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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 19:59 GMT
Empire of the Ottomans
Suleyman mosque in Istanbul
The Ottoman golden age brought unrivalled wealth
The Ottoman empire dates from the late 13th century until 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor states in south-eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The centre of the empire was in what is now Turkey and the Balkans, but after periods of continuous expansion, its reach extended from present-day Hungary and the Ukraine to most of the Middle East and North Africa.

It was created by Turkish tribes in the small north-western Anatolian principality. In their initial stages of expansion, the Ottomans were leaders of the Turkish warriors for Islam who fought against the shrinking Christian Byzantine state.

The empire became one of the most powerful in the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was ruled by sultans, who were simultaneously political leaders and supreme rulers of the Muslim world.

Peak of grandeur

The golden age of Ottoman history was overseen by Sultan Suleyman I the Magnificent (1520-66). Under his rule, the Ottomans achieved the height of their military victories and artistic endeavours.

Important conquests during this period extended the empire's domain well into central Europe and throughout the Arab portion of the old Islamic caliphate.

The conquest of the Arab world brought with it abundant wealth and power.

The empire shrivelled in the late 19th and 20th century, a slow but steady decline that began under Suleyman.

He is said to have tired of continuous military campaigns and the duties of administration and withdrew to the pleasures of his harem.

The empire's decline is said to have been brought about by a lack of ability and power of the sultans. As a result, central government became weak, and control of most of the provinces was lost to the local ruling notables.

In Turkey, the sultans were replaced by general Kamal Ataturk, a determined secularist who founded the Turkish republic.

Today, there are remains of Ottoman castles dotted throughout the former empire, particularly the Middle East. Many of these magnificent fortresses were erected for the accommodation and security of pilgrims.

The BBC's Tabitha Morgan
"The Turkish authorities were quick to express their displeasure"
See also:

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