Ottoman Empire during the Rule of Suleiman the Magnificent
In the end of the 13th century, an empire was formed by Osman, a Turkish tribal leader. The empire, which is also known as the Turkish Empire was not famous at this time, but by the half of the 14th century, the Ottomans made their way into Europe where some conquests transformed the empire into a continent-wide empire. The empire continued in growth with the conquering of other empires such as the Byzantine Empire. However, the heights of its glory came in the 16th and 17th century when Suleiman the Magnificent became its ruler. The empire became a multilingual and multinational empire that would control Western Asia, Central Europe and South East Europe. Its extensions were even felt in the Horn of Africa and North Africa. With the knowledge of the rise in this empire, the question that most people ask, and which will be answered in this paper is, why was the Ottoman Empire strong during the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent and why was this age considered a golden age?
As explained in the introduction, the Ottoman Empire became very strong and successful during the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent. One of the things that contributed to this success was because of the success that had been laid down by Suleymans predecessors. Long before he became Sultan or the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, there lived other splendid rulers who set the Empires path straight, which is the reason why it lasted for many years. The tolerance policy, which had been a policy continued from the previous rulers was very critical in the success of the Empire during Suleymans rule. The Ottoman Empire was a blend of different cultures and religions. The empire provided peace to the society without racism or religious distinction. This is the reason why many people from different religions and races are involved in the history of the Ottoman Empire. For example, Hungarians, Albanians, Armenians, Turks, Jews, Serbes and North Africans among others are mentioned in the history of this empire either as rules or subjects. Apart from being a blend of different cultures, the Ottoman rule can also be said as being a protector of most of these cultures. This tolerance, however, did not start with Suleyman the Magnificent, but started with Mohammad II who started reigning at a tender age of 21 years after the death of his father. The Sultan engaged in many conquests including the famous conquest of Constantinople after which he promised to provide protection to all including Greeks and Christians. He even forbade the persecution of Christians by the issuance of decree prohibiting this act.
Apart from the liberal policies, which was adopted by Suleymans predecessors, the principles that unified the Ottoman Empire also helped in its expansion during Sulyemans reign and the reign of his predecessors. The empire was more centered on the idea of sovereignty, which was different from the Western emphasis of territories. This idea was also depicted in the words of Suleyman the Magnificent who always referred himself as the one who crowns the worlds emperors. This new sovereignty was marked or differentiated through the earlier discussed liberal or justice policy.
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Suleimans rule started exactly at 1520 and he ruled up to 1566 after which he left the Empire to his grandson. The Empire came at its highest height during the reign of Suleima and this is attributed to various factors explained earlier. For example, Suleiman was among the wealthiest Sultans in the age of Sultans and he owed all this to his father who had worked hard to remove any opposition by then successful conquering of Safavid Empire and the removal of this and other barriers. He had also conquered The Mamluk Empire that extended to Syria and Egypt after which he stabilized the government and adopted a non-aggression policy. Through these conquests, Suleimans father managed to unite Eastern Mediterranean and Eastern Europe and one ruler. This brought peace and stability, which gave the Empire a flourishing ground. By the time he came into power, Suleiman did not have any power rivals in the kingdom. In fact, his father had ensured this by making sure that he executed Sulemains brothers and his own brothers.
The wealth and peace that accompanied Suleiman the Magnificent is described in various writings such as those of Fisher as he quotes some primary sources. According to this source, Suleiman impressed those around him in public. He impressed both foreigners and those close to him. This, according to Fisher, was based on the reports that foreigners gave to their governments. In one of the diaries, Suleiman is explained as the Great Turke and he is also explained as adorned in great gesture and magnificence. He is also presented in this primary source as being full of wonderful majesty and clothed with cloths of gold. His horse is explained as being white and also adorned in white cloth and embroidered in the richest stones. His head was also adorned with silk, linen and precious stones all which shows his richness and his fineness. Ostrich feathers were also used in decorating his crown, which was also the case witgh his horse. Europeans, according to Fisher, were also dumbfounded at his wealth and splendor. In one of the primary sources quoted by Fisher, some Europeans are appalled by the tender age of the Suleiman when he assumed power.
Apart from his wealth and all that he acquired from his predecessors, Suleiman was a man of character. In one of the European account of him, his friendliness is emphasized, which could also have been the reason why he rose into this great majesty. He is also explained as a man of dignity as he was always temperate from the time he was young. He is explained as having been wise and not having indulged in wine like it would be the case with other rulers. His religious nature also placed him well in the peoples hearts as he is explained as having been a guardian of religion including its ceremonies. Because of these characteristics, Suleimans dignity did not fade away with his age. Instead, he maintained his dignity even in his old age. Those who described him explains him as being worthy of ruling such a big empire.
The Islam religion also gave Suleiman a good framework to rule over the people. As explained earlier, the Empire was multicultural in that it extended to peoples of different religions and cultures. However, the Empire was largely an Islamic Empire and the other religion were subordinate religion. Earlier rulers such as Sultan Mohammad II had emphasized on the centrality of Islam religion in the empire. Islam was therefore the cornerstone of the policy that held the Muslim and non-Muslim states together. There was also a wide toleration of non-Muslims, which was instigated by Mohammed II. When he came into power so much Islam was being practiced and there were so many Islamic Holy places in the Empire to an extent that he, Suleiman, was widely viewed as both a ruler and an Islam religious leader. To the Muslims, he was regarded as their earthly ruler through his role as a Sultan. Because of the wealth and stability in this Empire, top Muslim brains from around the world was attracted to the Empire. Artists, craftsmen, writers as well as intellectuals gathered in Istanbul, city that had been renamed by Muhammad II.
The Empire only came to decline later after Suleimans rule during the 17th century. This decline was slow and was related to several factors such as economic problems such as competition from western nations. European powers and their expansion also posed a lot of threat to the Empire while the Far East and India led to economic decline as cheap products replaced the expensive market products. Other trade routes were also developed while social issues such as unemployment became a problem in the Empire. The Empire became less centralized and as a result, the central control weakened. Subsequent sultans also became less severe, which led to administration issues as rigorous integrity standards became hard to maintain. Unlike past Sultans, the current ones just before the decline became less sensitive to the public and their opinion. This led to the imprisonment of Sultans, their sons and their brothers. The result of this was the creation of a modern identity, which started with the creation of the republic of Turkey.
In conclusion, one of the most magnificent rulers of the historical Ottoman Empire is Suleiman the Magnificent. The era of his rule is known as a golden era as it was marked with economic stability, peace and growth. The reason behind this is because Suleimans predecessors had done a lot in shaping the Empire into what it was in Suleimans era. However, his temperament, friendliness and his religiousness also contributed to the rise of the kingdom since Suleiman did not waste himself and nor did he waste what his predecessors had built. The Ottoman Empire only came to decline latter because of different internal and external changes.