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The Ottoman Empire in the World’s History


Before the current state boundaries, most of the legislative regions were kingdoms and empires. Unlike the current boundaries that are limited in terms of their geographical extension, the empires and kingdoms stretched far and wide. One of the empires that have had an impact in history is the Ottoman Empire. It was one of the largest empires to ever exist. However, this empire was located within the most attractive regions that would have triggered the interest of imperialist Europe. Studies point out that it was situated at the center of the most important routes of trade. In addition, the Ottoman Empire occupied places that were deemed holy sites for Christian worship. These, coupled up with the fact that the Ottoman land was rich in agriculture and other natural resources could have justified imperialist invasion. Contrarily, the Empire remained intact for several centuries. Some studies also point out that the designs of the empire were Western. What could have helped the empire to remain for this long despite the various interests that the imperialists would have had from it? This paper seeks to identify the Western manifestation in the Ottoman Empire and how it managed to stay intact for the several centuries.

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History of the Empire

The Ottoman Empire has its origin in the Turkish Anatolia which broke up into several independent states (Ghazi Emirates) soon after the death of Seljuk Sultanate. One of these several states was the Ottoman which was under the rule of Oman I. during his reign; the Ottoman Empire extended its borders towards the Byzantine Empire. It was also during this period that the Ottoman developed its political string which was later developed and changed in several following years. The empire witnessed the zenith of its power during the 16th and 17th Centuries. At this period, the Empire had spread to three continents. It spread from Western Asia, spread to parts of Southeastern Europe and covered parts of North Africa. Within its boundaries, the Empire had 29 Provinces and several vassal states of which several were absorbed by the empire. For six Centuries, the empire remained the point of convergence between the West and the East.

Two questions seem to come out clear. What were the mechanisms that helped the empire to stay for such a long period of time? Was it its military power or were there other means through which the empire succeeded to remain established? Secondly, are there any European designs that were present in the Ottoman Empire? This part of the paper will point out the aspects of the empire that led to their long period of establishment.

Religious roots

One of the European designs in the Ottoman Empire was defined by the religious roots defining both the Ottoman and the European hegemonies (Goffman 7). Just like the European civilization which had based on religion to legitimize their regimes, the Ottoman Empire had also acquired their outlook from a nomadic setup into a religious foundation that had been borrowed from the Byzantine and the Latin territories. Therefore, Goffman argues that both the Ottoman Empire and the European empire were founded within a religious foundation. It was from this foundation that the Ottoman Empire derives one of the aspects that defined its longevity. According to Goffman (p. 7), while the Habsburg and the Byzantine empires used their religions to fight against Islam, the Ottoman Empire was a flexible and resilient empire that allowed other non-Muslim religions to continue with their worship provided that they respected the government.


Another factor that portrays European designs within Ottoman Empire and which also contributed to its longevity is Christianity. With the early Ottomans believing in what is termed as Gazi warriors, shedding blood in the name of religion was an accepted phenomenon (Goffman 8). This hence resulted into the strikes to the borderlands like the Byzantine. Consequently, non Muslim regions from Europe were incorporated within the empire. This forced the rulers of the empire to develop tolerant measures that would give freedom to other religions (Borgazici University, par. 6). Goffman further argues that tolerance was an aspect that would assure them survival. With this, the Ottoman Empire developed a Christian outlook. This means that Christianity become a Western design within the Ottoman Empire and also became an aspect of longevity guarantee for the empire.


Another aspect that promoted the longevity of the Ottoman Empire was the symbiotic relationship between it and the European communities. The Mediterranean basin formed the basis by which the two communities related trade-wise (Pamuk 45). The European communities depended on spices which were brought by the Ottoman Empire. While early Christians would have persecuted other religions, the Ottoman Empire completely welcomed them. It was from this tolerance that trade had developed between the empire and the European communities. This means that trade between Ottoman Empire and the European communities around bound the two communities together and hence helped sustain the empire.


In the Ottoman Empire, there was a mixture of cultures. Western culture identifies another European design within Ottoman. The confrontations between the Byzantine and the Ottoman and later the Catholics and the Ottoman Balkans resulted into cultural convergence (Islamfiche, par. 9). This was coupled up with porous boundaries between the Ottoman and the European communities around. With these two, the different communities assimilated each other’s culture and other techniques. The porous boundaries eventually resulted into a lack of distinction between the members of the two dominant religions in the region; Muslims and Christians.

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Political formations

The military and political formations of the Ottomans were very similar to those exhibited by the European communities. Like several other Turkoman Emirates’ semi autonomous states, the Ottoman Empire had to fight against the Byzantine Empire in order to stretch its boundaries. During these conquests, the political formations, weapons and several other doctrines of dominant empires were copied by the emerging empires (Analcik and Donald, par. 9). Being Rome’s heir, the Byzantine Empire was the largest European state that was revered. Consequently, the institutions in the Ottoman Empire were completely designed using the Byzantine format. This means that institutions within the empire were a European design because they were based on the byzantine designs which were European designs.


As a result of the tolerance policy which could help stick the various peoples within the empire, the rulers had to make some amendments to the Islamic Sharia so that it complemented with the other religions and customs (Goffman 11). Customary laws in the empire were a merge between the different cultures’ customary laws and the Sultanic laws to come up with one law that would complement the Islamic law. In addition, the tax structure of the Ottoman was a complete imitation of the Byzantine structure. Consequently, it makes sense to argue that the Ottoman Empire had European designs as portrayed by the tax structure and cultural laws adaptation.


Finally, the architectural outlook of Ottoman Empire also exhibited designs of European culture. The lore in Christendom pointed out that Constantinople was Rome’s successor. The walls that had been build several years that assumed European architecture experienced during the Roman Empire had not been wiped by attacks from other empires. Equally, the architecture of Constantinople assumed the Roman outlook which was a European design (Heywood 63).


In conclusion, it is evident that despite its Islamic and Asian origin, the Ottoman Empire had several aspects of the European world in terms of its design. To begin with, the empire had architectural designs in Constantinople that had been adopted from the Roman Empire. In addition, having developed as one of the small semi autonomous Turkoman Emirates, the Ottoman Empire had been forced to fight against several other powers in order to expand its territories. During the process of expansion, several cultural and customary aspects from the other societies that they had interacted with had been assimilated. Furthermore, the political and social institutions in Ottoman were a clear replication of the Byzantine Empire. One thing that helped the empire exist for more than six centuries was its aspect of religious tolerance. Having realized that there were different people with different religions and cultures, the rulers of the empire had resorted to assume a tolerant position which enabled the people to live together harmoniously. In addition, the fact that the empire was bound into a bilateral trade with its European community neighbors made it remain for a long time. Most of the European communities depended on the Ottoman Empire for spices during the Mediterranean trade. Therefore, it makes sense to argue that the Ottoman Empire had several European designs and that its military was not the only strength that kept it moving.

Works Cited

Borgazici University. Rescript of Reform- Islahat Fermani. 2005. Web.

Goffman, Daniel. The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. London: Cambridge University Press

Heywood, Colin. Writing Ottoman History: Documents and Interpretations. New York: Ashgate, 2002.

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Inalcik, Halil and Donald Quataert, Editors. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire 1300-1914, volumes 1 and 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997

Islamfiche. The Gulhane Decree and the Beginning of the Tanzimat Reform Era in the Ottoman Empire, 1839. Modern Middle East Sourcebook Project, 2004

Pamuk,!Sevket. The Ottoman Empire and European Capitalism, 1820-1913: Trade, Investment, and Production. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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