How did the Ottoman Empire make money

The Church and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. The Ottoman Empire and the Christians
2.1. The fall of Constantinople
2.2. Expansion of the empire
2.3. Christians under the rule of the Sultan
2.3.1. Status, rights and duties of the “wards” in the Ottoman Empire
2.3.2. The Millet system
2.3.3. Boy reading and janissaries
2.4. Further considerations

3. The Vatican and Islam
3.1. Islam from the perspective of Rome
3.2. The time of the renaissance popes
3.3. Clashes of faith communities
3.3.1. About the terms
3.3.2. The early crusades
3.4. The Popes and the "Defense of the Christian Faith"
3.4.1. Nicholas V.
3.4.2. Calixtus III.
3.4.3. Pius ii
3.4.4. Paul II
3.4.5. The so-called "Turkish Question" and the papacy between 1471 and 1600

4. Another position: Martin Luther and Islam

5. Conclusion


1 Introduction

The often difficult relations between Islam and Christianity are largely shaped by the consideration of the national histories of the states occupied by the Ottoman Empire and the history of the Crusades. For an assessment of many historical developments in this context, a closer examination of the relationship of the Church to the Ottoman Empire is worthwhile, especially since this can be combined with the question of the reasons for so many procedures or passivities.

The purpose of this housework is to use selected positions to shed light on the development of the relationship between the Church and the Ottoman Empire in the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era. For this purpose, the life of Christians under Ottoman rule is to be sketched in the introduction by means of factors such as the Millet system and the institution of the "boy reading" and in the second part by the detailed consideration of papal activities closer to the attitude of Rome itself to Islam and the empire of the Sultans are received. In the last part, Luther's point of view is briefly presented from the perspective of the beginning Reformation. Finally, a conclusion should be drawn that briefly summarizes the observations made previously and attempts to assess the relationship between the Church and the Sultan's empire in the period examined.

2. The Ottoman Empire and the Christians

2.1. The fall of Constantinople

During the second half of the 14th and first half of the 15th centuries, the Ottoman Empire had understood how to pursue an extensive and successful policy of militarily enforced territorial expansion. Power vacuums in the southeastern European states favored the advance of the Ottoman invaders on the European continent. By the turn of the century, the Ottoman armies took Macedonia[1], heavily defended Serbia[2] as well as the two remaining Bulgarian empires[3] and thus subjugated the Christian peoples of the Balkans within a few decades.

With the continuous expansion of the Ottoman Empire, the power of the old Christian-Orthodox great power, the Byzantine Empire, fell.

At the beginning of the 15th century, Murad II prepared for a march against the Christian Orthodox Eastern Roman imperial city. In 1430 Thessaloniki was occupied, relief attacks carried out from Hungary and a rapidly mobilized crusader army under Wladislaw III. of Poles were unable to strengthen the Christian defense front in the long term. In 1444 near Varna in 1448 on the Amselfeld the Hungarian general János Hunyadi was defeated by the advancing Ottomans.[4]

In the spring of 1453, Sultan Mehmed II isolated Constantinople with a huge siege army. Using western weapon technology and, for the time, modern powder guns, the Ottoman attackers succeeded in breaking through the wall and storming the city on May 29, 1453. Emperor Constantine XI. died in a street fight.[5]

With this, Constantinople fell, the city that Emperor Constantine had founded on the Bosporus around 330 AD and that had united Latin, Greek and Christian cultural assets for centuries.[6] The fall of the Bosporus metropolis left a deep void for the Christian Orthodox world, as it had now lost its ecclesiastical and political center.

2.2. Expansion of the empire

Sultan Mehmed II, who earned the nickname "Fatih" (= "The Conqueror") with the capture of Constantinople, successfully continued his work of conquest in the areas of the Aegean and Adriatic, subjugating the areas of present-day Greece in the following decades , the Danube region and large parts of the Balkan Peninsula.

Under Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566) the Ottoman Empire reached the zenith of its power and territorial expansion. In 1529 Ottoman troops stood in front of Habsburg Vienna for the first time.[7]

2.3. Christians under the rule of the Sultan

2.3.1. Status, rights and duties of the “wards” in the Ottoman Empire

The fate of the Christian population under Ottoman rule, be it in Constantinople or the annexed Balkan territories, is presented and interpreted in very different ways. While national histories of the formerly occupied nations often tend to portray the times of the Ottoman conquests as periods of cruel oppression and exploitation, closer examination shows that this picture should not be drawn so one-sided.

Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, was initially impartial towards the Christians and also towards the Jews prophetic tradition of religious-traditional figures such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus.[8]

That is why the Islamic faith allowed free exercise of religion and full protection of life and property by the Ottoman authorities in the event of voluntary submission. For this, every believer had to pay a poll tax. This was part of the duties of the "wards", which the Islamic legal system regulates like many other traditions: The starting point is the classic image of a uniform Muslim society, which treats its relationship to the minorities living in it. Accordingly, only Muslims were fully fledged citizens of the Ottoman state structure, "people of different faiths", especially Christians and Jews, were tolerated in their status as "dhimmî", ie "protected people". They had to pay certain poll taxes as well as additional duties such as property taxes or duties for army maintenance. They were also asked to treat Muslims in public with appropriate respect and deference. Furthermore, they were not allowed to carry weapons and, as a rule, not take part in any government business. In addition, they should be distinguishable from Muslims by their clothing. New church buildings were generally prohibited, and the open practice of their religion was also restricted to the interior of the church.[9]

Despite these initially comprehensive restrictions, the life of the population with a creed other than the Koran in the kingdom of the Sublime Porte was not characterized by oppression and exclusively restrictions. As already mentioned, the wards were allowed to practice their religion without restriction in their religious premises (i.e. mainly churches and synagogues), and given the general validity of Islamic law, there was still a certain administrative and judicial autonomy (more on this below). Forced conversions to Islam were not the rule and seldom occurred (with the exception of the "boy reading", see 2.3.3).

In general, it can be said that the sultan's regime was characterized by the moderate exercise of power that was adapted to regional and cultural circumstances and that it consciously used local customs as opportunities.[10]


[1] Victory of the Ottomans in the Battle of the Maritza on 09/26/1371

[2] Victory of the Ottomans in the Battle of the Blackbird Field on June 28, 1389 over a mixed army of Serbian, Croatian, Albanian, Bosnian, Wallachian and Bulgarian armies under the leadership of the Serbian Prince Lazar I.

[3] Tarnowo 1393 and Widin 1396

[4] MATUZ, Josef, The Ottoman Empire. Baseline of its history, 3rd, unchanged edition, Darmstadt 1994, p. 49 ff.

[5] BRISSAUD, Alain, Islam and Christianity. Common ground and confrontation yesterday and today, Düsseldorf 2002, p. 244 ff.

[6] BRISSAUD, Alain, Islam and Christianity, P. 241

[7] MATUZ, Josef, The Ottoman Empire, P. 57 ff.

[8] HAGEMANN, Ludwig, Christianity versus Islam: A History of Failed Relationships, Darmstadt 1999, p. 22

[9] see HAGEMANN, Ludwig, Christianity versus Islam, P. 9 f., As well as BRISSAUD, Alain, Islam and Christianity, P. 37 ff.]

[10] see HAGEMANN, Ludwig, Christianity versus Islam, P. 10 f., As well as BRISSAUD, Alain, Islam and Christianity, P. 37 ff.

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