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Ottoman Essay

The Ottoman Empire was one of the biggest empires in history, however the influence and power of the empire declined slowly until it diminished due to internal and external factors. This essay will compare and contrast the change in the Ottoman Empire between the golden age and the decline period in government and administration, military strength and economic power.

 

In the golden age of the Ottoman Empire, the empire controlled various parts of Europe combined with Asia with a strong government and administration. The empire was very powerful in its control and government. The ottoman gold age was during the life of the sultan Suleiman the magnificent. He encouraged expansion of the empire and seized control and instituted taxes in the trade routes between Europe and Asia, He made use of the resources of the empire making it very independent, the golden age also saw a rise in the empire in knowledge, technology and pushed the agenda for innovation the golden age also encouraged scientific researchers, engineers and specialized craftsmen to migrate into the ottoman empire living under the safe haven of the empire that welcomed people from different races and religions and encouraged them to live freely under the rule of one man they voted for from their religion as a spokesperson to the government and the sultan Christians and muslims together were selected for government posts, and administrative positions according to their merit. However in the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the empire was deemed very weak as it became very dependent to outside forces, and the decline of knowledge and power encouraged people to flee to other countries and the government became very weak as people started to be very unconnected from the government and their loyalty would be to their own chosen leader rather than the ottoman empire sultan. The decline of the empire also made other countries enforce power and exempt its citizens to ottoman law, which were called capitulations. The capitulations that somehow symbolized the decline of the power and made it very obvious that the empire was not able to control its law.

 

The military force of the Ottoman Empire during the gold age was one of the strongest militaries in the world. The military was feared and deemed very powerful by other countries due to the fact that have invaded very strong and powerful countries. The sultan encouraged military expansion during the golden age paying them very high salaries, in return for their loyalty. Muslims and non-Muslims were encouraged to join the army according to their merit. The sultan also formed some sort of special army made from very strong men that were trained and paid heavily and deprived from marriage and cold them janissaries. The decline in the ottoman empire saw few numbers of janissaries and corrupted army forces, the decline of the empire as a whole caused the military to focus on other things rather than training which made it very weak, the decline of weapon innovation and technology made the military power fall behind and become one of the weakest forces in the world.

 

The economic power of the Ottoman Empire reached its peak during the golden age. Where the power of the country was very noticeable that the country was almost independent to its resources like for example food and other necessities. Istanbul and other big cities were made very important due to trade, and the trade mostly involved luxury goods, and traders from different areas came together to trade in goods from all over the world. On the other hand, in the decline of the Ottoman Empire the west started making agreements with other countries which made them very weak and made them not the middle men in trade between east and west anymore, this however resulted in a very weak economy and dependency to the west, as products in the ottoman empire was bought from the west and national products were not being sold anymore. The country’s economical status diminished causing it to fail due to increased external trade and influence.

 

 

In my opinion, the worst decline in the ottoman empire would be the governmental control, as reformers tried to change the government but their tries were deemed to fail due to the fact that the government did not support change and innovation anymore, and focused on many sociology and art rather than the government, and economics and military power. The government was weakened to a point it did not even control its own territory that encouraged revolts and some countries wanting to separate from the Ottoman Empire. The agreements between the ottoman government and western countries however made the ottomans succumb to western rule causing it to be a weaker country that the government could not even enforce rules on most of its people and maybe caused most of the conservatives that were against the reform of the country to disregard the government.

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At its height, the Ottoman empire (ca. 1299–1922) spread from Anatolia and the Caucasus across North Africa and into Syria, Arabia, and Iraq. Its size rivaled that of the great Abbasid empire (750–1258), and it united many disparate parts of the Islamic world.

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ottoman conquests allowed them control of many ports and sole access to the Black Sea, from which even Russian vessels were excluded, and trade among the provinces increased greatly. As the largest city in western Asia or Europe, Istanbul was the natural center of this commerce. Cairo became the main entrepôt for Yemeni coffee and Indian fabric and spices, and was itself a producer of rugs. Businessmen in Aleppo and Bursa sold silk to Ottoman, Venetian, French, and English merchants, and North African woven furnishings were popular throughout the region. Damascus was an important stop along the pilgrimage route to Mecca and Medina, supplying caravans on their way to those cities and goods to their residents.

The armature of the empire was instrumental in spreading the central Ottoman aesthetic to many new regions. On the level of imperial patronage, artistic production and design were carefully controlled by various official institutions. The Imperial Corps of Court Architects, founded in the 1520s, was responsible for preparing designs, procuring materials, and maintaining construction books for all buildings sponsored by the Ottoman family and their high officials. The nakkaşhane, or royal scriptorium, designed the patterns for carpets, tiles, metalwork, and textiles produced in imperial-funded workshops. Governors posted from Istanbul were also important in maintaining a certain level of stylistic homogeneity, as attested by architecture in the neighborhood around the Cairene port of Bulaq, developed under Ottoman patronage, and paintings from late sixteenth-century Baghdad, then under the governorship of Mehmed III’s chief artist Hasan.

The Ottoman presence was in many ways limited to the major urban centers, however, and local culture was sustained among the different ethnic communities of the empire, such as the Christians of the Balkans and Armenia and the powerful Jewish and Greek merchants of Istanbul. In the provincial cities, coffeehouses and the homes of aristocratic families became the new centers of cultural exchange, replacing official institutions of learning and religion.

Local traditions in the arts continued to emerge even in official projects. Although the essential ground plan of the spacious, domed Ottoman mosque transferred from Istanbul, local interpretations of the plans sent from the capital affected the appearance of the facade or the proportions of the architectural elements. Eastern Mediterranean striped masonry appears at the Süleymaniye Mosque Complex in Damascus (1554–55) and barrel vaults, rather than semi-domes, surround the main dome of the Mosque of the Fisherman in Algiers (1660–61).

Eventually, the strain of administering such vast domains proved the downfall of the Ottomans. Although the sultans continued to rule in Turkey until 1922, battles to maintain borders against the Habsburgs in the West and the Safavids in the East eventually cost the Ottomans their European and Arabian provinces. In the nineteenth century, French forces occupied the Maghrib, and Greece won its independence in 1830. Treaties at the end of World War I officially dismantled the remnants of the empire.

Marika Sardar
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

October 2003

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