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Ottoman Ancestors

January 16, 2012

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

I know it’s been awhile, but I’ve been sick and busy.  And of course now my final semester is starting so time is drastically coming to zero.  Oh well!  Let’s talk about the people that paved the way for the Ottomans.

Like all great empires, the Ottomans had to have come from somewhere.  So where did they come from?

First, Ottomans are not an ethnicity and there was no such place called “Ottomanland” or “Ottomania” (this sounds more like crazed fan girls of Otto or something).  No, the name is derived from the House of Osman, which began with a man named Süleyman.  But we’ll get to that later.  These people were Turks.

The Turks first appeared on our world stage in Central Asia in a place known as the steppe.  Truthfully, this place wasn’t somewhere fun and relaxing.  Half the year the steppe was covered in snow, and during their short summer the temperatures were as high as in any desert.

Fun fun fun

The Turks were a nomadic people, meaning they would never live in one place for too long (and why would you in a climate like that anyway).  Because they wandered, having some sort of a centralized power would be worthless.  These people were better off in smaller groups to roam their environment with the livestock they followed.  In addition to following their livestock, Turks trained themselves to be incredible hunters and fighters.  It was vital that the Turks were highly disciplined in such an ecoregion.

I don’t know if the Turks had a word for it at the time, but they were mystical people.  They took the energy of the environment around them and felt it had a connection to a god- through their environment they achieved this oneness with a divine power.  Turks believed spirits passed through the forest as they did, and held these spirits in high regard.  The Turks were sacrificial in nature, too.  They would offer up their game in a way of receiving favor from their divine power.

Turks eventually began to move into other regions with contact from the outside world.  Islam had a big part to play in this.  Muslim missionaries would often take on the challenging role of going out into harsh land in order to convert polytheists and other religiously affiliated people to their faith.  The Turks, fierce as they were, got along well with others.  Cooperation was a strong suit for them and it would play immensely in their favor in future years.  So some Turks converted to Islam, and off they went in search of a new place to settle.  For some, that meant going eastward.  For others, it meant moving westward.  Those Turks that settled in the Anatolian region eventually became rulers of what would be known as the Seljuk dynasty.

The Seljuks were one of those groups that could have had an extremely large and impressive presence had they had strong leadership.  But it did not happen that way.  The Seljuks would elect a leader for their principality or beylik and he in turn would lead the inhabitants of that region on raiding parties in other principalities or ambush trade caravans, etc.  Even though they were organized into a beylik, it didn’t necessarily mean that they had a structured government as the idea would lead you to believe.  A the time the people still lived quite autonomously in their tribes.

When a leader didn’t live up to expectations he was easily deposed.  This ineffective leadership cycle was one of the major downfalls to the crumbling Seljuk dynasty and was what also led the way for the Ottomans to pick up the pieces and start what would become one of the longest empires in our history.

When the Mongols came in close proximity with the Turks that still lived in the steppe region, the Turks packed up and headed West.  Legend has it that the leader Süleyman  led his tribe over the river Euphrates- but drowned along the way.  His son Ertugrul then took over, and with him some of the tribe went.  They kept moving westward toward Rum Anatolia, an area that was governed by the Seljuks.  Ertugrul proved a loyal citizen and as reward the Seljuks gave him land to preside over.  With Ertugrul’s passing around 1280, leadership passed on to his son Osman.  It is here that [I believe] the official House of Osman starts.

There you have it- a concise history of the people and the culture preceeding the Ottomans.  More to come!

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