TURKISH TRIBAL MIGRATIONS AND THE EARLY OTTOMAN STATE (1256–1638)

TURKISH TRIBAL MIGRATIONS AND THE EARLY OTTOMAN STATE (1256–1638)

The era from the end of the 11th century onward was characterized by the relentless expansion of Turkish-Mongol tribal movements from inner Asia that crossed the Oxus River, steadily moving westward, bringing in their wake military onslaughts on settled society, political upheavals, and brief eras of stability and prosperity under Turco-Mongol regimes.

Close to a century after the 1258 Mongol attack against Abbasid Baghdad, a tribal chieftain by the name of Osman rose to power in Anatolia (sometimes called Asia Minor by European writers) and eventually consolidated his hold on the Turkish frontier state that was later to bear his name, an event that was to have wide repercussions on both the Middle East and the West.

That frontier state, headed by a ghazi, or Muslim warrior battling for the faith, was to metamorphose into the longest-lived, as well as one of the most complex, states the Islamic world had ever seen—the Ottoman Empire. Built on the fringes of the crumbling Byzantine Empire at the very end of the 13th century, the expanding Ottoman polity eventually spread out from Anatolia into Europe and the Arab-Islamic region.

In Iran, however, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire encountered stiff resistance to both his imperial and ideological objectives by the Safavids. Eventually, the Ottoman-Safavid rivalry developed into military, political, and religious clashes that extended over several centuries. In that rivalry, Iraq was a central prize. Long after the Ottomans wrested Baghdad from the Safavids in 1638, the Ottoman Empire’s frontiers to the east remained those maintained and defended in Iraq.