Why were the Ottomans so successful in the 14th and 15th centuries?
At the beginning of the 13th century, the Ottomans were one of the numerous nomad Turkish tribes present in Anatolia since the battle of Mantzikert at the end of the eleventh century. They probably formed one of the Oghuz tribes, the tribal family which gave birth to the Seljuk dynasty. Besides, these tribes were vassal tothe Seljuk empire and they received an itqa in exchange for military service.1 More precisely, these tribes were under the control of the Rum sultanate, a minor part of Seljuk dynasty, which ruled Anatolia and which continued to prosper in spite of the collapse of the Seljuk empire in the rest of the Islamic world. However, around the middle of the thirteenth century the Mongol invasions directedby Genghis Khan destroyed the Sultanate of Rum. Thus it was the beginning of a period of ''anarchy'' in Anatolia and most of the Turkish tribes became independent.
Osman was the chief of one of these small emirate created after the collapse of the Seljuk of Rum and give his name to the dynasty ( The Ottomans were the partisans of Osman).
Three centuries later the Ottomans ruled a very largeterritory. As they controlled the Holly cites of Mecca and Jerusalem and some very important Islamic cities as Baghdad, Damascus they could be considered as the leaders of Islamdom. Moreover as they ruled Constantinople since 1453, they could be considered as the symbolic heirs of the Roman Empire as well.2
Thus the 14th and the 15th centuries were determinative for the Ottomans, indeed it is duringthis time they build up their empire. Then, it is interesting to examine the reason of this success.
I. A clever politic of extension.
The Ottomans were maybe distinct to the other Turkish tribes in raison of their geographic settlement in Anatolia. Originally the little Ottomans state were situated to the north west of Anatolia, a frontier zone with the Byzantine empire. As the Ottomansconsidered themselves as good Muslims and even Gazhis ( warriors of god) they could not fight against their Muslim brothers that is why ''the natural extension of the young state was towards the west''3 and,thus,the Christian territories.
Their first major victories were against the Byzantine territories.
However the first Ottoman leaders benefited cleverly of the Byzantine weakening (indeed sinceits were devastated by the crusaders during the beginning of the thirteen century, the empire knew a period of decline and was divided between several factions).The Ottoman power not only used force to enlarge and secure their territory and from Orhan (Osman's son) they adopted a wedding policy. Indeed the Byzantine Emperor John IV Kantazouzenos gave her daughter Theodora to Orhan in exchange ofmilitary troops to recover his throne.4 This alliance allowed the Ottomans to conquest important city as Gallipoli.
They continued this policy with other Ottoman Sultans and within other alliances. For instance, Murad I married the the sister of the Bulgarian Tsar and Bayezid I the daughter of an Anatolian lord and later the daughter of the countess of Salona.5 It permitted to the Ottoman to gainterritory and to create a link of vassalage with their potential adversaries.6
Generally, the Ottoman people constituted a large minority amongst the territories they ruled as well as the Muslim in general.7 Indeed, during the 14th and the 15th centuries the Ottomans conquered many Christians territories as Balkans people for instance. To gain the sympathy of their new subjects they adopted aquite tolerant policy in matter of religion. The Non- Muslim received the statute of dhimmi8 ( protected peoples) and the Ottoman administrative policy in the Balkans favoured the Christian church notably in order to have the support of the Balkan people.9
Nevertheless, in the same time, the Ottomans began the fervent defender of Sunni Islam by integrating the legislation of the Ulemas and by...
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