Their ancestors came from the centre of Asia, bringing with them their flocks of sheep. With their nomadic ferocity, they quickly overran the settled peoples in the lands they now own. Combining the crafts of the cities with their own traditions of warfare, the Turkish army became a formidable weapon – winning many victories and creating a great empire. The Sultan’s rule now extends over many lands and spreads the glory of the religion of Islam throughout them.

There were two main Turkish Empires, The Seljuk (1040 ish – 1243) and the Ottomans (1299 – 1923)

Extending from Central Asia to the Byzantine marches in Asia Minor, the Seljuk state under its first three established a highly cohesive, well-administered Sunni state under the nominal authority of the Abbasid caliphs at Baghdad. The empire grew quickly consuming the land of the Abbasid Empire after its fragmentation. After 1055 the empire centered in Baghdad and including Iran, Iraq, and Syria. They helped to prevent the Fatimids of Egypt from making Shiite Islam dominant throughout the Middle East. In the 12th century, they blocked inland expansion by the crusader states on the Syrian Coast
In 1071, Alp Arslan (1063-1072) fought the battle of Malazgirt and defeated the Byzantine Emperor’s forces. This opened the doors of Anatolia to the Moslem Turk. The year 1071 is considered to be the beginning of the Turks and that of Islam in Anatolia. It is following this date that the Turks fully conquered the whole of Anatolia and established the Anatolian Seljuk state there as a part of the Great Seljuk Empire.Seljuk power was at its zenith during the period of 1063-92. The Vizier Nizam Al-Mulk, revived Sunnite Islamic administrative and religious institutions. They developed armies of slaves (mamelukes) to replace the Nomad warriors, as well as an elaborate bureaucratic hierarchy that provided the foundation for governmental administration in the Middle East until modern times. Turkish Influeance 1000
Turkish Influeance 1000
The Seljuks revived and reinvigorated the classical Islamic educational system, developing universities (madrasahs) to train Bureaucrats and religious officials. However, after this period there was a decline in the quality of dynastic leadership and division of their rule among military commanders and regents weakened the power of the great Seljuks. The last of their line died in battle against the Khwakizm-Shahs in 1194. A branch of the Seljuks established its own state in Rum, which survived until it was conquered by the Mongols in 1243.The Ottoman Turks

Early in the 14th century the Turkish tribal chieftain Osman founded an empire in western Anatolia (Asia Minor) that was to endure for almost six centuries. As this empire grew by conquering lands of the Byzantine Empire and beyond, it came to include at the height of its power all of Asia Minor; the countries of the Balkan Peninsula; the islands of the eastern Mediterranean; parts of Hungary and Russia; Iraq, Syria, the Caucasus, Palestine, and Egypt; part of Arabia; and all of North Africa through Algeria.


The dynasty that Osman founded was called Osmanli, meaning “sons of Osman.” The name evolved in English into Ottoman. The Ottoman Empire was Islamic in religion. During the 11th century bands of nomadic Turks emerged from their home in Central Asia to raid lands to the west.

The strongest of the Turkish tribes was the Seljuks. In time they established themselves in Asia Minor along with other groups of Turks. Following the defeat of the Seljuks by the Mongols in 1293, Osman emerged as the leader of local Turks in the fight against the tottering Byzantine Empire. The final conquest of the Byzantines was not achieved until 1453 with the fall of Constantinople (now Istanbul), but by that date all the surrounding territory was in Ottoman hands.

Turkish Influeance 1200
Turkish Influeance 1200

The initial areas of expansion under Osman I and his successors were western Asia Minor and southeastern Europe, primarily the Balkan Peninsula. During Orkhan’s reign the practice began of exacting a tribute in children from Christian subjects. The boys were trained to become soldiers and administrators. As soldiers they filled the ranks of the infantry, called the Janizaries (also spelled Janissaries), the most fearsome military force in Europe for centuries.

Murad I conquered Thrace, to the northwest of Constantinople, in 1361. He moved his capital to Adrianople (now Edirne), Thrace’s capital and the second city of the Byzantine Empire. This conquest effectively cut off Constantinople from the outside world. Adrianople also controlled the principal invasion route through the Balkan Mountains, giving the Ottomans access to further expansion to the north.

Turkish Influeance 1300
Turkish Influeance 1300
During Murad I’s last victorious battle against Balkan allies, he was killed. His successor, Bayezid I was unable to make further European conquests. He was forced to devote his attention to eastern Asia Minor to deal with a growing Turkish principality, Karaman. He attacked and defeated Karaman in 1391, put down a revolt of his Balkan subjects, and returned to consolidate his gains in Asia Minor. His successes attracted the attention of Timur Lenk (Tamerlane).

Encouraged by Turkish princes who had fled to his court from Bayezid I’s incursions, Timur Lenk attacked and overwhelmed him in 1402. Taken captive by Timur Lenk, Bayezid died within a year. Timur Lenk soon retired from Asia Minor, leaving Bayezid’s sons to take up where their father had failed.

The four sons fought for control until one of them, Mohammed I, killed the other three and took control. He reigned from 1413 to 1421 and his successor, Murad II from 1421 to 1451. Murad III suppressed Balkan resistance and eliminated all but two of the Turkish principalities in Asia Minor. The task of finishing the Balkan conquests and seizing all of Asia Minor fell to Murad II’s successor, Mohammed II (ruled 1451-81). It was he who completed the siege of Constantinople in 1453 and made it the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The whole Balkan Peninsula south of Hungary was incorporated as well as the Crimea on the north coast of the Black Sea. Asia Minor was completely subdued.

In addition to conquering a large empire, he also worked strenuously for consolidation and an adequate administrative and tax system. He was assisted by the fact that the whole Byzantine bureaucratic structure fell into his hands. Although Islamic, Ottoman sultans were not averse to using whatever talent they could attract or capture.