Foundation and Rise of the Ottoman Empire 1299-1453



How did the Ottomans rise to become a world empire ?


  Osman I (1288-1326)


In the 13th century the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, a Turkic nation that migrated from Central Asia to Anatolia in the middle of the 11th century,  began to break up into smaller emirates as a result of Mongol invasions and the destabilizing effects of  large numbering of people fleeing the Moslem states in Central Asia in advance of the Mongol armies . The father of Osman, Ertugrul, founder of the Ottoman people was one such person, the chief of a Turkic tribe that was given land in northwest  modern day Turkey  by the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.


The Osman emirate was able to expand through the traditional strength of Turkish calvary, learning military techniques from the Byzantines, artillery (bombards )and using Janissaries ( Yeniçeri new soldier ),light troops ( akindschi) to make the Ottomans one of the most advanced and disciplined fighting forces for their time. Orhan established the Timar military land tenure system to support the cavalry. Every 5th Christian boy had to be surrendered to fill the ranks of the janissaries. Infantry was a traditional weakness of the Turks, but with the janissaries and light troops they were a formidable force.

Osman I 



According to legend, About six centuries ago, a pastoral band of four hundred Turkish families was journeying westward from the upper streams of the river Euphrates. Their armed force consisted of four hundred and forty-four horsemen ; and their leader's name was Ertugrul or Ertoghnil, which means " The Right-Hearted Man." As they travelled through Asia Minor, they came in sight of a field of battle, on which two armies of unequal numbers were striving for the mastery. Without knowing who the combatants were, The Right-Hearted Man took instantly the chivalrous resolution to aid the weaker party .Such, according to the Oriental historian Neschri, is the first recorded exploit the Ottomans.


The little band of Ertugrul was a fragment of a tribe of Oghouz Turks, which, under Ertoghrul's father, Soleyman Shah, had left their settlements in Khorassan, and sojourned for a time in Armenia. After a few years, they left this country also ; and were following the course of the Euphrates towards Syria, when their leader was accidentally drowned in that river. The greater part of the tribe then dispersed ; but a Little remnant of it followed two of Solyman's sons, Ertoghrul and Dundar, who determined to seek a dwelling-place in Asia Minor, under the Seljukian Turk, Alaeddiu, the Sultan of Iconium. It so happened, that it was Alaeddin himself who commanded the army to which Ertoghrul and his warriors brought such opportune succor on the battle-field. The adversaries, from whose superior force they delivered him, were a host of Mongols, the deadliest enemies of the Turkish race. Alaeddin, in gratitude for this eminent service, bestowed on Ertoghrul a principality in Asia Minor, near the frontiers of the Bithynian province of the Byzantine Emperors.


An Ottoman bombard, the early Ottomans had some of the

worlds most advanced artillery.



The emirate of Osman (1288-1326), son of the Turkish chieftan Ertogrul, emerged as the most powerful one and was the nucleus around which the Ottoman Empire developed. Osman became chief, or Bey, upon Ertugrul’s death in 1281. As a result of Osman's popularity, his followers took the name Osmamli or Ottoman, meaning followers of Osman . Osman was the founder of the Ottoman Empire . At this time, mercenaries streamed into his realm from all over the Islamic world to fight against and hopefully plunder the weakening Byzantine empire. Turkic numbers were constantly reinforced by a flood of refugees, fleeing from the Mongols. Of these, many were Ghazi warriors, or fighters for Islam, border fighters who believed they were fighting for the expansion or defense of Islam.


Sword and Shield dance of Bursa celebrating

the conquest of Bursa.

Sword & Shield Folk Dance 


In 1299 Osman started his career of conquest at the expense of the weakened Byzantine empire with the conquest of Phrygia and Bithynia and ended with the capture of Bursa, which became his capital in 1326 .

According to legend, Osman had a prophetic dream of future greatness as a young man after being rejected for a princesses (Malkhatoon)  hand as not being from a family of enough importance . Upon hearing of the dream the father granted his request


Ottoman writers attach great importance to this dream of the founder of their empire. They dwell also on the prophetic significance of his name, signifying the resistless energy with which he and his descendants were to smite the nations of the earth. " Othman " means the " Bone-breaker. It is also a name given to a large species of vulture, commonly called the royal vulture, and which is, in the East, the emblem of sovereignty


The culture of Anatolia of the time was a hybrid one, with interaction between Muslims and Christians. Some dervish orders such as the Bektasi offered a synthesis between Islam and Christianity . Abandoned Christian monesteries were taken over by Vakifs ( Wapf)  an Islamic religious and good works foundation .


Orhan I   (1326-1359)


Osman's son Orkhan (1326-1359) set up the seat of empire .Orkhan's greatest accomplishment was the development of a strong and well-organized standing army of regularly paid and disciplined infantry and horses . He took the title of Sultan in 1337, recognizing the growing power of the Ottomans .


Orhan also set up the military tenure system of timar , handed out from conquered territory, where estates were handed out estates in return for furnishing cavalry . In the beginning the timar reverted to the sultan upon the holder;s death, with the son having to re-earn the right .This gave the Ottomans an advantage over the other emirates that relied on free grazing .


In 1356, Ottoman mercenaries  fighting on behalf of the Ottoman Empire secured positions in Gallipoli, giving the Ottomans a bridgehead into Europe. From here, the Ottoman were able to conquer the Balkans and surround Constantinople .The Janissaries were also formed, Orhan selected out of the families of the Christians whom he had conquered, a thousand of the finest boys. In the next year a thousand more were taken, and this enrollment of a thousand Christian children was continued for centuries, until the reign of Sultan Mehmet IV.


In 1648.Orhan captured the important Byzantine towns of Nicaea and Nicomedia in 1329 and 1338 .Orhan conquered most of western Anatolia and took part in the political upheaval of the decaying Byzantine Empire by marrying Theodora, who was the daughter of John VI Cantacuzenus, the alienated guardian of Emperor John V Palaeologus. As the price of this still prestigious marriage, Orhan helped Cantacuzenus overthrow John V and his regents. Orkhan was succeeded by Murad I.

 Orhan I 

Murad I  (1359-1389)


Murad conquered Thrace and transferred the Ottoman capital to Adrianople. He also took parts of Bulgaria and Macedonia, and crushed the Serbs on the Maritsa River in 1371 and at the battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, where he and the Serbian leader Lazar lost their lives in the battle.


Battle of Kosovo 1389 - Serbian-Ottoman Wars

After the battle of Kosovo ('field of Blackbirds') in 1389, the Serbian kingdoms were reduced to vassal states, Ottoman control extended to the Danuabe, Bulgaria and Wallachia. One of the last crusades led by Emperor Sigismund of Germany fails to liberate Byzantium fails after defeat at the battle of Nicopolis in 1396. The taking of Byzantium was delayed until 1453 due to the incursions of Timur .

Murad I organized the famous Janissary Corps, was probably the first Ottoman ruler to take the title of Sultan, and began real expansion into Europe, taking much of modern day Bulgaria and Northern Greece. 



Bajazet I or Bayezid I (1389-1403) ' The Thunderbolt'


Battle of Nicoplis


Bajazet I defeated King Sigismund of Hungry at Nicoplis in 1396 and then conquered Asia Minor . He was nicknamed'the thunderbolt' for his fast action in battle.At this time, the Mongols appeared.Timur had conquered Georgia and Azerbaijan in 1390, expanding his empire to the borders of the Ottoman Empire. The two powers soon came into direct conflict. Beyazid demanded tribute from one of the Turkish emirates who had pledged loyalty to Timur or Tamerlane and threatened to invade. Timur interpreted this action as an insult to himself and in 1400 sacked the Ottoman city of Sebaste (modern Sivas). Beyazid was stung into furious action and when Timur invaded Anatolia from the east, Beyazid summoned his forces and confronted Timur's forces near Ankara. The conflict, overall, was the culmination of years of insulting letters exchanged between Timur and Beyazid.


The battle began on July 20, 1402 with a large-scale attack from the Ottomans, countered by swarms of arrows from the Timurid horse archers. Several thousands were killed and many surrendered to Timur. During the battle the main water supply of both armies, Cubuk Creek, was diverted to an off-stream reservoir near the town of Cubuk by Timur, which left the Ottoman army with no water. The final battle took place at Catal hill, dominating the Cubuk valley. The Ottoman army, both thirsty and tired, was defeated, though Bayezid managed to escape to the nearby mountains with a few hundred horsemen. However, Timur had the mountains surrounded and, heavily outnumbering Bayezid, soon captured him. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Ottoman army was further weakened by the desertion of the Tatars and the Sipahis from the Anatolian Beyliks, who left Bayezid alone and joined Timur's forces, destroyed the Ottoman army at Angora in 1402 and took Bajazet prisoner .According to legend, he was kept captive in a traveling cage .Civil war broke out among the 4 sons of Bajazet and Tamerlane withdrew from Anatolia. This temporary weakening of the Ottomans resulted in delaying the end of the Byzantine Empire and the eventual Ottoman conquest of Balkans.


The story of rapid Ottoman expansion continues in the reign of Bayezid I, with large gains being made in both Anatolia and Europe. That being said, his time in power will also see the Ottomans encounter their first major setbacks, and lead to a civil war that will threaten the very existence of the Empire ...


Mohammed or   Mehmed I (1413-1421)


Mohammed I was the son of Bajaze who won the civil war among Bajazet's sons . He was known as 'the gentleman' and was devoted to to learning . He restored the empire, moved the capital from Bursa to Adrianople, and conquered parts of Albania, the Turkish emirate Candaroglu, and the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from the Mamelukes. However, as part of the alliance, Mehmed recognized the Byzantine Emperor as his "father and overlord" and remained uncharacteristically loyal.He was buried in Bursa, in a mausoleum erected by himself near the celebrated mosque which he built there, and which, from its decorations of green porcelain, is called the Green Mosque. This edifice is said to be the most beautiful specimen of Moslem architecture and carving that is in existence.



  Murad II (1421-1451)


Murad II  completed the subjection of the Balkan peoples. He fought against the Byzantine Empire and laid siege to its capital Constantinople, which he had to abandon, Venice, where he fought and defeated them at the Siege of Salonika, the Serbs, Albania and other emirs in Asia Minor . In 1430 he captured Thesalonica . In 1444 Murad defeated the Hungarians at Varna .He was forced to abdicate after losing the Battle of Jalowaz , but In 1446 he regained command through the interference of the janissaries and in 1448 he defeated the Christian coalition at the Second Battle of Kosovo (the first one took place in 1389). When the Balkan front was secured, Murad II turned east to defeat Timur's son, Shah Rokh, and the emirates of Karamanid and Çorum-Amasya.


In 1450 Murad II led his army into Albania and unsuccessfully besieged the Castle of Kruje in an effort to defeat the resistance led by the Albanian leader Skanderbeg  (1405 - 1468 ) In the winter of 1450–1451, Murad II fell ill, and died in Edirne. He was succeeded by his son Mehmed or Mohammed II (1451–81).



 Gjergj Kastrioti, known as Skanderbeg, was an Albanian nobleman and military commander who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Albania and most of the south-western Balkan region.


List of Ottoman Sultan and notable events from the

Foundation and Rise of the Ottoman Empire 1299-1453









Chief (bey) of Kayi tribe of the Oghuz Seljuk Turks,

which would become the Ottomans


• father of Osman



Osman I


• Has dream of future empire


• bey at 24 when father dies


founder of Ottoman Empire




 Orhan I


• son of Osman

• Bursa captured 1326

• Battle of Pelekanon 1329 Byz defeated

•  Nicaea taken 1331

• Gallipoli occupied 1354

Janissaries formed as Sultan's bodyguard

timar military fief system started



Murad I


• declared sultan by caliph in Cairo

Divan established

• Janissaries develop into military unit

• Battle of Kosovo 1389, Murad killed,

most of the Balkans  conquered

 • capital moved to Edine (Adrianople) in 1365




Bajazet I or Bayezid I


' The Thunderbolt'

• 1394-1401 siege of Constantinople

• crusaders Hungary defeated at Battle of Nicopolis 1396

• captured by Tamerlane at Battle of Ankara 1402, dies same year



 Ottoman Interregnum


Sons of Bajazet I swear allegiance to Timur


civil war between sons of Bajazet I





Mehmed I


• capital moved from Bursa to Adrianople


• patron of the arts, has highly cultured court


builds Green Mosque at Bursa


• entombed in the famous Green Mosque in Bursa



Murad II


• Byzantine emperor Palaiologos supports pretender to throne, who fails


• Serbia taken by 1439


• wins battle of Varna 1444 against crusaders and Hungarians who tried to liberate Constantinople


• defeats son of Tamerlane


•  last sultan to be buried at Bursa


• Three Balconied Mosque built



Mehmed II

Fatih 'The Conqueror


( 1432-1481) rules 1444-6  and 1451-81

1453 conquers Constantinople,

ends Byzantine Empire


By the time of Mehmed II, the Byzantine Empire was in a very weak state indeed . A contested throne gave the Crusaders the excuse they needed, aided by the seafaring Venetians to sack Constantinople in 1203-4.Most of the empire was divided up among the conquers. A small part of the Byzantine empire continued to exist in Asia Minor. Count Baldwin of Flanders became emperor of the new Latin Empire, which lasted till 1261, when Greek rule was restored under the Palaeologue dynasty. What remained of the empire was in such a weakened and depopulated situation that the Slavs and Ottoman Turks were able to advance. By 1355 the Ottomans held all of Asia Minor and sent expeditions across the Dardanelles into Thrace and the Ottomans conquered the Balkans, leaving Constantinople a Christian island in an Moslem sea.In 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople and the last Byzantine empire died in battle, never to be found.



 Mehmed II | The Conqueror of Constantinople


•  Orthodox Church allowed to continue

• considered himself to be a Ceasar and was related to Byzantine imperial family

• 1461 conquers Orthodox Empire of Trebizond

• Bosnia taken in 1460s

• Otranto in 1480 captured in attempt to reunite Roman Empire, dies before Rome could be taken

• Ottoman capital moved to Constantinople, renamed Instanbul

• Topkapi Palace built, primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans, from 1465 to 1853

• an officialdom loyal only to the Sultan created to administer empire - each dept had distinctive turbans and clothing, old aristocracy weakened

• dies suddenly at 49, possibly of gout or poison, first Sultan to be buried in Istanbul






 Origins of the



 Zenith of Empire  

1453 - 1566