Zenith of Empire  1453 - 1566


Click on map to enlarge .

Bayezid II (1447-1512)  ruled 1481-1512



Mehmet was succeeded in 1481 by his son Bayezid II ' 'The Just.' During his reign saw many wars with the mighty naval power of Venice, from which he won control of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. Bayezid II also sent the Ottoman navy with 'mercy ship' under the command of Kemal Reis to Spain in 1492 in order to save the Arabs and Sephardic Jews who were fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. He granted the refugees the permission to settle in the Ottoman Empire and become Ottoman citizens. The Arabs and Jews of Spain contributed much to the rising power of the Ottoman Empire by introducing new ideas, methods and craftsmanship. The first Gutenberg press in Istanbul was established by the Sephardic Jews in 1493. However, guilds of writers denounced the invention and it was banned  by the sultan and would not be allowed in the empire for over 300 years. During this time, the Safavid dynasty in modern day Iran, helped stir up rebellion against the Ottomans .The Safavid dynasty promoted Shi'ite Islam to undermine the authority of the Sunni Ottomans.

 Bayezid II's final years saw a succession battle between his sons Selim and Ahmed.Ahmed, the older of the two claimants had won a battle against the Karaman Turks and their Safavid allies in Asia Minor and now marched on Istanbul to exploit his triumph. Fearing for his safety, Selim staged a revolt in Thrace but was defeated by Bayezid and forced to flee to Crimea (1511). At this point, Bayezid II developed fears that Ahmed might in turn kill him to gain the throne and refused to allow his son to enter Istanbul.Selim returned from Crimea and, with support from the Janissaries, defeated and killed Ahmed. Bayezid II then abdicated the throne on April 25, 1512.

Ottoman Sultans: Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) "The Saint"

Highlights of Bayezid II's reign


• oldest son of Mehmed II, fought civil war with younger brother Jem after father's death-Jem becomes exile on Rhodes

• builds up Ottoman navy to counter future crusades and supremacy in the Mediterranean -engage in piracy as 'sea Ghazis'

• gains control of the Venetian strongholds Mistra and Monemvasia in the Peloponnesus by 1501,

• stifles innovation in the empire by outlawing the printing of Arabic with the printing press, ban enforced till 1729

• rebellions in eastern Anatolia backed by Shi'ite Persian Safavid empire

Ottoman navy sent to Spain to save Jews from Spanish Inquisition, seeing them as a (taxable) asset to the empire. The Jews introduced many new ideas

• abdicates throne to son Selim after he fights a civil war with older brother Ahmed.Possibly poisoned by Selim.


Selim I (1465-1520) ruled 1512-1520



Selim I was known as ' the Fierce' for his vigorous personality and streaks of cruelty .Seeing the Shu'ite Islam of the Safavids under Ismail I in Iran as a threat to the Ottomans, he forcefully deported many Shi'as from Anatolia to other parts of the Ottoman  empire and massacred an estimated 40,000 .and attacked the Safavids in 1514 and defeated them at the Battle of Chaldiran on Aug 23, 1514  and was a a decisive victory for the Ottoman Empire  . The Ottomans had a larger, better equipped army numbering 60,000-200,000, while the Safavids numbered some 50,000-80,000. The Ottomans were armed with muskets, while the Safavids shunned weapons that used gunpowder as being without honor, and were decimated in the battle . As a result the Ottomans gained control over the north western part of Iran.

Battle of Chaldiran was a military engagement in which the Ottomans won a decisive victory over the Safavids. The clash between the Sultan Selim the Grim and Shah Ismail resulted in the Ottoman victory.

The mahmal symbol of the Sultan on the holy

pilgrimage to Mecca. The Mahmal was the ceremonial palanquin carried on a camel who was the centrepiece of the pilgrim caravan. It was the symbol of authority of the sultan of the holy places. The first sultan to be associated with the sending of the Mahmal was Baybars (1260-77) .



Then, Selim attacked the Mamluk Sulanate, (1250 - 1517) who been in talks with his older brother Ahmed . At the Battle of Marj Dabiq  in Syria on Aug 24, 1516 and then at the Battle of Ridanieh on Jan 22, 1517, the Mamluks were defeated in battle .and the Mamluk Sultanate was conquered which led to the annexation of Syria, Palestine and Egypt.The institution of the Mamluks continued under the Ottomans . The last Abbasid Caliph at Cairo, al-Mutawakkil III, was taken into custody and was transported to Istanbul, where he surrendered the Caliphate to Selim I. and thus since his time until 1922 the Ottoman sultans served as supreme religious heads of all Muslims .Also In 1517, the Sharif of Mecca, Barakat bin Muhammed, acknowledged the supremacy of the Ottoman Caliph, but maintained a great degree of local autonomy

 Ottoman-Mamluk War of 1516-1517


 The Malmuks, a military caste of former slaves who overthrew the Ayyubid dynasty and ruled Egypt from 1250 and continued to rule for the Ottomans after the conquest of Selim I in 1517. The Malmuks were the first to defeat the Mongols in a major battle in 1260. Similar to the Janissaries, they were captured as children, mainly Kipchak Turks in the Caucasus and Georgia and underwent rigiours military training. Leading Malmuks were ambushed and killed by Muhammed Ali in 1811, ending their power.

Rags to Riches — The Rise and Fall of Mamluk Egypt

Highlights of Selim I 's reign



• two brothers and  five nephews strangled with bowstring upon his accession in order to eliminate potential pretenders

• est 40,000 followers of Shi'itte Islam in Anatolia executed

• a large a powerful man executed many himself. Seven Grand Vizers were beheaded on his orders, but also devoted to lit and poetry

defeats Persians under shah Ismail at Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, border established between Turkey and Iran which remains to this day

• Persian captial of Tabriz captured. Bans silk trade to weaken Persians

1517 defeats Malmuk empire in Egypt, takes control odf Egypt, Syria and Palestine Mecca and Medina

• takes title of Caliph from last Abassid caliph  in Cairo, Al-Mutawakkil,standard and cloak of the Prophet taken to Instanbul

• doubles size of Ottoman empire

• died painfully of cancer in 1520

Suleiman the Magnificent

(1494-1566) ruled 1520-1566




The peak of the Ottoman Empire was reached during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent , (1520-1566), also called ' the Law Giver.'  was a son of Selim . He captured Rhodes in 1522,which controlled the sea lanes to Egypt. Suleiman allowed the Knights of Rhodes to depart and form their new base in Malta. In 1526 took Belgrade, defeated the Maygars at Mohacs in 1526 and laid siege to Vienna in 1529, which was not successful. He fought with Austria over Hungry, which he incorporated in 1541, and engaged in pirate warfare with Spain for control of the Mediterranean .


 Conquerors Suleiman the Magnificent

Hayreddin Barbarossa (c.1478 - 1546) defeats the Holy League of Charles V under the command of Andrea Doria  ( 1466 - 1560) at the Battle of Preveza in 1538. The Ottoman Empire successfully defeated the efforts of Venice and Spain to stop the Turkish drive to control the Mediterranean. This only changed with the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

 The naval battle of Preveza fought in 1538 between the alliance of Spain, Habsburgs, Venice, Genoa, Papal States called the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire. The navies were led by Andrea Doria and Hayreddin Barbarossa. This sea battle set the tone for the centuries of the naval battles fought in the region and became a crucial front for the Ottoman-Habsburg conflicts.

The exploits of the Ottoman admiral Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, who commanded the Turkish navy during Suleiman's reign, included a number of impressive military victories. Among these were the conquest of Tunis and Algeria from Spain; the evacuation of Muslims and Jews from Spain to the safety of Ottoman lands.


The King of Pirates, Hayreddin Barbarossa

The Siege of Malta


The famous siege of Malta , defended by the Knights Hospitaller in 1565 ended in failure .The knights captured Ottoman ships and Suleiman vowed to destroy them. A large Ottoman fleet was gathered, and out of 28,000-40,000 Ottoman troops , an estimated 20,000-30,000 were killed .The knights had an estimated 6,000 men .The Siege of Malta did little to alter the balance of power in the Mediterranean, but it was the first true defeat of the Ottoman Empire in a century and lifted European morale immeasurably .


 The Siege of Malta Knights of St John vs Ottoman Empire


The Suleymaniye Camii ( Selimiye Mosque ) built by the master architect Mimar Sinan between 1568 and 1574. Sinan was born a Christian and conscripted into Janissary, where his talents were recognized  .  Sinan constructed or supervised a huge number of projects: such as 81 large mosques,50 small mosques,55 madrasses, 6 aqueducts,32 palaces and 22 public baths.


 Selimiye Mosque, Edirne, Turkey

Architect Sinan Documentary

France, in the mid-16th century, became an Ottoman ally and acquired special trading privileges in the so called Capitulations of 1535. The Ottomans defeated Venice again in a three year war from 1537 to 1540. The Ottoman Empire at this period was at its height, ruling Mesopotamia, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Lybia , Algeria, the Balkan Peninsula and the Crimea .




In his personal life, his decision to marry his favorite concubine , the Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Roxelana, was to have harmful consequences for the empire .She used her influence to turn him against his capable son and heir, Mustafa, and execute him and the Grand Vizer Ibrahim Pasha, a boyhood friend of Suleiman who supporter Mustafa .

Roxelana The Hidden World Of The Harem

The two surviving brothers, Bayezid and Selim, were given command in different parts of the empire. Within a few years, however, civil war broke out between the brothers, each supported by his loyal forces.With the aid of his father's army, Selim defeated Bayezid in Konya in 1559, leading the latter to seek refuge with the Persians along with his four sons. Following diplomatic exchanges, the Sultan demanded from the Persian Shah that Bayezid be either extradited or executed. In return for large amounts of gold, the Shah allowed a Turkish executioner to strangle Bayezid and his four sons, clearing the path for Selim's succession to the throne seven years later. On September 5, 1566, Suleiman died, who had become more morose after these deaths . Now the way was clear for Roxelana's useless son. Selim, to become sultan .


A tughra of Süleyman the Magnificent on the top of a firman or edict . A tughra is a calligraphic seal of an Ottoman sultan that was affixed to all official documents and correspondence. It was also carved on his seal and stamped on the coins minted during his reign. These were done by a master calligrapher .

You could get lost in this Turkish sultan's elaborate signature - Art, Explained


Highlights of Süleyman's reign


Sultan at zenith of Ottoman power - golden age of the Ottoman Empire's artistic, literary and architectural development.

• known as Kanuni ' the Lawgiver' for reorganization of legal system, Islamic law was combined with common law into one unified system

• Wealth flowed into the empire from caravan routes, coffee and silk trade. Commercial ties est with Europe, Europeans allowed to settle and trade in Instanbul

1521, Begrade captured from the Hungarians,the only major force blocking advance into Europe

• 1522 Rhodes Captured,last serious threat to Ottomans in the eastern Med

•1525 Janissaries riot due to lack of action and loot

•1526, King of Hungary defeated at the battle of Mohacs, independent Kingdom of Hungary, Ottomans preeminet power in eastern Europe

1529 siege of Vienna fails,limit of Ottoman advance into Europe

•1533 Grand Vizer captures Tabriz, 1524 Baghdad taken

• Franco-Ottoman alliance against Holy Roman Empire

• Barbarossa appointed naval commander, defeats Holy League at the Battle of Preveza in 1538

• 1550 Sinan begins work on Süleymaniye Mosque

•1554 Ottoman navy defeated by Portuguese in Persian Gulf

• 1565 Siege of Malta fails

• The Barbary States of Tripolitania, Tunisia, and Algeria became autonomous provinces of the Empire piracy against Christians by Barbary pirates

• 1555 treaty with the Persians, Tabriz returned, Baghdad and lower Mesopotamia become part of the empire

• married harem girl Roxelana from the modern day Ukraine, her intrigues led to Suleiman to execute heir the apparent, Prince Mustafa, so her younger son Selim could become sultan,marks growing influence of harem

• Civil war breaks out between sons Selim and Bayezid, Bayezid defeated in 1559and given refuge in Persia,later killed. Suleiman supports Selim.

• 1566 Suleiman leads large army out of Istanbul toward Hungary to avenge the defeat at Malta, dies while attacking fortress of Sziget, perhaps of a heart attack .

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Suleiman The Magnificent

Turbans denoted rank in the Ottoman Empire and were placed on Ottoman tombstones. This system was established by Mehmed II in his administrative reform after conquering Constantinople. The fez was made the national headgear of after the clothing reforms  of Sultan Mahmud II (r.1808-39)




 Foundation and Rise of

the Ottoman Empire



 Decline of the Empire and Rival

1566 - 1780s