Osman I Research Paper

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Osman established the foundations of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, one of the greatest empires in history, in the late thirteenth century, but little about his life is documented in the historical record. His immediate successors expanded the Ottoman state far beyond the small part of Anatolia that Osman ruled.

Scholars know more from legend about Osman, the ruler who “gave” his name to the Ottoman Empire (Osman is ‘Uthman in Arabic, hence Othman and Ottoman), than from historical evidence. No one knows, for instance, when precisely he was born or began to rule. But it is certain that the major events of his lifetime occurred in the early fourteenth century.

The son of Ertugrul, Osman led a small emirate in Anatolia (modern Turkey). It was but one of numerous Turkic emirates in the region. Originally, Osman and his father had entered the service of the Seljuks with a small following, fleeing westward away from the Mongols. After his father’s death, Osman’s emirate increased in power, often at the expense of the Seljuks, and Osman expanded his territory in order to gain more pasturage for his nomadic troops. He grew sufficiently strong that his forces successfully repulsed a few attempts by the Mongols to impose their authority over him.

From coins dating from the era, it is known that Osman was an independent ruler by 1281 and that he fought with Byzantine forces on numerous occasions, usually emerging as the victor. His base of operations was in the Sakarya River valley in northwestern Anatolia. However, details from the contemporary sources are very sketchy, and most knowledge of his activities seem to be based in tradition rather any historical record. Nonetheless, it is known that his forces operated on the frontier of the Islamic world and that of the Byzantines. Osman defeated the Byzantines near Nikomedia (Izmit) and also at Katoikia. It is unclear when these battles occurred; the contemporary chronicler, Pachymeres, however, places them before 1307. Although Osman enjoyed success against the Byzantines, it was not uniform as he failed to take Bursa and Iznik.

Osman’s role in world history is greater than his actions during his lifetime would indicate. He established the foundations for one of the greatest Muslim empires, and indeed, greatest empires of any kind, in history. His immediate successors continued to expand the nascent Ottoman state far beyond the small part of Anatolia that Osman ruled. While it is uncertain how much of a factor religion actually played in the wars between Osman and the Byzantines, it became part of Ottoman tradition that the Ottomans started off as Muslim warriors who lived on the frontier specifically to do battle with nonbelievers.


  1. Imber, C. (2003). The Ottoman Empire, 1300–1650: The structure of power. New York: Palgrave.
  2. Inalcik, H. (2001). Phoenix: The Ottoman Empire: The classical age, 1300–1600. London: Phoenix Press.
  3. Kafadar, C. (1996). Between two worlds: The construction of the Ottoman state. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  4. Lindner, R. P. (1983). Nomads and Ottomans in medieval Anatolia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  5. Shaw, S. J. (1976). History of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey: Vol. 1. Empire of the Gazis: The rise and decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280–1808. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

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