacked Moldavia, seizing the ports of Kilia and Akkerman, and, between 1485 and 1490, had waged an unsuccessful war against the Mamluks, rulers of Syria and Egypt since the mid-thirteenth century. In 1499, however, following the public burial of Jem’s remains, Bayezid declared war on Venice, capturing several Venetian strongholds in the Peloponnese despite the formation of a Venetian-French-Spanish alliance.

During Bayezid’s final years, the most significant political development was the unification of Iran under the Shi‘ite Safavid dynasty, which claimed the religious and political loyalties of many Ottoman subjects and posed both an internal and an external threat. It was adherents of the Safavids who formed the core of a rebellion that broke out in 1511 in southwest Anatolia. The rebellion, suppressed with great difficulty, coincided with a succession struggle between Bayezid’s sons. It was the youngest who forced his father to abdicate and ascended the throne as Selim I (ruled 1512–1520).

THE EMPIRE AT ITS HEIGHT

After defeating and executing his brothers Korkud and Ahmed, Selim attacked the Safavids, routing Shah Isma‘il I’s army at Chaldiran in 1514. Over the next four years he expelled the Safavids from southeast Anatolia. This war led to a new conflict. Isma‘il I had sought an alliance with the Mamluk sultanate, which by 1516 shared a border with the Ottomans in northern Syria. In 1516 Selim invaded and defeated a Mamluk army near Aleppo. In early 1517, he defeated a second Mamluk army outside Cairo, bringing the Mamluk domains, which included the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina, under his control. Gunpowder technology was a significant element in these Ottoman successes. A further addition to Selim’s empire was Algiers, whose ruler Hayreddin Barbarossa, seeking protection against Spain, submitted voluntarily to Selim’s overlordship.

Selim’s son Suleiman I (ruled 1520–1566) opened his reign with the conquests of Belgrade in 1521 and Rhodes in 1522. The loss of Belgrade weakened Hungary’s defenses and, in 1526, Suleiman invaded and killed the Hungarian king at Mohács. After the battle, he supported the newly elected John Szapolyai against the claims to the Hungarian throne of the HabsburgFerdinand of Austria. In 1529, Suleiman expelled Ferdinand from the Hungarian capital Buda and unsuccessfully laid siege to Vienna. Peace with Ferdinand in 1532 allowed him to lead a campaign against Iran, which by 1536 had added Baghdad and Erzurum to the empire. During this campaign, in 1533, Suleiman invited Hayreddin Barbarossa to command the Ottoman fleet. The war at sea opened with the loss of Tunis to a Spanish force under the command of Ferdinand’s brother, Charles V. The loss made Suleiman welcome the French king Francis I’s proposal for an anti-Habsburg alliance. However, the plan for a Franco-Ottoman attack in 1537 on the Habsburgs’ Italian possessions did not materialize. Suleiman instead unsuccessfully attacked the Venetian island of Corfu. In response, Venice allied with Charles V, Austria, and the pope. Barbarossa, however, defeated the allied fleet at Prevesa in 1538, and the war concluded with the cession to Suleiman of most of the Venetian insular and mainland possessions inGreece.

After 1540, Suleiman made no more major conquests. The death of Szapolyai in 1540 led to war as Ferdinand again tried to assert his claims to the Hungarian crown. Suleiman’s response was to convert central Hungary to an Ottoman province, and to appoint Szapolyai’s infant son ruler of Transylvania, the eastern part of the old Hungarian kingdom. A campaign in 1543 restored Ottoman authority in Hungary. Meanwhile, in 1541 Charles V had made an unsuccessful attack on Algiers, the war in the Mediterranean continuing in 1543 with the Franco-Ottoman capture of Nice. A treaty in 1547 between Suleiman and the Habsburgs Charles V and Ferdinand concluded the war in Hungary but, since Ferdinand still claimed the crown of Transylvania, hostilities continued on a smaller scale until 1556, with Suleiman occupying Temesvár and Lipova in 1552. Immediately after 1547, however, his preoccupation was with Iran. Two expeditions in 1548–1549 and 1553–1554 brought no gains, and concluded with the treaty of Amasya in 1555, confirming the existing eastern border.

However, the war in the Mediterranean continued. In 1551, the Ottomans conquered Tripoli, and later in the decade they occupied Wahran and Bizerta, near Algiers. In 1560, the Admiral Piyale Pasha expelled the Spaniards from Jerba, off the Tunisian coast. Then, in 1565, Suleiman’s fleet unsuccessfully attacked the Knights of St. John on Malta. Outside the Mediterranean, the Ottomans tried but failed to establish their power in the Indian Ocean and to control the trade coming from India and southeast Asia.

Suleiman died in 1566 on campaign in Hungary. As he had already executed one son, Mustafa, in 1553, and another, Bayezid, in 1562 following the latter’s rebellion and flight to Iran, Selim II (1566–1574) came to the throne unopposed. The effective ruler throughout his reign was the grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. Sokollu’s plans to facilitate Ottoman navigation in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean by constructing a canal across the isthmus of Suez, and on the Caspian by constructing a canal between the Don and Volga rivers, both failed. Instead the major amphibious undertaking was the assault in 1570 on Cyprus. In 1573, and despite the rout of the Ottoman fleet off Lepanto in 1571, Venice ceded the island. Then in 1574 an Ottoman expedition expelled the Spaniards from Tunis. Ottoman expansion did not end with these wars. Taking advantage of Safavid dynastic problems, the Ottomans, in a war between 1578 and 1590, captured Safavid territory in the Caucasus and western Iran, bringing the empire to its maximum size.

THE TIMES OF TROUBLE

Following a series of incidents on the Bosnian border, in 1593 the grand vizier Koja Sinan Pasha successfully pressed for a war against Austria. Despite unexpected victories at Eger and Mezö-Keresztes in 1596, at Kanizsa in 1600, and the reconquest of Esztergom in 1605, the war showed that the Ottomans had lost their military superiority over the Habsburg forces. Furthermore, they suffered from the defection of Walachia in 1595 and the uncertain loyalty of Transylvania. In 1606, the Treaty of Zsitva-Török brought the war to an inconclusive end. By this time, the Ottomans were fighting on three fronts. In Anatolia, a series of uprisings seriously shook Ottoman power. In 1603, war broke out with Iran, and by 1606, Shah Abbas had reconquered Erivan and Tabriz, and all the territories that Iran had lost between 1578 and 1590. To add to Ottoman troubles, the governor of Aleppo, Janbuladoghlu Ali, rebelled against the sultan Ahmed I (1603–1617), cooperating with the rebels in Anatolia. It was at this time too that Cossack raiders from the Ukraine began to launch attacks on Ottoman settlements on the Black Sea coast, which were to continue into the 1640s.

Between 1607 and 1609, the grand vizier, Kuyuju Murad defeated Janbuladoghlu Ali of Aleppo and the rebels in Anatolia. However, renewed war with Iran failed to recapture the territory lost to Shah Abbas, and the death of Ahmed I in 1617 precipitated another crisis. His successor was his mentally defective brother Mustafa (ruled 1617–1618, 1622–1623). Within a year a faction had deposed Mustafa and placed Ahmed’s son Osman II (ruled 1618–1622) on the throne. Osman’s declaration of war on Poland and his treatment of the janissaries during the unsuccessful siege of Chotin, and the suspicions of the janissaries that he wished to abolish the corps, led to a janissary insurrection, the reinstatement of Mustafa on the throne, and finally to Osman’s murder. During Mustafa’s second reign, unrest continued in the capital. In Anatolia the governor-general of Erzurum, Abaza Mehmed Pasha, rebelled, claiming to seek vengeance on Osman’s murderers. Then Shah Abbas captured Baghdad. In 1623, Mustafa was deposed. His successor was the twelve-year-old Murad IV (ruled 1623–1640), with effective power going to his mother, Kösem Sultan.

Unrest continued for much of Murad’s reign. Abaza Mehmed Pasha did not surrender until 1628, and campaigns against Iran in 1626 and 1630 failed to recapture Baghdad. In the early 1630s, the soldiery in the capital rebelled, with the agitations of fundamentalist preachers adding to the tense atmosphere. With the restoration of order, Murad led his armies against the Safavids, in 1638 recapturing Baghdad, which was to remain in Ottoman hands until World War I. A treaty in 1639 fixed the Ottoman-Safavid border, essentially as agreed at the Treaty of Amasya. Murad IV died in 1640, having restored Ottoman military prestige, and having begun to reform the Ottoman fiscal system. The grand vizier Kemankesh Mustafa Pasha continued this work under Ibrahim I “the Mad” (1640–1648), also a son of Ahmed I and Kösem. In 1644, however, as Ibrahim’s mental condition deteriorated, a faction gained power that catered to his extravagant whims. The invasion of the Venetianheld island of Crete in 1645 exacerbated the crisis. Despite the capture of Chania, Herakleion (Candia) and other fortresses resisted, while naval superiority allowed Venice to blockade the Dardanelles. In 1648, the crisis led to the deposition and execution of the sultan.

THE KÖPRÜLÜ VIZIERATE

The seven-year-old Mehmed IV (ruled 1648–1687) succeeded Ibrahim, with his mother Turhan Sultan as regent. Faced with political instability and a Venetian blockade of the straits, Turhan in 1656 invited a provincial governor, Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, to become grand vizier. Within a year, he had defeated the Venetians and reoccupied Tenedos and Limni at the entrance to the straits. By the time of his death in 1661, he had suppressed a rebellion in Anatolia, and reformed the financial system so that, for the first time in almost a century, income almost balanced expenditure. His successor was his son, Fazil Ahmed. His period of office opened with a war with Austria between 1662 and 1664 in support of the Ottoman candidate to the throne of Transylvania. Ottoman forces captured the fortress of Nové Zamky and, by the Treaty of Vasvar in 1664, retained it, despite a defeat at St. Gotthard. Fazil Ahmed next turned his attention to the war on Crete, completing the conquest with the fall of Herakleion in 1669. This new phase of expansion continued with the capture of Kamieniec in the Polish Ukraine, the call for assistance from the Cossacks of the Dnieper providing the pretext for war. Hostilities with Poland continued until 1676, the year of Fazil Ahmed’s death. In addition to the conquest of Crete and strengthening the empire’s northern frontier through intervention in Transylvania and the Ukraine, Fazil Ahmed continued his father’s internal reforms.

THE YEARS OF DISASTER

Fazil Ahmed’s successor as grand vizier, Kara Mustafa Pasha, tried unsuccessfully to strengthen the empire’s northern border, and to reassert Ottoman power in Hungary. His campaigns between 1676 and 1681 against Russia in the Ukraine failed. The Treaty of Radzin, which concluded the war, was unfavorable, establishing the frontier along the the Dnieper and the Bug, forcing the Ottomans to recognize the tsar as sovereign of Russia and protector of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, and permitting the creation of a patriarchate at Moscow, as a rival to the patriarchate of Constantinople. However, it was Kara Mustafa’s ambitions in Hungary that led to catastrophe.

In support of the rebel Imre Thököly’s claim to part of Austrian-ruled Hungary, Kara Mustafa besieged Vienna in 1683. The failed siege led to his execution and, in the following year, to the formation of the Holy League of Austria, Russia, Poland, Venice, and the papacy. In 1686, Buda fell to the Austrians. Belgrade followed in 1688. In 1687, Venice occupied Athens and most of the Peloponnese. War taxes and harvest failure increased unrest among the sultan’s subjects, leading to the deposition of Mehmed IV in 1687. The measures of his successor, Suleiman II (ruled 1687–1691), and the grand vizier Köprülü Fazil Mustafa restored the authority of the government and the military position. In 1690, Fazil Mustafa recaptured Niš, Smederovo, and Belgrade. However, in 1691, with the death of Suleiman II, and the defeat and death of Fazil Mustafa at the battle of Slankamen, the counteroffensive failed. So too did English and Dutch attempts to broker a peace, which would have enabled the Austrians to join a western alliance against France. Some successes against the Venetians followed the accession of Mustafa II (ruled 1695–1703), but the Russians took Azov in 1696, and the defeat in 1697 at Zenta forced the Ottomans to seek peace. By the Treaty of Carlowitz of 1699, the sultan ceded Hungary and Transylvania to Austria, Podolia and western Ukraine to Poland, Azov and part of Ukraine to Russia, and Athens, Corinth, the Peloponnese, and some sites in Dalmatia to Venice.

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

After the Treaty of Carlowitz, the grand vizier Amjazade Hüseyn Pasha reformed the fiscal system by lowering taxes, reducing expenditure by cutting janissary numbers, and controlling the grant of fiefs. A new stability in the currency is one indication of his success. However, the reforms made him enemies and forced both his resignation and the abdication of Mustafa II in 1703. His successor, Ahmed III (ruled 1703–1730), suppressed the rebellion, reestablishing the authority of the sultanate.

Encouraged by this new stability, the grand vizier Silahdar Ali Pasha, attempted to regain the losses of 1683–1699. The flight to the Ottoman court of Charles XII of Sweden after his defeat by the Russians in 1709 led to a war with Russia that, by the Treaty of Edirne in 1713, forced Peter the Great to cede most of what he had gained at Carlowitz. In 1714–1715, the Ottomans reconquered territories lost to Venice, and in 1716 attacked Austria only to lose Belgrade, northern Serbia, Temesvár, and western Walachia. The Treaty of Passarowitz of 1718 confirmed the Austrians in possession. Acknowledging Ottoman military weakness, the grand vizier Damad Ibrahim Pasha sought peaceful diplomatic relations with the European powers, in the 1720s sending embassies to Paris, Vienna, Warsaw, and Moscow.

In 1730, a rebellion—in part against the extravagance of the court—led by the janissary Patrona Halil secured both the execution of Damad Ibrahim and the abdication of the Ahmed III. His successor, Mahmud I (ruled 1730–1754) suppressed the insurrection. Abroad, Mahmud faced a war in Iran. In 1723, the collapse of the Safavid dynasty had given the Ottomans the opportunity to occupy territory in the Caucasus and western Iran, but by the mid-1730s the consolidation of Nadir Shah’s power in Iran led to their abandonment and a new peace in 1736. Another factor in Ottoman withdrawal was the Russian seizure of Azov in 1736. The sultan declared war, hoping to form an alliance with Austria. The Austrians, however, allied with Russia, launching attacks into Bosnia and Bulgaria. The Ottoman counteroffensive thwarted the allies, and the Treaty of Belgrade in 1739 restored to the Ottomans the territory lost at Passarowitz and maintained the status quo with Russia. The last war of Mahmud I’s reign, against Iran, aimed to check the ambitions of Nadir Shah. The outcome was the treaty of 1746, reconfirming the treaty of 1639.

A rare period of peace followed, allowing the grand vizier Koja Ragib Pasha (ruled 1757–1763) to initiate military and fiscal reforms. The prosperity of this period tempted the grand vizier Silahdar Hamza Pasha in 1768 to respond to a Polish call for assistance by declaring war on Russia. The war was disastrous. The Russians occupied Moldavia in 1769 and Walachia in 1770. In 1769 the Russian Baltic fleet sailed to the Mediterranean but, despite destroying the Ottoman navy at Çeşme in 1770 and offering support to rebels in the Peloponnese and Egypt, achieved very little. On land the Russian advances continued into the Crimea, Walachia, and the Dobrudzha. In 1772, following failed peace negotiations, they crossed the Danube into Bulgaria. In 1774, the new sultan Abdülhamid I (1774–1789) sued for peace. By the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca the Russians acquired Azov, the territory between the Dnieper and the Bug, and the districts of Kuban and Terek, while the Crimea became independent of Ottoman overlordship. Equally significantly, the Russians obtained the right to “protect” Orthodox subjects inIstanbul, and the right to navigate freely in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

Aware of the weakness in the army, Abdülhamid I retained the services of the Frenchmen De Tott and Aubert and the Scot Campbell to improve the Ottoman artillery and to reopen the school of military engineering that the Frenchman Count Bonneval had established in 1734. Aware, too, of the forces of autonomy in the empire’s provinces, the sultan attempted to reach personal agreements with the powerful notables. His reign, however, ended with further losses. By the treaty of Aynali Kavak in 1784, he recognized the Russian annexation of the Crimea. However, the Russian annexation of Georgia and establishment of naval bases on the Black Sea again led to war. The Treaty of Jassy, which ended hostilities in 1792, while less unfavorable than the treaty of 1774, confirmed Russian occupation of Georgia and the Crimea and placed the Ottoman Empire under increased Russian pressure.

By the end of the eighteenth century, therefore, the major themes of the later history of the empire were already visible: the threat of Russian expansion, contained as much by the opposition of European powers as by effective Ottoman resistance; the reform of the Ottoman armed forces; and internal political reforms intended to convert what was effectively a medieval empire into a modern state.

THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

The Ottoman Empire was a multinational, dynastic state. Its territories comprised the inherited lands of the reigning sultan and, in addition, any that he may have won through conquest. From the beginning of the empire, Ottoman territory was indivisible. All male heirs were entitled to inherit and, since there was no law governing succession, from the fourteenth until the sixteenth century, whichever of the deceased sultan’s sons defeated and killed his brothers occupied the throne. However, after the accession of Murad III (ruled 1574–1595) and Mehmed III (ruled 1595–1603)—both elder sons—seniority became the usual, although not invariable, mode of succession. The practice of automatic fratricide also came to an end with the accession of Ahmed I (ruled 1603–1617), as a reaction to the scandal caused by Mehmed III’s execution of his nineteen brothers.

For most of the sultan’s subjects, the primary focus of loyalty was to their own religious or other community, but the sultan alone was the single, if secondary, focus of loyalty for all the multifarious groups throughout the empire. Allegiance to the sultan was therefore the principle that gave the empire its unity, a notion that found a practical expression in the system of appointments. The leaders of important institutions within the empire—for example, the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchs, and the heads of urban craft guilds—held their positions by virtue of a sultanic warrant. The institutions themselves might be virtually autonomous, but their heads were always royal appointees. For most subjects the loyalty that the sultan demanded consisted simply of paying taxes in cash, kind, or services. He required, however, a more active allegiance—to the extent of submitting willingly to execution—from those who served him in political and military office. These men and their families, together with those who held judicial or religious office, had, by the mid-fifteenth century, come to form a distinct class of non-taxpaying royal servants. By 1500, members of this class—designated “military”(askeri or askeriye) —were subject to a separate jurisdiction from ordinary taxpayers.

At the pinnacle of the military class were the viziers—usually three of four until their numbers increased from the late sixteenth century—who sat on the sultan’s Imperial Council (Divan). This met in the palace under the presidency of the grand vizier, and issued decrees in the sultan’s name. By the second half of the fifteenth century, viziers had typically served as provincial governors before their elevation. Viziers, like the sultan himself, also served as military commanders. So too did governors of provinces and of sub-provinces (sanjaks), eachsanjak consisting of the lands in a specific area distributed as fiefs to cavalrymen, who fought in times of war under their sanjak governor. It was these cavalrymen who made up the bulk of the military class. In addition, men holding Islamic judicial-religious posts were also designated “military.”

Between 1450 and 1600, the ways of recruitment to judicial, military, and political office were fairly clear. Graduates of Muslim colleges (madrasas) received, with appropriate patronage, office as judges in the provinces, as madrasa teachers, or as imams, although the highest judicial offices, notably the two military judgeships with the right to a seat on the Imperial Council, became from the sixteenth century the preserve of a few elite families. The fiefholding cavalrymen were mainly Muslim by birth, and the right to a fief was hereditary. However, the viziers and provincial governors were usually converts from Christianity. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, a succession of viziers were scions of Byzantine or Balkan dynasties. For example, two of the viziers of Bayezid II (ruled 1481–1512), Mesih Pasha and Hersekzade Ahmed Pasha, were, respectively, members of the Byzantine imperial family and of the ducal house of Hercegovina. By conversion, therefore, the pre-Ottoman ruling class became absorbed into the Ottoman elite. From the mid-sixteenth century, more of the governing class entered the sultan’s service through the devshirme, the system whereby the sultan made a levy within his own domains of Christian lads, usually peasants from the Balkan peninsula. After conversion to Islam, most of these served in the janissaries, the sultan’s household infantry. A select group, however, received an education in the palace and, after serving the sultan within the palace, received appointments as provincial governors. The most succcessful could then return to the capital as viziers.

From about 1580 this system began to change. The need to increase revenues raised the status of financial officers, who began sometimes to replace military appointees in governorships. At the same time, in the Austrian war of 1593–1606, the Ottomans encountered a new form of warfare, with larger armies and an increased use of infantry carrying firearms. The need for more infantrymen led to a decline in the system of fiefholding, which had supported cavalry, and to the recruitment of more foot soldiers either as irregulars or as janissaries, whose numbers had risen to about forty thousand by 1609. With this expansion, their role as an elite corps ended, and the system of recruitment through the devshirme broke down. By the eighteenth century, the devshirme had ceased altogether. To pay for these troops, the government converted many former fiefs into tax farms.

These changes in the fiscal, military, and political structure of the empire affected the elite. Viziers were no longer typically recruited through the devshirme, although links with the palace remained essential to preferment. From the seventeenth century, viziers were usually of Albanian or Caucasian descent and, once in power, furthered the careers of their kinsmen from their native areas. The Köprülüs, who from 1656 established a vizieral dynasty, were Albanians. With the decline of the fiefholding cavalry, sanjaks, which had essentially been agglomerations of fiefs, and with them, sanjak governors, declined in importance, while the role of the governors-general of provinces expanded. A new land code, in force from the 1670s until 1858, acknowledged these changes. The increasing importance of tax farms from 1600 onward and the introduction in the eighteenth century of lifetime tax farms, allowed some holders to transform these into estates, which could pass to their heirs. In the eighteenth century these local “estate owners,” such as the Karaosmanoğlu family of Manisa, became local powers on whom the sultan relied for essential tasks, such as the levy of troops for war. Throughout this same period, however, the structure of the Ottoman legal establishment remained essentially the same as it had been in the sixteenth century, with the mufti of Istanbul and the two military judges at its head, and a network of Islamic courts throughout the empire. The efficiency of the legal system, which, by and large, enjoyed the trust of the sultan’s Muslim and non-Muslim subjects, was a factor that allowed the empire to survive in times of crisis.

EUROPEAN COMMERCE AND WESTERN PERCEPTIONS

In the mid-fifteenth century, the western European polities with the closest links to the Ottoman Empire were the Italian city-states, particularly Venice and Genoa. These maintained fortresses and colonies in the Levant to protect trade routes, to serve as entrepôts, or for production. Genoese Caffa or Venetian Negroponte, for example, served as centers for the slave trade, while the Genoese produced mastic on Chios, alum in Phocaea (Foça), and salt at Enez. From 1451, Mehmed II began to occupy these enclaves, with a view to financial as much as territorial gain, the resulting loss of commerce being the major factor in Genoese disengagement from the Levant. The Venetian presence was more long-lived, but the loss of Levantine colonies was the major cause of the withdrawal of Venetian capital from maritime commerce. Venice nonetheless retained a commercial presence in the Ottoman Empire and, as spoils of war, even gained possession of the Peloponnese and of Athens between 1699 and 1715.

From the sixteenth century onward, the commercial power of western European states with an Atlantic seaboard began to be felt in the Ottoman Empire. During the sixteenth century, the Portuguese, having established themselves in the Indian Ocean, tried with partial success to gain a monopoly of the trade from southeast Asia to Europe, which had previously passed through Egypt and the Gulf and provided a source of revenue for the Ottoman sultans. Ottoman attempts to dislodge the Portuguese from Diu in Gujarat in 1538 and from Hormuz in 1552, and to encounter them in the open sea, failed. By the seventeenth century, when the Dutch, English, and French began to dominate long-distance trade in the Indian Ocean, the Ottoman presence was no longer significant. At the same time, the Atlantic powers came to dominate foreign trade within the Ottoman Empire itself, although without completely displacing Italian and other traders. Foreigners in the empire gained the right to trade through a grant of privileges from the sultan, the earliest such concessions being to Genoa and Venice. The French obtained a grant from the sultan in 1569, obliging the English, Spaniards, Portuguese, and others to trade under the French flag. The English negotiated concessions in 1583, and the Dutch in 1612.

These powers came to play an important role in the Ottoman economy, in the mid-seventeenth century even supplying coin to the Ottoman currency market. The Ottoman government, for its part, was able to exploit these concessions to political ends. During the war of 1683–1699, the sultan granted new trading concessions to France in order to maintain her support, and after 1697 to England. After the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, the Austrian Habsburgs and later Russia obtained concessions, marking the beginning of a period when the European powers were able to use the concessionary regimes to exert political pressure on the weakened empire, and to treat it as an economic colony of western Europe.

Commerce and diplomacy both stimulated a European interest in the Ottoman Empire. In the sixteenth century, descriptions of the empire multiplied, outnumbering works on any other parts of the non-European world. These were often the product of diplomatic and commercial interest. The following of the French ambassador Gabriel d’Aramon, who departed for Istanbul in 1546, included the botanist Pierre Belon, the traveler Nicolas de Nicolay, and the scholar Guillaume Postel. The Habsburg ambassadors and their retinues, notably Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq who, between 1553 and 1562, negotiated a peace between Suleiman I and Ferdinand of Austria, were equally productive. This tradition continued in the following centuries: The Present State of the Ottoman Empire of 1668 by the English consul Sir Paul Rycaut, and the letters of Mary Wortley Montagu, wife of the English ambassador to Ahmed III in 1717–1718, belong to the same genre.

These books enjoyed an educated readership. They did not, however, form the popular European perception of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans entered the consciousness of Catholic Europe particularly after their defeat of crusading armies in 1396 and 1444, while the Ottoman assault on central Europe following the battle of Mohács in 1526 produced an apocalyptic fear of “the Turks.” In the German-speaking lands in particular, pamphlets and woodcuts circulated that place the Turkish threat in an eschatological context, drawing on Joachimite and other medieval prophetic traditions. This eschatological fear, spread through sermons, prints, and pamphlets, had a long-lasting and popular following, especially in central Europe, where it enabled the Austrian Habsburgs to justify their rule as “bulwarks against the Turk.” By the eighteenth century, when Ottoman military power had declined, so did the apocalyptic vision. By the end of the century, the sultan’s palace even figured as the setting for popular entertainment. Nonetheless, hostility to the Ottomans persisted throughout western Europe. The Ottomans had, and still have, little place in Western cultural perceptions.

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