The Ottoman Empire was one of the most supreme and most dominant civilizations of the modern world. From 1500 onwards, the Ottoman society exhibited great characteristics of human creativity, optimism, and artistry.
Uniting under a common religion and strong government systems, the Ottomans rapidly preached Islamic traditions and culture in most parts of the modern world. Additionally, taking recourse to their military prowess and technological advances they created one of the largest empires which stretched across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and even Europe. The Ottoman Empire was one of the most influential world powers for the two centuries from the 1500 to 1700, in spite of the fact that the empire lasted over 700 years, up until the 20th century.
The Ottoman Empire expanded considerably during the 1500s under the leadership of great Ottoman rulers Sultan Selim I and his son Sultan Suleiman. Under the authority of these rulers, the empire reached its peak in Asia and Europe. These sultans and their predecessors strove hard to promote the Ottoman culture. They attempted to restore Constantinople to prominence by building mosques, palaces and buildings.
The sultan Selim I who ruled from 1512 to 1520 was popularly known as "the Grim." To the east was a revived Persia which was under the Shiite dynasty of the Safavids. In 1514, Turks and Persians fought a war at Chaldiran. This war established the supremacy of the Turkish artillery and firearms over the Persian cavalry.
However, the Persians soon learnt a lesson from this bitter defeat and changed their strategy. They laid an open land so that the Ottoman could advance which proved to be in Persia's favor, and thereby a stable frontier emerged between the Persian and Turkish realms.
Selim was extremely successful against the Mameluke dynasty centered in Egypt. In the battle of Dabik in 1516, the Ottomans once again used their firepower to the maximum limits which ended in even more lasting results. The Mameluke rule quickly collapsed and this resulted in the Ottoman rule extending to Palestine, Egypt, and Arabia, thereby giving the sultan control of Islam's holiest places.
The reign of Suleiman was from1520 to 1566 was the highest point of the Ottoman expansion. He directed all his energy in the holy war against the Christians, driving northwest into Europe and west across the Mediterranean. In 1526, at the battle of Mohacs, Turks, once again proved their superiority, this time against the Hungarians, whose king and most of their nobility died on the battlefield itself.
This paved the way to Vienna, and it was here that the Ottoman advance into Europe ground to take a halt. However, the blockade of Vienna was the first major blow for the Turks. Thus, a new frontier emerged between Christian and Muslim worlds which were guarded by complex and expensive series of fortresses on each side.
The Ottoman drove across the Mediterranean eventually stopping in two desperate clashes between Turks and Christians. The first was a massive siege of the Knights of St. John on the strategic island of Malta in 1566. After four months of bitter fighting, a Christian relief force drove the Turkish army away.
An equally frantic battle was also fought at sea at Lepanto in 1571. As a matter of fact, this battle left no scope for the soldiers to retreat which made this battle all the more especially brutal. Eventually, the Ottomans' fleet was severely crippled, their tide of victories and conquests pretty much ceased, and their empire entered a long period of steady decline.
In the late 1500's, the Ottoman Empire declined due to a variety of reasons which pertained to several internal as well as external factors. Internally, the Ottomans suffered from three major problems. First of all, after Suleiman's death, the sultans became less capable and energetic as most of their time was being in court with all its harem maneuverings.
Without the sultan's strong hand at the helm, corruption evolved as a major problem. Secondly, the Janissaries became a virtual hereditary caste, demanding increasingly more pay on one hand while turning soft and lazy on the other hand. Finally, the size of the empire also posed several problems. Because of these factors, the subsequent conquests which the Turks made after 1565 and, as a gained no significant revenues and plunder.
Apart from the above factors, there were two external economic factors which further affected the Ottoman rule was that the Portuguese navigation around Africa to India opened a new route to Asia which resulted in the Turks losing their monopoly on the flourishing trade going to Europe, which lost them a great amount of much needed revenue.
The other problem came from the Spanish Empire in the Americas which brought in a huge influx of gold and silver to Europe. This paved way to massive inflation during the 1500's, eventually landing into the Ottoman Empire. This inflation, coupled with the other factors hurting the empire's revenues, led to serious economic decline.
The 1500s was truly a dynamic period as while on one hand, the Ottoman Empire flourished and expanded by acquiring new territories to the already established Ottoman empire while the latter half witnessed somewhat of a breakdown and paved way to the decline of the one of history's most powerful empires.