Stagnation of the Ottoman Empire

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The Stagnation of the Ottoman Empire (11 November 160626 January 1699) began by the death of the able grand vizier Sokollu Mehmet Pasha in 1579 and the peace of Peace of Zsitvatorok in 1606. During this period the empire continued to have military might. Despite a few gains like Crete, there were almost continuous rebellions in Anatolia and vast territories were lost to Safavid Persia. The period is marked by weak and semi mad sultans and incapable grandviziers. The valide sultans (mothers of the sultans) who acted like queen regent were the powerful figures of the period. The stagnation period was followed by the Decline of the Ottoman Empire

Ahmet I (1603–1617)[edit]

Ahmet was enthroned while he was only 14. Unlike his predecessors he had never served in Anatolia as a sanjak governor. In the earlier part of his reign Ahmet I showed decision and vigour, which were belied by his subsequent conduct. The wars which attended his accession both in Hungary and in Persia terminated unfavourably for the Empire, and her prestige received its first check in the Treaty of Sitvatorok, signed in 1606, whereby the annual tribute paid by Austria was abolished. By the Treaty of Nasuh Pasha in 1612, Georgia and Azerbaijan were ceded to Persia. During Ahmet's reign about one hundred thousand Anatolian Turks were killed in the series of revolts known as Jelali revolts. Ahmet is also known for his efforts in the construction of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque).

Mustafa I (1617–1618), (1622–1623)[edit]

Ahmet made a major change in the laws of heredity. Up to Ahmet's reign only the late sultan's son could have the chance of enthroning. According to Ahmet's law, brothers could also be enthroned. Thus Mustafa, Ahmet's brother became the sultan after the latter's death. However he was almost insane and he was quickly replaced by Osman II. After Osman's death he was enthroned again, for a very short term.

Osman II (1618–1622)[edit]

Osman II (known as Genç Osman, "Osman the Young") was enthroned after a very short reign of Mustafa I who was almost mad. Osman II after securing the Empire's eastern border by signing a peace treaty with Safavid Iran, he personally led the Ottoman invasion of Poland during the Moldavian Magnate Wars. Forced to sign a peace treaty with the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth after the Battle of Chotin (Chocim) (actually a siege of Chotin defended by Polish-Lithuanian forces under the command of hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz) in September–October, 1621, Osman II returned home to Constantinople[1] in shame, blaming the cowardice of the Janissaries and the insufficiency of his statesmen for his humiliation. Although he planned to abolish the jannisary corps, he was dethroned and brutally killed by the jannisary.

Murad IV (1623–1640)[edit]

Murad IV was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1623 to 1640. During the early years of his reign while he was still a child of 9, he witnessed the indiscipline of the janisarries. After 1632, he took command. Between 1632 and 1640 he was known both for restoring the authority of the state and for the brutality of his methods. Murad IV's reign is most notable for a war against Persia in which Ottoman forces conquered Azerbaijan, occupied Tabriz, Hamadan, and captured Baghdad in 1638. Murad IV himself commanded the invasion of Mesopotamia and proved to be an outstanding field commander. By the treaty of Zuhab he drew the border line between the Ottoman and the Safavid Empires which is more or less the present border line between Turkey - Iraq and Iran. In administration he was known to ban alcohol.

İbrahim (1640–1648)[edit]

When Murat died, İbrahim was the last male member of the dynasty. (If he died without issue then a Crimean khan would be enthroned.) Thus he was under pressure to have a son, the result being that a quack doctor named Cinci Hoca who was supported by Kösem Sultan, the sultan's mother, became the most powerful man in the empire. Added to this İbrahim's extreme fondness for fur caused him to lose prestige among his subjects; hence his nickname deli ("insane").

Mehmed IV (1648–1687)[edit]

Mehmed IV (Ottoman Turkish: محمد رابع Meḥmed-i rābi‘; also known as Avcı Mehmed, Mehmed the Hunter; January 2, 1642 – January 6, 1693) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1648 to 1687. Taking the throne at age six, his reign was significant as he changed the nature of the Sultan's position forever by giving up most of his executive power to his Grand Vizier.

His reign is notable for a brief revival of Ottoman fortunes led by Grand Vizier, Mehmed Köprülü and his son Fazıl Ahmet . They regained the Aegean islands from Venice and fought successful campaigns against Transylvania (1664) and Poland (1670–1674). At one point, when Mehmed IV allied himself with Petro Doroshenko, Ottoman rule was close to extending into Podolia and Ukraine. See Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks for his correspondence with the Cossacks.

A later vizier, Kara Mustafa was less able. Supporting the 1683 Hungarian uprising of Imre Thököly against Austrian rule, Kara Mustafa marched a vast army through Hungary and besieged Vienna at the Battle of Vienna. On the Kahlenberg Heights, the Ottomans suffered a catastrophic rout by Polish forces famously led by their King, John III Sobieski (1674–96), and his Holy League allies, notably the Imperial army.

In 1687 he was deposed by the combined forces of Yeğen Osman and the janissaries. Mehmed then was imprisoned in Topkapı Palace. However, he was permitted to leave the Palace from time to time, as he died in Edirne Palace in 1693. He was buried in Turhan Hadice Sultan's tomb, near his mother's mosque in Constantinople. Just before he died in 1691, a plot was discovered in which the senior clerics of the empire planned to reinstate Mehmed on the throne in response to the ill health of his successor, Suleiman II.

Süleyman II (1687–1691)[edit]

Jannisaries's revolt continued during the early phase of Süleyman's reign. Meanwhile, Prince Eugene of Savoy led Austrian forces to victories in the Great Turkish War. Süleyman II who was an ailing sultan appointed Köprülü Fazıl Mustafa Pasha as the grandvizier. This was a wise choice for Fazıl Mustafa Pasha temporarily changed the course of events by recapturing the important fort Belgrad.

Ahmet II (1691–1695)[edit]

Köprülü Fazıl Mustafa Pasha's death during the Battle of Slankamen was a great loss for the Ottoman side. Ottoman Empire lost all Hungary except Banat. But Ottoman-Cremean side was more successful in the Polish front. Nevertheless when Russia also joined the Allies, Ottomans had to fight in Azov fort also.

Mustafa II (1695–1703)[edit]

Although Mustafa II (1695–1703), last of campaigning sultans, won a few minor victories, he was defeated in the Battle of Zenta by Prince Eugene of Savoy of Austria. By 1699, Ottoman Hungary had been conquered by the Austrians. The Treaty of Karlowitz was signed that year. By this treaty, Mustafa II ceded Hungary (see Ottoman Hungary) and Transylvania to Austria, Morea to the Venetian Republic and withdrew Turkish forces from Polish Podolia. Also during this reign, Peter I of Russia (1682–1725) captured the Black Sea fortress of Azov from the Turks (1697).

End of the stagnation[edit]

Battle of Vienna in 1683 is usually considered as the end of the stagnation. Its written document is the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.[2]

See also[edit]

Rifa'at 'Ali Abou-El-Haj, Formation of the Modern State: The Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2005. See this monograph for arguments against the validity of the decline theory of the Ottoman Empire.



  1. ^ Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream, (Basic Books, 2004), 57;"Istanbul was only adopted as the city's official name in 1930.."
  2. ^ Online chronology (Turkish)
  • Incorporates text from "History of Ottoman Turks" (1878)