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OTTOMANS and EMPIRE, to 1500 (1 of 3)

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The Ottomans and Empire, to 1500

From Central Asia into Asia Minor | The Ottomans into the Balkans | Constantinople becomes Istanbul

From Central Asia into Asia Minor

After the year 1000, tribes of Turkish people were moving through Transoxiana and into Persia, helping to fragment the Islamic empire. Turks led by the Seljuk clan 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. Among the Turks in the Mid-East were members of the Oghuz tribe. According to a documented claim in Wikipedia, "Oghuz warriors served in almost all Islamic armies of the Middle East from the 1000's onwards, in Byzantium from the 800's, and even in Spain and Morocco." note39

The Seljuks lost power in Asia Minor in the last 1200s. In 1302 an Oghuz Turk named Osman (Uthman) led an army of predominantly Oghuz Turks 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 was formed based on loyalty and action rather than ethnicity. After Osman died at the age of 66 in 324, the brotherhood of warriors put themselves in the service of Osman's son and successor, Orkhan. A dynasyy 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 purpose. He allied himself with one of the Christian contenders for the throne in Constantinople, John Cantacuzemus, and he married his daughter, one of the many women there who had been named 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.


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