The Emergence of Three Empires in Eurasia: Ottoman, Safavid & Mughal

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  • 0:01 Empires of Eurasia
  • 0:33 Ottoman Empire
  • 1:54 Safavid Empire
  • 3:15 Mughal Empire
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson focuses on the Ottoman empire of Turkey, the Safavid Empire of Iran, and the Mughal Empire of India and Pakistan. It highlights the terms theocracy, ghazi, and God-ism.

Empires of Eurasia

Throughout history, the area of Eurasia, which is the combined landmass of Europe and Asia, has seen empires come and go. Today we're going to take a look at a few of these empires. We'll specifically look at the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals, three powerful empires that once controlled the lands surrounding Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Since a thorough study of these once powerhouses could take up a rather thick textbook, we'll just give a brief summary of each.

We'll kick things off with the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was founded in about 1299 by Muslim Turks. As one of the world's longest empires, it once ruled over countries like Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, sections of the Arabian Peninsula, and even parts of North Africa. In other words, it was huge!

The Ottoman Empire had its origins in warring Muslim tribes whose warriors were known as Ghazis or holy warriors. One of these Ghazis, known as Osman, was able to unify these warring tribes and is thus credited as the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

As an empire, the Ottomans were bent on expansion of their influence and the Islamic faith. With this determination and their amazing military skills, they succeeded in capturing Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in the year 1453.

Not content with stopping there, the Ottoman Empire moved on to take control in areas as far as Egypt, Syria, and even parts of Greece. Much of their success was due to their most famous leader, Suleiman the Great.

Unfortunately for the Ottomans, the leaders after Suleiman were not nearly as effective and the empire soon began to wane. By the 1700s, it had lost much of its power.

Safavid Empire

In fact, our next empire, the Safavids, were one of the groups that gained freedom from the weakening Ottomans.

The Safavid Empire is best known as the empire that governed over Persia during the 16th and 17th centuries. Persia is the ancient name for the area surrounding and encompassing modern-day Iran. With this in mind, the Safavid Empire is considered the beginning of modern-day Persia.

The Safavid Empire is also famous for being a theocracy. Stating it rather simply, a theocracy is a government formed and ruled by religious beliefs and rulers. The state religion of a Safavid empire was Shi'ism, a sect of Islam that believes all religious authority must come through the direct lineage of Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law.

Shah Ismail was the first ruler of the Safavid Empire. He's the guy who gets the credit for freeing the Persians from the Ottoman Empire of modern-day Turkey.

Moving forward in Safavid history, Shah Abbas the Great is considered the greatest emperor of the Safavids. He is credited with expanding trade, a massive building program, and a flourishing of culture and the arts within Persia.

Unfortunately, the rulers after Shah Abbas's death in about 1629 proved to be rather poor at their jobs and the empire soon succumbed to internal strife and outside invasion.

Mughal Empire

Our last empire, the Mughals, ruled over India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th centuries. Unlike the Ottoman Empire, which also happened to be one of their earlier rivals, the Mughal Empire's main claim to fame was its religious tolerance.

In fact, although the Mughal rulers were Muslim, they peacefully ruled over a people who were mainly Hindu. Rather than destroying the cultures of the areas they conquered, they tried to blend their cultures as one.

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