By: Hunter Starr
HIST 130: Muslim History From the Rise of Islam to 1500 CE
November 27, 2007.
The Ottoman Turks emerged on the periphery of the Byzantine Empire and the Saljuk Turks. Under a Turkish Muslim warrior named Osman, raids were conducted in western Anatolia on Byzantine settlements and a vast number of Turks were united under his banner. Those Turks who flocked to Osman's banner and followed him into the history books came to be called the Ottomans. The word Ottoman, fits these Turks well as it roughly translates from Turkish as "those associated with Oman." At its outset, the Ottoman emirate was comparatively weak and of little consequence to its much larger and more powerful neighbors, the Saljuk Turks in the east and the Byzantines in the west. From the modest beginnings of a small, compressed territory on the north-western Anatolian Peninsula, the minor Turkish state grew to unprecedented heights in the fifteenth century, forging the borderland principality into one of history's greatest states, the Ottoman Empire. Prior to the fifteenth century, the Ottoman sultanate was known only regionally and to the outside eye could not easily be discerned from the many other Turkish sultanates on the Peninsula. Before this, Anatolia was hostile territory to Muslims who had dreams of expanding the Dar al Islam westward, and presented an almost impenetrable barrier for Muslim expansion. In 1071, the barrier broke down when the Byzantines were soundly defeated by the Saljuq army at Manzikert, and for the first time the peninsula was open for migration. The land that marked the frontier of the Christian and Turkish controlled area became home to the revered Muslim warriors known as the gazis. Turkish immigration onto the peninsula was sparked again in the mid-thirteenth century when the Mongol armies swept across Asia, leaving many displaced and in desperate straits, while others who had served as troops in came in search of adventure. When they entered the Anatolian peninsula, Turkification of the area accelerated as it never had before. Many of the new Turkish migrants continued to the borderland joining forces with the gazi warriors, causing their ranks to swell. The gazi tradition gained a new life with the arrival of the large number of Turkish immigrants and set its sights on the Christian Byzantine Empire. Organized into emirates or principalities, the gazi regimes were a product of decade long borderland warfare, instilled with the warrior faith spirit. From these sultanates, the Emirate of Osman took its roots, attracting an ever growing number of gazis and adventurers. Turks gathered under Osman's banner for two important and complimentary reasons. The first reason is a geographical one. The early emirate was a frontier state centered on Soghut, giving the Ottomans the most advantageous position of all the Turkish states near the Byzantine frontier because of its close location to Nicaea area. Nicaea served as the capital for the Byzantine Empire from 1204 to 1261 after Constantinople was sacked in the early thirteenth century by the army of the Fourth Crusade, driving the Byzantines to settle the area around Nicaea. When the Byzantines recaptured the city of Constantinople fifty seven years later in 1261 they focused their attention and energy to the west, neglected the defense of the Nicaea area and their other territories in Anatolia as they sought to reassert their control over the Balkan Peninsula. With its borders right against the Byzantine defense perimeter and because of the proximity to Nicaea during this time, the Ottoman Turks enjoyed the best opportunities for plunder, faced a stronger external resistance than other frontier emirates and grew in stature during long years of struggle with their great Christian adversary that attracted many Turkish leaders to Osman as his fame spread, especially after the defeat of...