The Ottoman Empire | Facts and Map

Istanbul Old Map
Old engraving depicting map of Constantinopolis (Istanbul), the capital of the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires. Printed in 1572 by Braun and Hogenberg in Civitates Orbis Terrarum. nicoolay / Getty Images

The Ottoman Empire, which lasted from 1299 to 1922 CE, controlled a vast expanse of land around the Mediterranean Sea.

At different points in its more than six centuries of existence, the empire reached down along the Nile River Valley and the Red Sea Coasts. It also spread northward into Europe, halting only when it could not conquer Vienna, and southwest as far as Morocco.

Ottoman conquests reach their apogee around 1700 CE, when the empire was at its largest.

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Quick Facts About the Ottoman Empire

  • Founded in 1299
  • Interrupted by Timur the Lame (Tamerlane), 1402-1414
  • Ottoman sultanate abolished, November 1922
  • Official language: Turkish. Minority languages included Albanian, Arabic, Assyrian, Bulgarian, Croatian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Kurdish, Persian, Somali and many more.
  • Form of government: Caliphate. Secular authority rested with the sultan, who was advised by a grand vizier. Religious authority was vested in the caliph.
  • Official Religion: Sunni Islam. Minority religions included Shi'a Islam, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, and Roman Catholicism.
  • Capital: Sogut, 1302-1326; Bursa, 1326-1365; Edirne, 1365-1452; Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), 1453-1922
  • Peak Area: approximately 5,200,000 square kilometers (2,007,700 square miles) in 1700 CE
  • Population: estimated at more than 35,000,000 in 1856. Down to 24,000,000 on the eve of World War I due to territorial losses.
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Expansion of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire is named after Osman I, whose birthdate isn't known and who died in 1323 or 1324. He ruled only a small principality in Bithynia (the southwestern shore of the Black Sea in modern-day Turkey) during his lifetime.

Osman's son, Orhan captured Bursa in Anatolia in 1326 and made it his capital. Sultan Murad I died in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, which resulted in the Ottoman domination of Serbia and was a stepping stone for expansion into Europe.

An allied crusader army faced off with an Ottoman force at the Danube fortress of Nicopolis, Bulgaria in 1396. They were defeated by the forces of Bayezid I, with many noble European captives ransomed and other prisoners executed. The Ottoman Empire extended its control through the Balkans.

Timur, a Turco-Mongol leader, invaded the empire from the east and defeated Bayezid I at the Battle of Ankara in 1402. This resulted in civil war between Bayezid's sons for over 10 years and the loss of Balkan territories.

The Ottomans regained control and Murad II recovered the Balkans between 1430-1450. Notable battles were the Battle of Varna in 1444 with the defeat of the Wallachian armies and the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448.

Mehmed the Conquerer, son of Murad II, achieved the final conquest of Constantinople on May 29, 1453.

In the early 1500s, Sultan Selim I expanded Ottoman rule into Egypt along the Red Sea and into Persia.

In 1521, Suleiman the Magnificent captured Begrade and annexed the southern and central portions of Hungary. He went on to lay siege to Vienna in 1529 but was unable to conquer the city. He took Baghdad in 1535 and controlled Mesopotamia and parts of the Caucasus.

Suleiman allied with France against the Holy Roman Empire of the Hapsburgs and competed with the Portuguese to add Somalia and the Horn of Africa to the Ottoman Empire.