Ghazis Sultan The Ottoman Empire Janissaries Suleyman the Magnificent Millets The Safavid Empire Esma’il Shah

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Guess the Test #7 Name: _______________________



The Ottoman Empire


Suleyman the Magnificent


The Safavid Empire





Iberian Peninsula

La Reconquista

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella

The Spanish Inquisition


The Alhambra Decree

Essays: Find 5 significant things to say about the following topics.

1. Give 5 key facts about the rise of the Ottoman Empire and its sultans.

2. Give 5 key facts about the rise of the Safavid Empire and its shahs:

3. Explain what the Muslims were up to in Spain and the Western Mediterranean.

4. Identify King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, their programs, and the results.


In the early 1300s, the country of Turkey was flanked by the Christian Byzantine Empire to the west, and Mongol-controlled territory to the south and east. The grandson of Genghis Khan, Hulagu, had recently killed the last Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad and the Arab world was in turmoil. In this state of chaos, the warlike, nomadic Muslim Turks organized themselves and went to war. They were Sunni Muslims and thought of themselves as ghazis, or “warriors for the Islam faith.” By 1300, the ghazi leader Osman I had built a strong power base in Turkey. He and his descendants called themselves sultans – the Arabic word for “ruler” - and stole territory from the Byzantine Empire to the west. They seized the Byzantine city of Adrianople and made it their capital, Edirne, in 1361. Soon, the Ottoman Empire (as it was known by Christians) became a true empire in Eastern Europe.

The Ottomans succeeded due to their military, which contained an elite force of warriors called the Janissaries. These soldiers were once Christian boys who had been enslaved, converted to Islam and trained to fight for the Sultan. They were loyal to the death. Christians were horrified at this practice and called it a “blood tax.” The Ottomans also used new gunpowder technology to make cannons to destroy the walls of heavily-fortified Byzantine cities.

In 1453, the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople, the great Byzantine capital. In 1514, the Ottomans defeated the Persians, then swept south through Syria, Egypt, and the holy Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina. The Ottoman Empire reached its height under Suleyman the Magnificent (named after the Hebrew king Solomon). During his reign, from 1520 to 1566, Ottoman forces pushed east through Hungary up to the back door city of Western Europe: Vienna, Austria. They also captured the eastern Mediterranean and North African coast. Suleyman reformed the tax system and government bureaucracy of the Ottomans, improving their court system and issuing laws to reduce corruption. Architects built grand mosques and palaces, and culture reached its peak.

In Ottoman society there were two classes: the wealthy Muslim ruling class (including the sultan), and “everyone else” – a diverse group of races, cultures, languages and religions. The Ottomans were tolerant of other faiths because the Qur’an demanded it; however they required Jews and Christians to live in organized millets, or religious communities, where they could build churches, follow their own religious laws, and elect their own leaders, who answered to the Sultan. Non-Muslims were not required to serve in the military, but they had to pay heavy taxes. If they converted to Islam, they would have to join the army, but no more taxes!

After Suleyman’s reign, the Ottoman Empire gradually declined, in part due to their method for passing the empire from the old sultan to the new one. To prevent warfare after the old sultan died, the Ottomans assassinated all rival brothers of the new sultan so that none could raise an army against him. After the 1600s, the princes were no longer assassinated, but jailed in the royal palace instead. When a prince was finally released to become the new sultan, however, he had no experience with governing and usually did the job very badly. Despite a series of weak sultans, the empire lasted until the end of World War I.


The founder of the Safavid Empire was a 14-year-old Shi’a boy named Esma’il, whose father had been killed by Sunni Muslims. In 1501, he took up the sword and led an army of supporters on a sweep of conquest in Persia. A series of victories gave him control of what is now Iran and part of Iraq. Esma’il then took the Persian title of shah, or “king,” of the Safavid Empire. He made Shi’a Islam the official religion even though most people in the empire were Sunnis. The blending of Shi’a religion and Persian traditions and language gave the Safavid state a unique identity and laid the foundation for the national culture of present-day Iran. However, Shiism separated the Safavid state from its Sunni neighbors, the Ottomans and the Uzbeks to the north. The Ottomans defeated Esma’il and his swordsmen at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 by using gunpowder weapons.

Later Safavid shahs struggled to keep the empire together until 1588, when the greatest Safavid leader, ‘Abbas, became shah. He reformed the government, strengthened the military, and acquired modern gunpowder weapons. Copying the Ottomans, he also had slave youths captured in Russia trained to be soldiers. Under his rule, the Safavids defeated the Uzbeks and gained back land lost to the Ottomans.

‘Abbas’s achievements produced a golden age in Safavid culture. He invited Chinese artists to his capital city to teach his potters how to make beautiful glazed tiles and ceramics. ‘Abbas built public squares with graceful arches and lush gardens and

mosques with ceramic-tiled domes. He encouraged local industries, such as hand-woven Persian carpets, to provide jobs and bring wealth to the empire. The Safavids became a major Muslim civilization that lasted until 1722.

The Moors were Sunni Muslims from North Africa, and they

crossed the straits of Gibraltar to begin the conquest of Spain in 711 AD. By 732, they controlled the entire Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).

Muslim armies then crossed the Pyrenees into France to attack the Franks, but their king, Charles Martel, defeated them in the Battle of Tours. In the 800s, Muslims continued to make quick raids in southern France and Italy. Among the towns they sacked was Rome, the spiritual center of Christianity and home to the Catholic pope. The Moors destroyed many ancient churches there. Muslim pirates also attacked European ships that sailed on the Mediterranean. They took the goods on board and sold the ships’ crews into slavery.

Back in Spain, Christian rulers in the north focused on driving the Moors out of their lands. This effort is known as “La Reconquista,” or reconquest. Led by the kingdom of Castile, the kings of Portugal and Aragon eventually joined to chase the Moors back to Africa in the name of Christianity.

By the mid-1200s, the Moors only held the tiny kingdom of Grenada in the far south. To make sure that Spain was entirely Christian, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella initiated the Spanish Inquisition to root out heretics – people who spoke against the church – and non-Christians in 1481. The Inquisition was not only a call for Christians to look for infidels and report them to the authorities, it was also a court system to convict and punish the accused. Any non-Christian was vulnerable; Jews and Gypsies as well as Muslims were subjected to violent attacks and many were killed.

In 1492, King Ferdinand issued the Alhambra Decree,

ordering non-Christians to leave Spain immediately on pain of death. The last caliph of Granada in Southern Spain turned over the keys to the palace, and left the country. Jews and Muslims who wanted to stay converted to Catholicism, but suspicion ran high that they were faking it. As a result, neighbor turned against neighbor. If suspects did not freely admit that they were heretics, inquisitors tortured them on the rack or hanged them from the arms until they did, because the goal of the inquisitor was to bring the heretic “back to the faith.” If the accused confessed, they were absolved and given a punishment. If they refused to confess, they could be burned at the stake. If a convicted heretic died in jail before burning, his bones would be dug up, burned and scattered. The conviction and sentencing of heretics became a public event called the auto-de-fé. It involved a Catholic mass, prayers, a public procession of those found guilty and a reading of their sentences and finally their execution, if found guilty. Though thought of as a medieval institution, the Inquisition didn’t officially end until the 1800s!

In the 1492, Spain was once again Christian. With the Reconquista complete, Ferdinand and Isabella were able to turn their attention to other matters, such as providing money and ships to an explorer named Christopher Columbus, who was certain that he could find a direct route to the Indies by sailing west.

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