from page 23
One of the consequences of the early Mongol conquests was to drive a certain tribe of Turks, which came to be known as the Ottoman Turks, out of Turkestan into Asia Minor. Turkish warriors flocked to the service of the Ottoman sultan from all over the Muslim world, because his holy war against the Byzantine Christians made religious merit and heroic exercise of violence coincide, as was true nowhere else in the Muslim world. Under these conditions, the Ottoman Empire, which was established in 1301, advanced rapidly until it spread all the way from the Euphrates to the Danube. The conquered territory was divided into military fiefs and administered by pashas. In order to enforce the loyalty of provincial subordinates, the sultan began the practise of exacting an annual tribute of Christian children to provide a loyal corps of palace soldiers. The Janissary, as the new troops were called, soon became the terror of Europe. Unlike the Arabs, who thought the use of firearms dishonorable, the Ottomans became masters of artillery. In 1453 they brought their cannons to the gate of Constantinople and stormed the Christian capital. The fall of Constantinople was a defining event and marks the end of the European Middle Ages.
Suleiman the Magnificent developed the power of the Ottomans to its greatest extent - he captured Belgrade, subjugated Hungary, besieged Vienna (1529) and conquered part of north Africa.During the sixteenth century the Ottoman fleet made them masters of the Mediterranean. But the very strength of the Turkish military organization led to internal weakness. The slave army, numbering up to 100'000 men, became a state within a state. In order to protect themselves from palace coups, the reigning sultan customarily confined his brothers to celibacy in walled gardens. As a result, when later sultans were succeeded by a brother, the fledgling ruler was totally ignorant of his responsibilities. The first signs of the empires weakening became apparent during the Great Turkish War (1683-1699), which began with the second siege of Vienna and ended with the transfer of most of Hungary from Ottoman to Austrian hands.
The Safavi Empire
Although the Ottomans proclaimed their allegiance to Islam with fanatical zeal, they never won the sympathies of their Arab subjects. While Turkish replaced Arabic as the language of the ruling class, an impoverished Arab culture had to retreat to the outposts of the Islamic empire. Only Arabia and Egypt remained to preserve a continuous Arab culture. Arabia - the seat of Mecca and Medina, but otherwise without any large-scale wealth - was at first left alone. Egypt, however, was a different matter. Before the arrival of the Ottomans, Egypt was ruled by the descendants of the earlier Turkish Mamluks, who had used the political vacuum after the demise of the Abbasid caliphate to make themselves masters of Egypt, Syria and Palestine.
Egypt had always been a hub of European-Asian trade routes; it depended for its prosperity on its transit trade with Europe. It was therefore not surprising that the Mamluks were hostile to the Ottomans, who attempted to lay siege to Europe. The situation that enabled the Ottomans to finally subjugate Egypt was full of ironies, which symbolized - paradoxically - the positive impact of earlier Arab cultural influences in the Middle East. Toward the end of the 1400's - its economy strained by attempts to defend their sovereignty against the Ottomans - the Mamluks began to squeeze as much profit as possible out of the transit trade. This led to a series of retaliations from Europe that diminished the whole Egyptian economy.
And a final irony: as the Ottomans medievalized the Middle East, Europe was emerging from its own era of reactionary medievalism - principally through philosophical and scientific ideas of Hellenism that had been assimilated by the Crusaders from Arab literature, translations and research, and then taken back to Europe.