The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs
In the early fourteenth century, a group of nomadic Mongols in Anatolia almost unknowingly launched the Ottomans. Initially multi-ethnic and multi-religious, the movement became a mighty empire spanning continents. Land acquisitions brought people of Turkish, Byzantine, Islamic, and Mongolian heritage into the fold. As the centuries passed, the Ottomans forsook their tolerance and eventually ended their lengthy hegemony when they massacred millions of Armenians before being overcome, diminished, after World War I.
This saga represents not only a paeon to powerful, remarkable leaders, but also a lamentable account of lurid behaviors and brutality that, were it not for the later European genocide, might have stretched credulity. The elite military Janissaries, and the deviant dervishes, whose transfixing dancing was an image known to Westerners, were among the exotic societal populations. Among a succession of extraordinary rulers, the best remembered, Mehmet II, was responsible for the fall of Constantinople in 1452, as well as for collecting and commissioning art.
The Ottomans regarded themselves as successors to the Romans and being at the forefront of the Renaissance, seeking a reputation in the West rather than the East. Enlightening and at times distressing, The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs is a superb scholarly contribution.
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