Decline of the Empire and Rival 1566 - 1780s




Kafes 'The Cage' was a part of the Palace of ( Apartments of the Crown Prince ) Topkapi  and later other palaces where possible successors to the throne were kept in isolation until they would become sultan. Before the Cage it was common for sultans to execute other possible heirs to the throne to prevent civil war. Cofinement to the Cage led some to develop mental disorders. The Cage was started during the reign of Ahmed I.The last Ottoman sultan, Mehmet VI Vahidettin was 56 when he came to the throne and had been either in the harem or the Cage .



For Roxelana's time onwards the harem or seraglio  was moved onto the grounds of the Topkapi palace itself, and intrigues from the harem begam to directly involve the government .The Ottoman Empire was not able to match the industrial and military progress of the European States and reforms were never effective enough. There was no private land in the Ottoman empire, all belonged to the Sultan. This seriously stunted the Ottomans ability to keep up with the Europeans in terms of building up capital . Like the ancient Persians before them, the capital was horded and not invested .Before industrialization, this was a source of strength, but after industrialization, Ottoman industries could never achive the economies of scale produced in Europe.The high water mark of European advancement was in 1683 at the battle of Viennia. The Sultan no longer led armies in the field and the Ottomans stuck to their traditional form of warfare while the Europeans made great advances in handheld firearms, artillery on land and ships .The easy defeat of the Malmuks against Napoleon Battle of the Pyramids in 1798 seriously alarmed the Ottomans who began reforms of the military. However, unlike Meiji Japan they were not able to reform quickly enough.


The Ottoman stranglehold on trade with the East caused Europeans to seek other routes to Asia, launching the Age of Discovery. The silver which poured in from the New World caused inflation and other economic troubles for the empire, which was based on a silver standard..  The empire was weakened by Sultans purging possible claimants to the throne isolating possible heirsin the Kafes (The Cage) to the throne making them mentally unstable. The power of the vizers and ladies of the harem grew after Suliman the Magnificent, as did the sale of officies and increased taxation. By the 19th century, the 'Sick man of Europe' as it was called by a Russian noble was being propped up by England and France as a bulwark against Russia, its European domains breaking free under nationalist movements and North African domains being taken over by England, France and Italy. The Ottoman Empire threw in its lot with the Central Powers in WWI and lost what empire remained. The Ottoman Empire survived for a little over 600 years despite constant warfare with Europeans and Persians and at its height held lands on three continents .


An Ottoman harem. Favorites for the harem were

Circassian beauties from the Caucasus


At the start of the 17th century, the custom of executing any possible other heir by a new sultan was was abandoned with placing in other heirs in the 'Cage' or Kafes, where they were keep in a form of house-arrest , making many sultans from here sultans came to the throne ill-prepared to be rulers, and even suffering mental problems . Fewer and fewer sultans campaigned to gain new territory, and the grand vizers gained more power.  Nepotism and corruption began to thrive , and the mertocracy of the early empire was replaced with the hereditary aristocracy .Other factors were outside the Ottomans control, such as the influx of gold and silver from the Spanish colonies in the New World which caused inflation, and the growth of trade from Asia to Europe through new routes .Europe began the Renaissance and industrialization, while the Ottoman empire stagnated. The armies new European states trained standing armies with new weapons, while the Ottomans, once on the forefront fell seriously behind, as can be seen at the devastating Battle of the Pyramids in 1798 (even though the French defeated a  Mamluk army, janissaries would not have been much different).


Iznik tile panel from the Topkapu palace, mid 1550s


In the 15th century, the center of tile production moved to Iznik(Nicaea) where the Byzantines produced ceramics as well. there was a huge demand for tiles to decorate palaces, mosques and other buildings


Selim II ( 1566-1574)



After Suliman's death, the beginning of decay set in . Selim II ( 1566-1574) , also known as known as "Selim the Sot" was an extremly weak ruler. An allied Christian fleet of the forces of the Pope, Spain and Venice, defeated the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto on Oct 7, 1571, marking the first major defeat of the Turks. The disunity of the Christians, temporarily saved the empire .There was growing influence of grand vizers and ministers under harem influence .The sale of offices and heavy taxation led to political and economic instability. The power of the Janizaries increased.


The defeat at Battle of Lepanto shattered the myth of Ottoman invincibility



 Battle of Lepanto


Selim the Sot or Selim the Drunkard


• son of Suleiman the Magnificent and Roxelana

• abandoned power to grand vizers,esp Sokollu Pasha, a Slav,to pursue his orgies and drinking

 • 1568  treaty with Habsburgs to maintain status quo

• plans to combat growing Russian power by cutting a canal from the linking the Sea of Azoz and the Caspian Sea, so the Turkish fleet could enter the Caspian-forced to give up plan due

• 1570 treaty between Russia and Ottomans-Ott control Khanate of Crimea,Russians Astrakhan

• Cyrus taken 1571 in part for its wine, instead of aiding Moors in Spain

1571 battle of Lepanto major naval defeat for Ottomans in the Med

• Ottoman naval rebuilt at great cost

• 1572  Tunis retaken by Spain

• 1573 Tunis retaken by Ottomans

• Selim dies after slipping while drunk


  Murad III  ( 1574-1595)


The rule of Murad III ( 1574-1595.) He was also a renowned womanizer, obtaining more than 1,200 of the most beautiful girls available at slave markets for his enjoyment; among the largest and most prestigious harems in the world. He enjoyed watching the girls frolic naked as they bathed, sometimes inventing games for them to play. As his empire was deteriorating, he could usually be found comfortably ensconced in the harem. This lifestyle led him to sire 103 children. Mohammed III (1595-1603)his reign remains notorious even in Ottoman history for having twenty seven of his brothers and half brothers murdered to secure power .


• son of Selim II

• 5 younger brothers strangled at start of reign, increased influence of harem,

• 1579 Grand Vizer Sokollu assassinated, no able administrator to replace him

 • fathered over 100 children

• sale of offices, heavy taxation led to political and economic instability.

• power of the Janizaries increases

• 1587 Perians attacked in Georgia,Shirvan and Tabriz ceeded to Ottomans.


Battle of Lepanto


 Blue Mosque  ( Sultanahmet Camii ) was built under Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet Aga .It is the only mosque to have six minarets. There are over 20,000 tiles on the walls interior.


Interior of the Blue Mosque


During the rule of Ahmed I(1603-1617) the Fifteen Years' War between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg  Monarchy ended on with the Treaty of Zsitvatorok, signed in 1606, which ended the annual tribute paid by Austria . Georgia and Azerbaijan were ceded to Persia. He was was devoutly religious, spending much of his wealth to support the works of scholars and pious men. He also attempted to enforce conformance to Islamic laws and traditions.The Blue Mosque was built during his reign .


prayer rug of Ahmed I


 Mustafa I ( 1617-1618, 1622-23), who had been kept in the Kafe or cage for 14 years was mentally ill, who was deposed and sent into confinement again . Osman II ( 1618-1622) ascended the throne after Mustafa was deposed . He tried to train a new army, as the abuses of the Janissaries was becoming a burden to the state, but was killed in a Janissaries uprising. He was replaced by Mustafa I again, before Murad I deposed him .




Mehmed III



• son of Murad III

• large number of brothers and sisters killed at start of reign,slaves impregnated by father sew up in sacks and thrown in the Bosporus. executed own son

• 1596-1605 war in Hungary with Habsburgs, despite victory at Mezo-Keresztes,Eastern Europe held

• Jelali revolts in Anatolia due to heavy taxation, and no pay, disgruntled sekhans (infantry) and sipahis (cavalry) and peasants

• last royal heir to serve as governor, future heirs isolated in the Seraglio in a building known as the Kafes, the Cage



Ahmed I


• son of Mehmed III

• 1606 Treaty of Zsitvatorok, tribute paid by Hapsburgs abolished

• 1609 construcrion of Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque started

• dies of typhus at 27


Mustafa I

(1617 - 1618 1622-3)


• brother of Ahmed I, not executed due to possible mentally retardation, his mother, Sultana Valide, ruled through him

• keep in the Cage for 14 years before becoming Sultan, claimed to have 'visions.'

• deposed in 1618 for Osman II (1618-22, son of Ahmed ) who was assassinated by Janissaries who feared his plan raise a new ethnic Turkish army to counter their growning power. Mustafsa was returned to the throne again, returned to the Cage again when Murad IV came to power.

• regional governor rises in revolt, Murad  placed on throne



Murad IV   ( 1623-1640)


Murad IV ( 1623-1640) showed a sign of strength when he defeated the Persians, but he died young at 28. Murad IV tried to quell the corruption that had grown during the reigns of previous Sultans, and that had not been checked while his mother was ruling through proxy. He addressed this corruption with several policy changes, such as limiting wasteful spending.Murad IV also banned alcohol, tobacco, and coffee in Istanbul. He ordered execution for breaking this ban. He would patrol the streets and taverns of Istanbul in civilian clothes at night, policing the enforcement of his command. If, while patrolling the streets, he saw a subject using tobacco or alcohol, he would kill the person on the spot with his mace.Militarily, Murad IV's reign is most notable for a war against Persia in which Ottoman forces conquered Azerbaijan, occupied Tabriz, Hamadan, and, in the last great feat of Imperial Ottoman arms, captured Baghdad in 1638. Murad IV himself commanded the invasion of Mesopotamia and proved to be an outstanding field commander. He was the last Ottoman Sultan to command an army on the battlefield. Murad IV, who had outlawed alcohol, died at the age of 27 from cirrhosis of the liver in 1640. On his deathbed he ordered the execution of his brother, Ibrahim (1640–48), which would have meant the end of the Ottoman line, but the order was not carried out. Murad possibly gave this order because he thought that Ibrahim, who was mentally ill, was not capable of being a good emperor.


• son of Ahmed I, begins reign at 14

• his mother, ruled till he came of age, growing corruption, Persian advances,revolt in Anatolia till he came of age at 24

• 1631 Janissaries storm palace and kill grand vizer Murad began to fear he would share the fate of Osman II, restored the authority of the state through brutal methods, with 20,000 executed in 5 years

• 1638 Baghdad taken, last sultan to command an army in the field - kills huge Persian in single combat at siege of Baghdad as both armies watch

• dies in 1640 at age of 28, orders execution of one surving brother, Ibrahim, who was mentally ill, order not carried out


Ibrahim   ( 1640-1648)


The empire continued to decay under Ibrahim ( 1640-1648) , he was unofficially called Ibrahim the Mad.He was released from the Kafes( Kafes, literally "the cage", was the part of the Imperial Harem of the Ottoman Palace where possible successors to the throne were kept under a form of house-arrest and constant surveillance by the palace guard)


The 17th century, meanwhile, brought great changes to Europe. As the 16th century progressed, Ottoman naval superiority was challenged by the growing sea powers of western Europe, particularly Portugal, in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and the Spice Islands. With the Ottomans blockading sea-lanes to the East and South, the European powers were driven to find another way to the ancient silk and spice routes, now under Ottoman control.


Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa


The Kiuprili grand viziers attempted to reform the decaying Ottoman state. Mohammed Kiuprili (1656-1661) appointed vizier Mohammed IV (1648-1687) to end corruption through the use of terror, and an estimated 50,000 died as a result .when this failed to work, war was used to try to revive past glory .The emperor declared war on Austria, only to be defeated at St.Gotthard in 1664.His son, Ahmed (1661-1676) was able to capture Crete and obtain Podolia . Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa (1676-1683) renewed war with Austria and advanced to Vienna in 1683, but was defeated there by the Polish and allied force under Jan Sobieski.The vizier was executed. This marked a turning point and in 1684 Austria, Poland, and Venice formed an alliance against the turks . From this time on the Ottoman empire was to suffer from territorial recession .By the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, the Turks lost Hungry and Transylvania to the Hapsburgs, Podolia to Poland and Morea to Venice .Under Peter the Great, Russia expanded at Ottoman expense in the Black Sea, and throughout the 18th century Austria and Russia expanded against the Turks .In 1711, the Turks regained Azoz from Russia. From 1735 to 1739 the Turks defeated Austro-Russian armies and won back parts of Serbia and Wallachia .The loss of the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774 was a terrible blow to the Ottomans. The Russians gained freedom on the Black Seaand the use of the straits, a protectorate over Wallachia and Moldavia and a promise to protect Christians in the Ottoman Empire, which would leave the Ottomans open whenever the Russians thought it advantageous to start a war again .



 Siege of Vienna 1683 (Documentary)

Mehmed IV


• son of IbrahimI

• most power signed over to grand vizer Mehmed Köprülü.

• 1657 rebellion by sipahai troops put down

• 1657 naval victory against Venice in the battle of the Dardanelles,Venetian blockade of Straights ended

• 1660 huge fire in Instanbul

• 1683 Battle of Vienna after 2 year siege, end of Ottoman advance in Europe

• deposed in 1687


Suleiman II


• younger brother of Mehmed IV

• spent most of his life in the Kafes (Cage)

empire administer by Grand Vizer Ahmed Faizil Köprülü


Ahmed II


• son of Ibrahim I

• Mustafa Köprülü grand vizer

• 1691 Ottoman loss at Battle of Slankamen drives them from Hungary

deposed and replaced by brother Ahmed


Mustafa II


•  son of Mehmed IV

• tried to regain sultan's powers, attempt fails and abdicated



Ahmed III


Tulip Era trends toward westernization and reform

• refuge given to Charles XII of Sweden during Sweden's war with Russia, war declared on Russia, Azov returned to Ottomans

• 1718 Treaty of Passarowitz, part of • Balkans lost to Habsburgs

• 1727 printing presses allowed, printing continues till 1745, resumed 1787

• growth in European trade, economic growth

• became unpopular due and forced to abdicat



 The Tulip Era in the Ottoman Empire .

Baroque influence can be seen in the Fountain of

Ahmed III, built by Sultan Ahmed III in 1728

Mahmud I 'the Huntchback'


• son of Mustafa II

• raised in the Kafe (cage)

1739 Treaty of Belgrade concludes 2 year Austro-Turkish War-Habsburgs ceded Northern Serbia with Belgrade to the Ottomans

1739 Treaty of Nissa ends Russo-Turkish War Russia gives up claims to Crimea and Moldavia, but allowed to build a port at Azov but not to build fortifications there or have any fleet in the Black Sea


Osman III


younger brother of Mahmud I

raised in the Kafe



Mustafa III


son of Ahmed III

sought to modernize the army

Crimea annexed by Russia


Abdul Hamid I

'The Saint'


son of  Ahmed III

lived in Kafe till he was 43

1774, major defeats by Russians lead to the treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji, Tartars granted independence, Russians keep Kertch and Azov and access to Black Sea. Russian granted right to protect christian subjects in Ottoman Emp



Map of Ottoman Empire in 1739






 Zenith of Empire  

1453 - 1566


 Reforms of the Empire

1789- 1922