Ottoman Empire was founded in 1299 by Osman Ghazi (aka Othman) and consistently grew from 1299 to 1683. The first 10 rulers of the Ottoman Empire is considered as the most successful kings. In this article, you can discover facts about Ottoman history accompanied by map of the Ottoman Empire.
Ottomans Kings carried these titles: Sultan (Arabic: King, Ruler), Padishah (Persian: Shah Of the World), Khan (Turkish: Referring to ancestors from Central Asia)
Additionally the first two rulers, Osman I and Orhan were called as Ghazi (The warrior) since the Ottomans were no more than a warlike principality then. Murad I (1362-1389) considered as the first Sultan, since he built the foundations of Ottoman army, society, laws of the Ottoman State.
The Ottoman Sultans also carried the title of Caliph (Halifa) from the time of Selim I (1512-1520). Caliph is an Islamic title. Meaning the spiritual leader of Islamic World. This religious title was used by the Ottoman Sultans after the conquest of Mecca and Medina.
Ottoman Empire Map Over Time with Facts
The Ottomans were one of the principalities that emerged after the collapse of the Sultanate of Rum. You can find the facts about the history of the Ottoman Empire, which turned into an empire over time, in this article. I tried to describe the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire on maps and various images as much as possible.
1. Foundation of the Ottoman Empire
The foundation of the Ottoman Empire took place thanks to Ertugrul Gazi, who is also the subject of TV series today. The Ottomans, who settled in the Sogut and Domanic plateaus of northwest Anatolia, were located in a very strategic area.
There were two dominant states in Anatolia at that time. One was the Byzantine Empire in the West, the other was the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in the east, heir of the Seljuk Empire.
Seljuk Sultanate of Rum could not resist the Mongol raids from the West and was destroyed. Many big and small principalities emerged in Anatolia. One of them, the Ottomans, a medium-sized principality, attracted attention with its neighboring to the Byzantium.
Since the foundation of the Ottoman Empire, its goal had always been to spread westward. Neighboring cities such as Iznik (Nicaea) and Bursa (Prussa) would be the first targets of the Ottomans.
2. Founding Sultans of the Empire
Osman Ghazi inherited a warrior tribe from his father, Ertugrul Ghazi. Osman (aka Othman), who established an army and captured strategic places, turned the Ottomans into a rising power in his region.
Osman’s son Orhan became the first ruler to make ground breaking conquests for the Ottoman Empire. Taking over two important cities such as Iznik and Bursa, Orhan declared Bursa as the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.
The foundation of the Ottomans is considered as 1299, the reign of Osman. However, among the founding sultans, Murad I, the third sultan, made the Ottoman Empire a real state.
Murad I, who established the first artillery unit in the Ottoman Empire and organized the janissary army, advanced towards the interior of Europe. Murad I, a skilled commander, died on the battlefield.
3. Ottoman Empire Map Over Time
The map of the Ottoman Empire you see above shows the spread of the empire over time. These conquests took place in the 400 years between 1299 and 1699, during the rise of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire, which reached its peak in the years following the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, went through a centuries-long decline from the 1700s.
The successful period you can see on the map of the Ottoman Empire took place during the first 10 sultans. These sultans are Osman Ghazi, Orhan Ghazi, Murad I, Bayezid I (the Thunderbolt), Mehmed I, Murad II, Mehmed II (the Conqueror), Bayezid II, Selim I (the Resolute), Suleiman I (the Magnificent), respectively.
4. Ottoman Elite Infantry: Janissaries
During the rise of the Ottoman Empire, its driving force was elite infantry units. These units, called Janissaries, consisted of Christian children who were collected from villages in the Balkans.
These children, who were brought to Istanbul and received military training, were growing up as full soldiers. The promising ones were specially selected and sent to the school in Topkapi Palace.
The imperial school, called Enderun, was located in the 3rd courtyard of the Topkapi Palace. These children, who grew up with the sons of the Sultan, became the senior bureaucrats of the future.
Selim I’s son Suleiman grew up with Ibrahim in Enderun. While Suleiman was building a career to be called “the Magnificent”, the secret power behind it was Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha. The friendship of the two began at the Enderun School as a child.
5. Conquest of Constantinople
The Ottomans turned into an empire after the conquest of Constantinople. Istanbul, the most important city of Late Antiquity and Middle Ages, was the crossroads of trade routes. Captured during the reign of Mehmed II (the Conqueror), Istanbul became the third and last capital of the Ottoman Empire after Bursa and Edirne.
On the map above, you can see the borders of the Ottoman Empire just before the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The ancient Byzantine Empire was in the process of collapse and nothing was left except the Historical Peninsula.
This area, which is Istanbul Old City today, cannot be seen clearly on the map. However, Istanbul’s most important historical monuments such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Suleymaniye Mosque are located there.
6. Capture of the Holy Cities
The Ottomans, who rose after the capture of Constantinople, spread to the entire Middle East during the reign of Selim I (1512-1520). Selim I doubled the Ottoman lands, even though he was the sultan for only 8 years. Holy cities such as Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem were captured in his time.
Selim I (the Resolute), who filled the Ottoman Empire’s treasure with gold and conquered fertile lands such as Mesopotamia and Egypt, left a great legacy to his son.
Suleiman ascended the throne peacefully as one of the rare Ottoman sultans without a brother. He inherited an empire at the center of the Spice Route from India and the Silk Road from China.
7. Reign of Suleiman the Magnificent
The reign of Suleiman the Magnificent is considered the height of the Ottoman Empire. Suleiman, who ruled between 1520 and 1566, truly lived in a “Magnificent” period.
During this period, the Ottomans had an architect like Mimar Sinan and admirals such as Piri Reis, Oruc Reis and Hayreddin Barbarossa. While Ottoman Istanbul was equipped with monumental structures, dominance was achieved in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The period of Sultan Suleiman was an epic period in world history that was the subject of movies. During this period, powerful characters ruled the world’s greatest empires. For example, first Henry VIII and later Elisabeth I in England, Francis I in France, and Charles V in the Holy Roman Empire were contemporaries of Sultan Suleyman.
8. Ottoman Empire Map at Its Height
The momentum created by the Sultan Suleiman period continued after him. Although those who came after him remained in the shadow of Suleiman, the empire continued to live on the solid foundations established by the first 10 sultans.
The map of the Ottoman Empire shows us the 17th century when the empire was at its height. During this period, the Ottoman Empire spread over three continents and reached its largest borders.
During the reigns of Selim II and Murad III, the successors of Sultan Suleiman, powerful Grand Viziers such as Sokullu Mehmed Pasha masterfully ruled the empire. Mehmed Pasha took office in Suleiman’s last years and ruled the state with Suleiman’s mentality for two generations.
The seven sultans who ruled between Sultan Suleiman and Murad IV were not active warriors. However, during this period, architectural masterpieces such as the Blue Mosque were built in Istanbul.
9. Rise of the Valide Sultans
Sultan Suleiman’s wife Hurrem Sultan was the most influential woman in Ottoman history. The position of Valide Sultan, the title of the mothers of the sultans, gained great power after Suleiman.
Women such as Nurbanu Sultan, Safiye Sultan, Kosem Sultan and Turhan Sultan, who lived in this period, had an influence on their sons. This period, when women had an influence in the palace administration, is referred to as Sultanate of Women in some sources.
In this period when the sultans were less interested in the state administration, the Valide Sultans and the able Grand Viziers took the initiative. Thus, the success in Suleiman’s time continued.
The sultans regained full control during the reign of Murad IV, whose name I have mentioned above. During the reign of Murad IV, a warrior sultan, Baghdad and Yerevan were conquered, and two pavilions named after these cities were built in Topkapi Palace to celebrate these achievements.
10. Reforms in the Empire
Developments such as the Renaissance and Reformation in Europe did not resonate with the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, during the 1600s and 1700s, the Ottoman Empire started to fall behind in many fields.
Seeing the decline of the empire, some sultans wanted to reform. However, the reforms in the empire did not get enough response from the bureaucracy or the public. Sultans who wanted to reform such as Osman II, Ahmed III and Selim III died or were dethroned in the revolts.
The Janissary army, which was very successful in the past, turned into a big problem in the empire. The Janissaries, who delayed military reforms for more than a century, were finally eliminated by Mahmud II.
Mahmud II, who established an army in modern order, also made serious reforms in social life. His successors followed in his footsteps throughout the 1800s. However, the empire did not have its old economic power.
11. Decline of the Ottoman Empire Map
You can see the decline of the Ottoman Empire on the map above. Endless wars with Russia and Austria led to the economic collapse of the empire. At the same time, the colonialism of England and France caused land losses in the Ottoman Empire.
The lands shown in orange on the map were lost during the 1800s. Among them, the loss of the Balkans and Egypt caused great damage to the empire. Especially the loss of Egypt caused the Ottomans to lose their dominance over the trade routes.
12. Fall of the Ottoman Empire
The First World War caused the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire, which entered the war alongside Germany and Austria, was dragged into a disaster.
Ottoman army was decisively defeated in major battles except for the Battle of Gallipoli. The allies pushed hard to pass through the Dardanelles to seize the capital, Istanbul, but they failed.
The Ottoman resistance was unexpectedly tough in Canakkale (aka Dardanelles). The defence operations were lead by a young General, Mustafa Kemal, the future founder of Turkish Republic.
13. Foundation of Modern Turkey
Modern Turkey was founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But of course this was the result of a long and difficult process.
The Ottoman Empire, whose army was disbanded in 1918 and its capital was occupied, was desperate. The successful generals of the first world war gathered around Mustafa Kemal.
Mustafa Kemal gathered a liberation army in Anatolia. At the end of a struggle that lasted for nearly 4 years, the allied forces that occupied Anatolia were defeated.
The National Assembly, which was established during the war in 1920, became the sole authority after the war. The Sultanate was abolished and the Republic was declared.
14. The Capital of Turkey
Istanbul had been the capital of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires throughout its history. However, in the period after the first world war, the war of independence was directed from Ankara.
When the Grand National Assembly of Turkey founded in Ankara, Istanbul was under occupation by Allied forces. For this reason, it was decided that the capital of Turkey would be Ankara.
Istanbul is no longer the capital, but still is the most important city in Turkey. With a history of 2700 years, Istanbul is one of the most visited cities in the world.
Written by Serhat Engul
Excellent work! Love the maps!
Peace be upon u.
Serhat Engül says
Hi Reme, thank you for the review.
Joe Patterson says
I love these maps. I hope to travel to each of these cities some day. My grandparents have been to every single one of these cities. I have loved Geography for as long as I can remember.
Serhat Engül says
Hello Joe, thank you for your comment. I hope you will have the chance to visit these beautiful places again as an adult. So you can enjoy it better.
Wolfgang Strack says
Thanks for this article, very informative. One question: you are referring to Anatolia as the heart of the Ottoman Empire. But hasn’t it been Istanbul? I recently came across this book, which argues, that you could regard the Ottoman empire also a European Empire, since at its beginnings the economic heart was in the balkans.
Serhat Engül says
According to the books I read and the education I have received so far on Ottoman history, the heart of the empire was Anatolia.
The Ottomans were one of the states established after the disintegration of the previous Turkish state in Anatolia, the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.
The Ottoman policy of expansion towards the West was ideological rather than economic. The Ottomans did not rule the Balkans directly. After conquering those lands, they left the administration to Christian rulers who were loyal to them.
The important thing for the Ottomans was that those lands were subject to them politically and they paid taxes. Orthodox Christian rulers were appointed to regions on the western outskirts of the empire such as Hungary and Romania.
For both Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire, Anatolia, Mesopotamia and Egypt were economically more important than Europe. The provisions of both states came from these lands. These were also the crossroads of the Silk Road from China and the Spice Road from India.
The Ottomans inherited Anatolia from the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum and bequeathed to the Republic of Turkey. When the empire collapsed, indispensable lands were the borders surrounding Anatolia. For this reason, these lands were defended to death (by the former Ottoman generals) in the War of Independence after WWI.
PS: I see Istanbul as a small model of Anatolia. Istanbul represents Anatolia, which acts as a bridge between East and West. In fact, when I say that Anatolia was the heart of the Ottoman Empire, I do not exclude Istanbul from this. Having the Bosphorus does not mean anything unless you control the passages through the Dardanelles. And these straits should be controlled from both the Anatolian (or Asian) and European sides.
On the modern map of Turkey, there is a sign called Kurdistan near the Hakkari region. Is this a mistake or did you know what you were doing?
Serhat Engül says
It is very difficult to find an accurate scaled map of Turkiye in English. Since I am not a graphic designer, I need to use the quality maps I can find. This image was designed by a mapmaker named Rand McNally.
If the map was violating the borders of the Republic of Turkiye, I would not use the map. However, I think the person who prepared the map wanted to highlight the region where Kurds live in Turkiye, Iran and Iraq.
This did not seem strange to me, because the Kurds have really lived there for a long time. For this reason, I did not see any harm in using the map.
P.S. Actually this issue bothered me as well and I licensed another map from a stock illustration site. Thank you.