The Ottoman Empire

By: Samuel Ivy

Social Structure

Primitive, Yet Strategic

Due to its large multi ethnic and religious diversity, the Ottoman empire had a vastly complex social structure. To begin, the Ottomans were plenty accepting of who did not follow Islam in their community, however this did generally hurt their standing in the hierarchical system. Although sometimes subject to greater taxes than Muslims, non Muslims where generally fairly treated and they all were to abide by their own religious laws regardless of what others were doing. Your place in the Ottoman empire structure was based on a very simple principle, merit. First, there were highly educated members of the society such as successful doctors and powerful scientists who were known as the men of the pen. Below them, there were the Empire's military personnel who were highly respected because of their extensive skill and these men were known as the men of the sword. After them, there were the merchants and artisans who ranged from talented painters to sculptors as well as traders and skilled bargainers. This has earned them the title of the men of negotiation. Finally, there were the lowest which were those of low skill who did basic but vital jobs such as farming and herding which readily provided for the rapidly expanding empire. These classifications also led to certain treatments and exemptions such as the tax exemptions given to the merchant and artisan class.This seemingly simple system allowed for much diversity and class changes unlike the solid caste system in India, while giving unprecedented religious freedom.
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Ottoman Politics

A Far Less Simple Organization

The political system of the Ottoman empire goes hand in hand with the social structure, and this is because stratification also plays a large part here as well. The most supreme leader is the Sultan, who was mainly responsible for keeping justice. This played a major role in the ways of the empire because his Justness determines the corruptness of certain facilities such as taxation as well as the ability and effectiveness of the courts. This seek for justness was only possible by the absolute power of the Sultan because without it, he was subject to dependence and this lead to corruption.To help this, there was also an established bureaucracy which was in place to control the surrounding governments and therefore yielded a system of officials which ran from the Sultan's inner circle. The Ottoman empire ruling was largely based on public opinion and this was reflected when unsatisfactory rulers were removed from office. Despite the seemingly enormity of freedom, the Sultan and the bureaucracy were led by strict rules and guidelines to ensure good conduct, however this did not stop foul play when it came to the Sultan position. Due to its highly sought after power, this yielded a struggle for its inheritance because although traditionally it was passed down to the eldest son, others imprisoned their siblings in order to acquire the the position.
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A Game of Strategy

Due to a rather effective bureaucracy, the Ottoman empire vastly expanded as it acquired new territories in Europe. As the Ottoman empire sprawled out, it came was forced to battle other very prominent empires such as the Persian and Safavid empires which brought strong opposition. The Ottomans however were prepared because of their extensive usage of new age technology such as gunpowder weapons and because of this the Ottoman was one of the three gunpowder empires. The Ottomans were the first to adopt these weapons of the three gunpowder empires and they rapidly expanded their industry and began to mass produce the weaponry for their soldiers. This exchange which they got from the Chinese. Their initial usage of firearms was devastating and this created a massive demand for the weapons which inspired the other empires to adopt the new technology meanwhile the Ottomans were charging ahead. The Ottomans began by conquering all of the Turkic settlements and taking Constantinople. This was due to their superior military numbers and weapons which vastly outnumbered others and lead to the almost complete conquering of all of Serbia. However the Ottomans were not altogether prosperous and they too suffered at some points large losses such as at the hands of Stephen the Great in which the plague ran rampant in their camps and excellent defense tactics lead to a humiliating loss for the Ottoman Empire and Mehmed.
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A Unique Coexistence.

The Ottoman empire was very unique in its very singular source of culture which was then vastly enriched by newer and other ideas. The Ottoman empire adopted most all of its culture from Persian ideas, and it had a large Muslim following. Because of this, the Ottoman empire was dominantly ruled by a Muslim system however they were very tolerant of other cultures. Many other cultures were also introduced to the empire which were not just Muslim such as Christianity and Judaism although these were in much smaller quantities. Due to the Ottoman position, its culture was largely influenced by it Middle Eastern and Turkic routes which influenced much of tradition and the Main religion, Islam. The Ottomans were defined by their hybrid style culture which incorporated many different elements from different cultures. This was impressive because other less prevalent cultures were largely preserved by their granted autonomous responsibility of the Ottoman empire to be able to continue without interference.
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Too Controlling?

The Ottomans were the pioneer of gunpowder technology in regards to its use on the battle field, however, in trade this did little to impede their progress. In much of Europe, the Pope had banned firearm trade with the Ottoman Empire and also some legislation was passed by some European powers to prohibit this trade, however this amounted to almost nothing. In fact, there was a large upscale trade in the Mediterranean which also included the trafficking of contraband and many war time necessities. This huge Arms trade between Christian and Muslim hubs in Asia and Europe caused a huge boost for the Ottoman economy as it stimulated their production and created an extensive trade. The downside to this was that there was excessive taxation in range from 10%-20% in which both Muslims and Non Muslims were included but there also were marriage taxes and other various taxes which largely hurt the poorer classes. The government played a huge role in the Ottoman Empire's economy and they avidly patrolled it to ensure fairness within and to also keep a firm monopoly on the Weapons trade through Asia.
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