After the year 1000, tribes of Turks were moving through Transoxiana and into Persia, helping to fragment the Islamic empire. The Turks conquered much of Persia and then much of Mesopotamia, including Baghdad in 1055, and from the declining Fatimids the Turks took control of Syria and Palestine.
The Turks were a people who spoke an Uralo-Altaic language and were descended from herders who roamed the plains of Central Asia – horsemen organized by clans and tribes. Coming into contact with Islam they took possession of the story of Muhammad the Prophet, not unlike German tribes adopted the Christianity of the Romans.
Advancing Mongols pushed Turkish tribes out of Central Asia and the Middle East into a confrontation with the Christian Byzantine Empire centered at Constantinople.
The frontier Turks waged war against the Byzantines. They pushed through Asia Minor, and in the year 1302 an Oghuz Turk named Osman (Uthman), led his men in a victory over a Byzantine army in northwest Asia Minor. This won him a following among other Turkish warrior leaders who flocked to his banner.
A brotherhood had been formed based on loyalty and action rather than ethnicity, and after Osman died at the age of 66 in 324, and brotherhood of warriors put themselves in the service of Osman's son and successor, Orkhan. A dynasy was being created called the Osmanli or Ottomans.
In 1326, Orkhan conquered the city of Bursa, about fifty miles south of Constantinople. Orkhan sent his warriors further to the northwest, in Thrace, to engage in a traditional activity that enhanced a power's economic well being – plunder. And he sent warriors along the coast of the Black Sea for the same reason. He allied himself with one of the Christian contenders for the throne in Constantinople, John Cantacuzemus, and married his daughter, Theodora.
In 1338 Orkhan expanded to the narrow waterway – the Bosporus – that separated Asia Minor and Constantinople. In 1345 he annexed the Karasi area in the far west of Asia Minor. And in 1354 the Ottomans established themselves at Gelibolu (Gallipoli), on the European side of the waterway called the Dardanelles.
Gelibolu became a base for further expansion in Europe. Joining the Ottomans there were Turkish migrants from Asia Minor. These were landless peasants and nomads seeking a new life, and the Ottomans continued to view their society as one of immigrants. The Ottomans were becoming rulers of a society with a culture of its own.
The conquest of Gelibolu by the Turks alarmed people in Western Europe, but conflict within Europe, including the war between Venice and Genoa, delayed intervention. Then in 1362, Orkhan's son and successor, Murad I (whose mother was a Greek princess) expanded in Thrace and took possession of the city of Edirne (Adrianople) 110 miles west of Constantinople – the first European city to fall to the Turks.
Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.