The Period of Expansion

The group of Turks that became known as Ottomans, after their tribal chief Osman, settled in northwest Asia Minor, near the boundary of the Byzantine Empire, in the 13th century. (For the earlier history of the region, Soon the Ottomans began pushing the Byzantines back toward Europe. They were joined by many ghazis (Muslim warriors especially dedicated to fighting infidels, or nonbelievers) from other Turkish groups. The Ottomans extended their rule to the Sea of Marmara by defeating the Byzantines at Nicaea (Iznik) in 1301.

Ottoman Empire: The BeginningsOttoman Empire: The Beginnings The Ottoman Empire started as a small state around Bursa in Anatolia (now Turkey). By the end of the 15th century, the empire had expanded into eastern Europe.

During the 15th century, elite military units made up of soldiers called Janissaries were created. The Ottomans crossed into Europe and continued their conquests. Efforts by the Serbians and Bulgars to stop the Turks failed, Tamerlane, a Tatar chieftain, led an invasion of Asia Minor and defeated the Ottomans at Angora (Ankara) in 1402, but soon withdrew. In 1453 the Ottoman sultan Mohammed II captured Constantinople (Istanbul)—bringing the Byzantine Empire to an end—and made it his capital. At his death in 1481 the Ottoman Empire included most of the Balkan Peninsula, most of Anatolia (Asia Minor), and the Crimea.

Under Selim I (ruled 1512–20) and his son Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–66), the Ottomans took Syria, Palestine, and Egypt from the Mamelukes and Mesopotamia from the Persians. They also conquered much of North Africa. In Europe they held territory extending into northwestern Hungary. An attack in 1529 on Vienna, capital of the Austrian Hapsburg domain, was repulsed. The Turkish fleet, however, gained control of the Mediterranean.