Exam 1 Essay:
Please discuss the strength of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. How did Suleiman govern this vast and most diverse empire, and how does the inscription mentioned in the source below reveal his claim to spiritual guardianship of Islam and political power over non-Muslim areas? How did the Ottomans treat non-Muslim minorities in general, and what position did ‘elite slaves’ occupy in the empire?
The Ottoman Empire’s military strength and rapid growth produced a need for advanced management and cultural awareness. The conquered, non-Islamic people became slaves. The rapid expansion required the Ottoman soldiers, or ghazis, to begin to operate in an administrative context more than combatants. This also compelled a change in hierarchy. The Ottoman’s began promoting slaves into these positions of “elite slaves,” also referred to as Janissaries or professional soldiers, to maintain control of the slave segments.
In the inscription cited in “Suleiman the Lawgiver and Ottoman Military Power,” Suleiman begins by introducing himself as “God’s slave and sultan of this world.” Suleiman continues by referring to himself as shah, Caesar, Mahgrib, sultan, and others. These titles convey and establish his position of superior sovereignty in all kingdoms, both spiritually and politically.
With the magnitude of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman allowed local religious communities to manage their own affairs, as long as they remained loyal and paid their taxes. Suleiman also brought the Islamic cultures together under a common religious doctrine.
Suleiman the Lawgiver and Ottoman Military Power (1520-1556) In: Peter Stearns, Stephen Gosch, Erwin Grieshaber, Documents in World History. Vol.2: The Modern Centuries: From 1500 to the Present (New York: Longman 2006) p.46-53.
Hansen, Valerie and Kenneth Curtis. Voyages in World History, Volume 2 Since 1500. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.