By Sean Krummerich
Loyola University Student Historical Journal, Vol. 30 (1998-1999)
Introduction: Throughout history a number of states and individuals have aspired to the goal of establishing their rule over the entire world, and many of these have managed to establish large empires encompassing vast stretches of land and a spectrum of diverse peoples. Some of the best known of these multinational empires were the Roman, Habsburg and Russian empires.
No less impressive than these is that multinational empire which figured prominently in the history of Europe and the Middle East, the empire established by the Ottoman Turks. The Ottoman state was founded in the early 1300s as one of many small Turkish states in Anatolia by the hand of Osman, from whom the names “House of Osman” (the designation of the ruling family) and “Ottoman” are derived. The state steadily grew under Osman’s successors, and, by the time of the battle of Kosovo in 1389 the Ottomans held extensive areas of land in Anatolia and Eastern Europe. And while state suffered a temporary setback in 1402 when the Turks were defeated by the forces of Tamerlane, it was able to recover.
It was under the reign of Mehmed II (1444-81) that the Ottomans realized their longtime goal of conquering the city of Constantinople (1453), which became the new Ottoman capital of Istanbul. The reign of Selim I saw relatively little advance in Eastern Europe but saw the conquest of the Arab Mamluk state of Egypt in 1517, bringing most of the Arab world under Ottoman control. Suleiman I (1520-1566, known as “the Magnificent”) expanded the empire in Eastern Europe by taking most of Hungary, preventing the Habsburgs from gaining control of the area. It is this “golden age” of Ottoman expansion (from the time of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the death of Suleiman in 1566) with which this study will be concerned. At its height, the empire of the Ottoman Turks ruled over a Balkan population that included Turks, Greeks, Serbs, Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians, and Magyars.