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History

The Ottoman Empire

Late in the 13th century, a Muslim warrior known as Osman began to lead successful raids against the Byzantine strongholds in western Anatolia. His followers, the Ottomans, extended control in all directions, forging an empire that would be the principal political force in the western Islamic world for 600 years. At its height in the second half of the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire included southeastern Europe, Anatolia, Iraq, western Iran, Greater Syria, Egypt, the western Arabian Peninsula, and the coast of North Africa between Egypt and eastern Morocco. Further east the Ottomans' contemporaries and rivals the Safavids established a dynasty in Iran and Afghanistan between 1501 and 1722, imposing Twelver Shia Islam as the official religion and founding the modern Iranian state. Both the Ottomans and the Safavids ruled some of the most advanced and militarily and economically secure states of their time. In the early 18th century the Ottoman Empire began a long process of decline and decay, brought about by a combination of internal strife and external pressures from the rise of the European powers to economic, scientific, and political domination.

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