The Ottoman EmpireIV- The Fall of the Ottoman EmpireA- Blaming the Leaders
As any other nation in history, the Ottoman Empire suffered military defeats, political corruption, economic deterioration and finally the fall of a fulfilled dream. Many historians argue about the causes of this decline: was it the weakening of the Ottoman power or the accumulation of power by the opposition? In fact, both of these reasons brought the decay of this world power. One of the explanations of Ibn Khaldun -a very known Arab historian- for the fall of dynasties is about the deficiency of the political system due to the over-power of the Sultan.

“A ruler can obtain power only with help of his own people…he uses them to fight against those who revolt against his dynasty…They help him to achieve his ascendancy and share in all his important affairs. This is true so long as the first stage of a dynasty lasts, but with the approach of the second stage, the ruler shows himself to be independent of his own people: he claims all of the glory for himself and pushes his people away from it… As a result, they become his enemies, and to prevent them from seizing power he needs other friends, not of his own kind, whom he can use against his people.”[1]

That what happened in the Ottoman Empire as the Sultans stopped following the basis of the sharia and the elite took advantage of the situation to over-tax people and expand their wealth. In other words, the leaders became more concerned with leisure and pleasures than politics and wars.

“Seventeenth-century Ottoman Sultans had no exposure to the realities of the political world beyond harem intrigues. The result was incompetence and a drastic decline of authority.”[2]

Accordingly, the central government lost control over many provinces, and the local rulers –notables- benefited from the weak ruling conditions to seize power. The notables built their own military power, collected their own taxes and prepared themselves for independence.

B- The Succession of Defeats

Beginning in 1683, Ottoman defeats in battles succeeded one after the other. All started with the siege of Vienna poorly led by Kara Mustafa, the grand vizir of Mehmed IV, and lasted for 41 years of wars with European enemies. After two months of successful assaults in Vienna, the over-confident vizir ignored the approach of Hapsburg and Polish troops coming to rescue Vienna. The Turks were pursued and pushed out of Hungary and the Greece’s Morea Peninsula. Under the rule of Suleiman II, who spent more time in his harem than behind his desk, the Ottoman Empire engaged a war against the Russians from 1690 to 1699. Under the diplomatic weight of Dutch, British and Venetians, the war ended with a forced treaty – The Treaty of Karlowitz- where the Ottomans gave up territories in the Balkans.

During the eighteenth century, the Ottoman troops lost two wars against Austria and won two others against the Russian army. These brief victories brought hope in the hearts of the Ottoman rulers; however, the glorious days of the Ottoman conquests were over. During the 18th century, the Ottomans tried to restore their territories. Morea and the Sava-Danube frontier were reinstated in 1718 and 1739 respectively. However, nothing could stop the roaring of the end. The Russian expansion represented a real threat for the Ottomans as they were obliged to recognize their military weakness. Treaties were unfavorable for the Ottoman Empire, being in the position of the feeble while they were the winners before.

C- Economic Problems

In parallel, the economy of the Ottoman Empire passed through many difficulties that speeded up its fall. During the 17th and 18th century, there was a forceful competition between the European countries and the Ottoman Empire over the Mediterranean trade. France, Britain and Netherlands started importing goods from South and Southeast Asia, shifting their interests away from the Ottoman Empire. To sum up, “military and diplomatic pressure combined with the commercial penetration and provincial decentralization had brought the empire to the nadir of its fortunes.”[3]

V- Conclusion

In conclusion, one can see the Ottoman Empire as the perfect example for the rise and fall of nations. It starts from scratch, grows, mutates to a powerful empire, to fall