The Ottoman Empire

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  • 0:08 Ottoman Empire
  • 0:48 Seljuk Turks
  • 1:43 Expansion
  • 2:42 Decline
  • 3:34 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 will be a brief survey of the Ottoman Empire. It will highlight the ghazis, Osman, and Suleiman. It will also highlight the decline of the empire due to its involvement with Russia and the other powers of Europe.

Ottoman Empire

When speaking of empires, it often seems that Rome and Greece get loads of playing time in history classrooms and textbooks. However, the Ottoman Empire, which was founded about 1299, was one of the longest empires in world history. Today's lesson will make the Ottoman Empire the star of the show as we do a brief survey of this powerhouse that once ruled over countries like Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, sections of the Arabian Peninsula, and even parts of North Africa.

We'll get things going with its beginnings and its growth.

Seljuk Turks

For starters, the Ottoman Empire is closely linked to the empire of the Seljuk Turks. The Seljuk Turks were the first Turkish tribe to convert to Sunnite Islam. Although they were strong, the Seljuk Turks were continually at war with the Byzantine Empire and the Mongols. As this continual conflict took its toll on the empire, the Seljuk Turks began to lose their place of prominence.

However, as they declined, a new group of warring Turks, whose leaders were known as Ghazis, or holy warriors, were poised to take over the spotlight and power. When one of these powerful ghazis, known as Osman, rallied these warring Turks under his reign, the Ottoman Empire was born. Using the military skill of their ghazis, the Ottoman Turks wasted no time folding the lands once held by the Seljuk Turks under their wings. In fact, by the late 1400s, most, if not all, Muslim Turkish lands were under the control of the Ottomans.


As a young empire, the Ottomans were fixated on expanding their lands and their powers. This meant working to expand their power and influence into Europe! One of their main targets was Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Although the Ottomans met many ups and downs in their fight for this important city, they finally attained their prize when Constantinople fell to them in the year 1453.

Much to the chagrin of Europe and the other powers of the West, the Ottomans were not content to stop at Constantinople. Quite on the contrary, the defeat of this great city only fueled their appetite for more. Like ants overtaking a picnic, the Ottoman Turks marched west. In fact, under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the 16th century Ottoman Turks conquered places like Egypt, Syria, parts of North Africa, and Hungary. Showing the extent of their power and Suleiman's greatness, even parts of Greece fell under their rule.


Unfortunately for the Ottomans, the rulers after Suleiman were unable to keep his winning streak of sorts going, and by the 1600s, the empire saw substantial decline in its power.

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