History of Turkey

Ancient Anatolia

There is abundant archaeological evidence of a thriving neolithic culture in Anatolia at least as early as the seventh millennium B.C. What may have been the world’s first urban settlement (dated ca. 6500 B.C.) has been uncovered at Çatalhüyük in the Konya Ovasi (Konya Basin). Introduced early in the third millennium B.C., metallurgy made possible a flourishing “copper age” (ca. 2500-2000 B.C.) during which cultural patterns throughout the region were remarkably uniform. The use of bronze weapons and implements was widespread by 2000 B.C. Colonies of Assyrian merchants, who settled in Anatolia during the copper age, provided metal for the military empires of Mesopotamia, and their accounts and business correspondence are the earliest written records found in Anatolia. From about 1500 B.C., southern Anatolia, which had plentiful sources of ore and numerous furnace sites, developed as a centre of iron production. Two of the area’s most celebrated archaeological excavations are the sites at Troy and Hatusas (Bogazköy).

The cape projecting into the Aegean between the Dardanelles and the Gulf of Edremit was known in antiquity as Troas. There, a thirty-meter-high mound called Hisarlik was identified as the site of ancient Troy in diggings begun by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s. The first five levels of the nine discovered at Hisarlik contained remains of cities from the third millennium B.C. that controlled access to the shortest crossing of the Dardanelles and that probably derived their prosperity from tolls. Artifacts give evidence of 1,000 years of cultural continuity in the cities built on these levels. A sharp break with the past occurred on the sixth level, settled about 1900 B.C. by newcomers believed to have been related to the early Greeks. Built after an earthquake devastated the previous city about 1300 B.C., the seventh level was clearly the victim of sacking and burning about 1150 B.C., and it is recognised as having been the Troy of Homer’s Iliad. Hisarlik subsequently was the site of a Greek city, Ilion, and a Roman one, Ilium.


Late in the third millennium B.C., waves of invaders speaking Indo-European languages crossed the Caucasus Mountains into Anatolia. Among them were the bronze-working, chariot-borne warriors who conquered and settled the central plain. Building on older cultures, these invaders borrowed even their name, the Hittites, from the indigenous Hatti whom they had subjugated. They adopted the native Hattic deities and adapted to their written language the cuneiform alphabet and literary conventions of the Semitic cultures of Mesopotamia. The Hittites imposed their political and social organisation on their dominions in the Anatolian interior and northern Syria, where the indigenous peasantry supported the Hittite warrior caste with rents, services, and taxes. In time the Hittites won reputations as merchants and statesmen who schooled the ancient Middle East in both commerce and diplomacy. The Hittite Empire achieved the zenith of its political power and cultural accomplishment in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C., but the state collapsed after 1200 B.C. when the Phrygians, clients of the Hittites, rebelled and burned Hattusas.

Phrygians and Lydians

The twelfth to ninth centuries B.C. were a time of turmoil throughout Anatolia and the Aegean world. The destruction of Troy, Hattusas, and numerous other cities in the region was a collective disaster that coincided with the rise of the aggressive Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia, the Dorian invasion of Greece, and the appearance of the “sea peoples” who ravaged the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

The first light to penetrate the dark age in Anatolia was lit by the very Phrygians who had destroyed Hattusas. Architects, builders, and skilled workers of iron, they had assimilated the Hittites’ syncretic culture and adopted many of their political institutions. Phrygian kings apparently ruled most of western and central Anatolia in the ninth century B.C. from their capital at Gordium (a site sixty kilometres southwest of modern Ankara). Phrygian strength soon waned, however, and the kingdom was overthrown in the seventh century B.C. by the Cimmerians, a nomadic people who had been pursued over the Caucasus into Anatolia by the Scythians.

Order was restored in Anatolia by the Lydians, a Thracian warrior caste who dominated the indigenous peasantry and derived their great wealth from alluvial gold found in the tributaries of the Hermus River (Gediz Nehri). From their court at Sardis, such Lydian kings as Croesus controlled western Anatolia until their kingdom fell to the Persians in 546 B.C.

Armenians and Kurds

The Armenians took refuge in the Lake Van region in the seventh century B.C., apparently in reaction to Cimmerian raids. Their country was described by Xenophon around 400 B.C. as a tributary of Persia. By the first century B.C., a united Armenian kingdom that stretched from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea had been established as a client of the Roman Empire to buffer the frontier with Persia.

Xenophon also recorded the presence of the Kurds. Contemporary linguistic evidence has challenged the previously held view that the Kurds are descendants of the Medes, although many Kurds still accept this explanation of their origin. Kurdish people migrated from the Eurasian steppes in the second millennium B.C. and joined indigenous inhabitants living in the region.


The Aegean coast of Anatolia was an integral part of a Minoan-Mycenean civilization (ca. 2600-1200 B.C.) that drew its cultural impulses from Crete. During the Aegean region’s so-called Dark Age (ca. 1050-800 B.C.), Ionian Greek refugees fled across the sea to Anatolia, then under Lydian rule, to escape the onslaught of the Dorians. Many more cities were founded along the Anatolian coast during the great period of Greek expansion after the eighth century B.C. One among them was Byzantium, a distant colony established on the Bosporus by the city-state of Megara. Despite endemic political unrest, the cities founded by the Ionians and subsequent Greek settlers prospered from commerce with Phrygia and Lydia, grew in size and number, and generated a renaissance that put Ionia in the cultural vanguard of the Hellenic world.

At first the Greeks welcomed the Persians, grateful to be freed from Lydian control. But when the Persians began to impose unpopular tyrants on the city-states, the Greeks rebelled and called on their kinsmen in Greece for aid. In 334 B.C., Alexander the Great crossed the Hellespont, defeated the Persians at the Granicus River (Biga Çayi), and during four years of campaigning liberated the Ionian city-states, incorporating them into an empire that at his death in 323 B.C. stretched from the Nile to the Indus.

After Alexander died, control of Anatolia was contested by several of the Macedonian generals among whom his empire was divided. By 280 B.C. one of them, Seleucus Nicator, had made good his claim to an extensive kingdom that included southern and western Anatolia and Thrace as well as Syria, Mesopotamia, and, for a time, Persia. Under the Seleucid Dynasty, which survived until 64 B.C., colonists were brought from Greece, and the process of hellenization was extended among the non-Greek elites.

The Seleucids were plagued by rebellions, and their domains in Anatolia were steadily eaten away by secession and attacks by rival Hellenistic regimes. Pergamum became independent in 262 B.C., during the Attalid Dynasty, and won fame as the paragon of Hellenistic states. Noted for the cleanliness of its streets and the splendor of its art, Pergamum, in west-central Anatolia, derived its extraordinary wealth from trade in pitch, parchment, and perfume, while slave labour produced a food surplus on scientifically managed state farms. It was also a centre of learning that boasted a medical school and a library second in renown only to that of Alexandria. But Pergamum was both despised and envied by the other Greek states because of its alliance with Rome.

Rome and the Byzantine Empire

The last of the Attalid kings bequeathed Pergamum to his Roman allies upon his death in 138 B.C. Rome organised this extensive territory under a proconsul as the province of Asia. All of Anatolia except Armenia, which was a Roman client-state, was integrated into the imperial system by A.D. 43. After the accession of the Roman emperor Augustus (r. 27 B.C.-A.D. 14), and for generations thereafter, the Anatolian provinces enjoyed prosperity and security. The cities were administered by local councils and sent delegates to provincial assemblies that advised the Roman governors. Their inhabitants were citizens of a cosmopolitan world state, subject to a common legal system and sharing a common Roman identity. Roman in allegiance and Greek in culture, the region nonetheless retained its ethnic complexity.

In A.D. 285, the emperor Diocletian undertook the reorganisation of the Roman Empire, dividing jurisdiction between its Latin-speaking and Greek-speaking halves. In 330 Diocletian’s successor, Constantine, established his capital at the Greek city of Byzantium, a “New Rome” strategically situated on the European side of the Bosporus at its entrance to the Sea of Marmara. For nearly twelve centuries the city, embellished and renamed Constantinople, remained the capital of the Roman Empire–better known in its continuous development in the East as the Byzantine Empire.

Christianity was introduced to Anatolia through the missionary activity of Saint Paul, a Greek-speaking Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, and his companions. Christians possibly even constituted a majority of the population in most of Anatolia by the time Christianity was granted official toleration under the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. Before the end of the fourth century, a patriarchate was established in Constantinople with ecclesiastical jurisdiction over much of the Greek East. The basilica of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), whose construction in Constantinople was ordered by Emperor Justinian in 532, became the spiritual focus of Greek Christendom.

Although Greek in language and culture, the Byzantine Empire was thoroughly Roman in its laws and administration. The emperor’s Greek-speaking subjects, conscious of their imperial vocation, called themselves romaioi –Romans. Almost until the end of its long history, the Byzantine Empire was seen as ecumenical–intended to encompass all Christian peoples–rather than as a specifically Greek state.

In the early seventh century, the emperor in Constantinople presided over a realm that included not only Greece and Anatolia but Syria, Egypt, Sicily, most of Italy, and the Balkans, with outposts across North Africa as far as Morocco. Anatolia was the most productive part of this extensive empire and was also the principal reservoir of manpower for its defense. With the loss of Syria to Muslim conquest in the seventh century, Anatolia became the frontier as well as the heartland of the empire. The military demands imposed on the Byzantine state to police its provinces and defend its frontiers were enormous, but despite the gradual contraction of the empire and frequent political unrest, Byzantine forces generally remained strong until the eleventh century.

Turkish Origins

The first historical references to the Turks appear in Chinese records dating around 200 B.C. These records refer to tribes called the Hsiung-nu (an early form of the Western term Hun ), who lived in an area bounded by the Altai Mountains, Lake Baykal, and the northern edge of the Gobi Desert, and who are believed to have been the ancestors of the Turks. Specific references in Chinese sources in the sixth century A.D. identify the tribal kingdom called Tu-Küe located on the Orkhon River south of Lake Baykal. The khans (chiefs) of this tribe accepted the nominal suzerainty of the Tang Dynasty. The earliest known example of writing in a Turkic language was found in that area and has been dated around A.D. 730.

Other Turkish nomads from the Altai region founded the Görtürk Empire, a confederation of tribes under a dynasty of khans whose influence extended during the sixth through eighth centuries from the Aral Sea to the Hindu Kush in the land bridge known as Transoxania (i.e., across the Oxus River). The Görtürks are known to have been enlisted by a Byzantine emperor in the seventh century as allies against the Sassanians. In the eighth century, separate Turkish tribes, among them the Oguz, moved south of the Oxus River, while others migrated west to the northern shore of the Black Sea.

Great Seljuks

The Turkish migrations after the sixth century were part of a general movement of peoples out of central Asia during the first millennium A.D. that was influenced by a number of interrelated factors–climatic changes, the strain of growing populations on a fragile pastoral economy, and pressure from stronger neighbours also on the move. Among those who migrated were the Oguz Turks, who had embraced Islam in the tenth century. They established themselves around Bukhara in Transoxania under their khan, Seljuk. Split by dissension among the tribes, one branch of the Oguz, led by descendants of Seljuk, moved west and entered service with the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad.

The Turkish horsemen, known as gazis , were organized into tribal bands to defend the frontiers of the caliphate, often against their own kinsmen. However, in 1055 a Seljuk khan, Tugrul Bey, occupied Baghdad at the head of an army composed of gazis and mamluks (slave-soldiers, a number of whom became military leaders and rulers). Tugrul forced the caliph (the spiritual leader of Islam) to recognise him as sultan, or temporal leader, in Persia and Mesopotamia. While they engaged in state building, the Seljuks also emerged as the champions of Sunni Islam against the religion’s Shia sect. Tugrul’s successor, Mehmet ibn Daud (r. 1063-72)–better known as Alp Arslan, the “Lion Hero”–prepared for a campaign against the Shia Fatimid caliphate in Egypt but was forced to divert his attention to Anatolia by the gazis , on whose endurance and mobility the Seljuks depended. The Seljuk elite could not persuade these gazis to live within the framework of a bureaucratic Persian state, content with collecting taxes and patrolling trade routes. Each year the gazis cut deeper into Byzantine territory, raiding and taking booty according to their tradition. Some served as mercenaries in the private wars of Byzantine nobles and occasionally settled on land they had taken. The Seljuks followed the gazis into Anatolia in order to retain control over them. In 1071 Alp Arslan routed the Byzantine army at Manzikert near Lake Van, opening all of Anatolia to conquest by the Turks.

Armenia had been annexed by the Byzantine Empire in 1045, but religious animosity between the Armenians and the Greeks prevented these two Christian peoples from cooperating against the Turks on the frontier. Although Christianity had been adopted as the official religion of the state by King Titidates III around A.D. 300, nearly 100 years before similar action was taken in the Roman Empire, Armenians were converted to a form of Christianity at variance with the Orthodox tradition of the Greek church, and they had their own patriarchate independent of Constantinople. After their conquest by the Sassanians around 400, their religion bound them together as a nation and provided the inspiration for a flowering of Armenian culture in the fifth century. When their homeland fell to the Seljuks in the late eleventh century, large numbers of Armenians were dispersed throughout the Byzantine Empire, many of them settling in Constantinople, where in its centuries of decline they became generals and statesmen as well as craftsmen, builders, and traders.

Sultanate of Rum

Within ten years of the Battle of Manzikert, the Seljuks had won control of most of Anatolia. Although successful in the west, the Seljuk sultanate in Baghdad reeled under attacks from the Mongols in the east and was unable–indeed unwilling–to exert its authority directly in Anatolia. The gazis carved out a number of states there, under the nominal suzerainty of Baghdad, states that were continually reinforced by further Turkish immigration. The strongest of these states to emerge was the Seljuk sultanate of Rum (“Rome,” i.e., Byzantine Empire), which had its capital at Konya (Iconium). During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Rum became dominant over the other Turkish states.

The society and economy of the Anatolian countryside were unchanged by the Seljuks, who had simply replaced Byzantine officials with a new elite that was Turkish and Muslim. Conversion to Islam and the imposition of the language, mores, and customs of the Turks progressed steadily in the countryside, facilitated by intermarriage. The cleavage widened, however, between the unruly gazi warriors and the state-building bureaucracy in Konya.

The Crusades

The success of the Seljuk Turks stimulated a response from Latin Europe in the form of the First Crusade. A counter offensive launched in 1097 by the Byzantine emperor with the aid of the crusaders dealt the Seljuks a decisive defeat. Konya fell to the crusaders, and after a few years of campaigning Byzantine rule was restored in the western third of Anatolia.

Although a Turkish revival in the 1140s nullified many of the Christian gains, greater damage was done to Byzantine security by dynastic strife in Constantinople in which the largely French contingents of the Fourth Crusade and their Venetian allies intervened. In 1204 these crusaders installed Count Baldwin of Flanders in the Byzantine capital as emperor of the so-called Latin Empire of Constantinople, dismembering the old realm into tributary states where West European feudal institutions were transplanted intact.

Independent Greek kingdoms were established at Nicaea and Trebizond (present-day Trabzon) and in Epirus from remnant Byzantine provinces. Turks allied with Greeks in Anatolia against the Latins, and Greeks with Turks against the Mongols. In 1261 Michael Palaeologus of Nicaea drove the Latins from Constantinople and restored the Byzantine Empire, but as an essentially Balkan state reduced in size to Thrace and northwestern Anatolia.

Seljuk Rum survived in the late thirteenth century as a vassal state of the Mongols, who had already subjugated the Great Seljuk sultanate at Baghdad. Mongol influence in the region had disappeared by the 1330s, leaving behind gazi amirates competing for supremacy. From the chaotic conditions that prevailed throughout the Middle East, however, a new power emerged in Anatolia–the Ottoman Turks.

The Ottoman Empire

Documentation of the early history of the Ottomans is scarce. According to semilegendary accounts, Ertugrul, khan of the Kayi tribe of the Oguz Turks, took service with the sultan of Rum at the head of a gazi force numbering “400 tents.” He was granted territory–if he could seize and hold it–in Bithynia, facing the Byzantine strongholds at Bursa, Nicomedia (Izmit), and Nicaea. Leadership subsequently passed to Ertugrul’s son, Osman I (r. ca. 1284-1324), founder of the Osmanli Dynasty–better known in the West as the Ottomans. This dynasty was to endure for six centuries through the reigns of thirty-six sultans.

Osman I’s small amirate attracted gazis from other amirates, who required plunder from new conquests to maintain their way of life. Such growth gave the Ottoman state a military stature that was out of proportion to its size. Acquiring the title of sultan, Osman I organized a politically centralised administration that subordinated the activities of the gazis to its needs and facilitated rapid territorial expansion. Bursa fell in the final year of his reign. His successor, Orhan (r. 1324-60), crossed the Dardanelles in force and established a permanent European base at Gallipoli in 1354. Murad I (r. 1360-89) annexed most of Thrace (called Rumelia, or “Roman land,” by the Turks), encircling Constantinople, and moved the seat of Ottoman government to Adrianople (Edirne) in Europe. In 1389 the Ottoman gazis defeated the Serbs at the Battle of Kosovo, although at the cost of Murad’s life. The steady stream of Ottoman victories in the Balkans continued under Bayezid I (r. 1389-1402). Bulgaria was subdued in 1393, and in 1396 a French-led force of crusaders that had crossed the Danube from Hungary was annihilated at Nicopolis.

In Anatolia, where Ottoman policy had been directed toward consolidating the sultan’s hold over the gazi amirates by means of conquest, usurpation, and purchase, the Ottomans were confronted by the forces of the Mongol leader Timur (Tamerlane), to whom many of the Turkish gazis had defected. Timur crushed Ottoman forces near Ankara in 1402 and captured Bayezid I. The unfortunate sultan died in captivity the next year, leaving four heirs, who for a decade competed for control of what remained of Ottoman Anatolia. By the 1420s, however, Ottoman power had revived to the extent that fresh campaigns were undertaken in Greece.

Aside from scattered outposts in Greece, all that remained of the Byzantine Empire was its capital, Constantinople. Cut off by land since 1365, the city, despite long periods of truce with the Turks, was supplied and reinforced by Venetian traders who controlled its commerce by sea. On becoming sultan in 1444, Mehmet II (r. 1444-46, 1451-81) immediately set out to conquer the city. The military campaigning season of 1453 commenced with the fifty-day siege of Constantinople, during which Mehmet II brought warships overland on greased runners into the Bosporus inlet known as the Golden Horn to bypass the chain barrage and fortresses that had blocked the entrance to Constantinople’s harbor. On May 29, the Turks fought their way through the gates of the city and brought the siege to a successful conclusion.

As an isolated military action, the taking of Constantinople did not have a critical effect on European security, but to the Ottoman Dynasty the capture of the imperial capital was of supreme symbolic importance. Mehmet II regarded himself as the direct successor to the Byzantine emperors. He made Constantinople the imperial capital, as it had been under the Byzantine emperors, and set about rebuilding the city. The cathedral of Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque, and Constantinople–which the Turks called Istanbul (from the Greek phrase eis tin polin , “to the city”)–replaced Baghdad as the center of Sunni Islam. The city also remained the ecclesiastical center of the Greek Orthodox Church, of which Mehmet II proclaimed himself the protector and for which he appointed a new patriarch after the custom of the Byzantine emperors.

Ottoman Institutions

At the apex of the hierarchical Ottoman system was the sultan, who acted in political, military, judicial, social, and religious capacities, under a variety of titles. He was theoretically responsible only to God and God’s law–the Islamic seriat (in Arabic, sharia ), of which he was the chief executor. All offices were filled by his authority, and every law was issued by him in the form of a firman (decree). He was supreme military commander and had official title to all land. During the early sixteenth-century Ottoman expansion in Arabia, Selim I also adopted the title of caliph, thus indicating that he was the universal Muslim ruler. Although theocratic and absolute in theory and in principle, the sultan’s powers were in practice limited. The attitudes of important members of the dynasty, the bureaucratic and military establishments, and religious leaders had to be considered.

Three characteristics were necessary for acceptance into the ruling class: Islamic faith, loyalty to the sultan, and compliance with the standards of behaviour of the Ottoman court. The last qualification effectively excluded the majority of common Turks, whose language and manners were very different from those of the Ottomans. The language of the court and government was Ottoman Turkish, a highly formalized hybrid language that included Persian and Arabic loanwords. In time Greeks, Armenians, and Jews were also employed in state service, usually in diplomatic, technical, or commercial capacities.

The day-to-day conduct of government and the formulation of policy were in the hands of the divan, a relatively small council of ministers directed by the chief minister, the grand vizier. The entranceway to the public buildings in which the divan met–and which in the seventeenth century became the residence of the grand vizier–was called the Bab-i Ali (High Gate, or Sublime Porte). In diplomatic correspondence, the term Porte was synonymous with the Ottoman government, a usage that acknowledged the power wielded by the grand vizier.

The Ottoman Empire had Turkish origins and Islamic foundations, but from the start it was a heterogeneous mixture of ethnic groups and religious creeds. Ethnicity was determined solely by religious affiliation. Non-Muslim peoples, including Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, were recognised as millets and were granted communal autonomy. Such groups were allowed to operate schools, religious establishments and courts based on their own customary law.

Selim I and Süleyman the Magnificent

Selim I (r. 1512-20) extended Ottoman sovereignty southward, conquering Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. He also gained recognition as guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Selim I’s son, Süleyman I (r. 1520-66), was called the “lawgiver” (kanuni ) by his Muslim subjects because of a new codification of seriat undertaken during his reign. In Europe, however, he was known as Süleyman the Magnificent, a recognition of his prowess by those who had most to fear from it. Belgrade fell to Süleyman in 1521, and in 1522 he compelled the Knights of Saint John to abandon Rhodes. In 1526 the Ottoman victory at the Battle of Mohács led to the taking of Buda on the Danube. Vienna was besieged unsuccessfully during the campaign season of 1529. North Africa up to the Moroccan frontier was brought under Ottoman suzerainty in the 1520s and 1530s, and governors named by the sultan were installed in Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. In 1534 Kurdistan and Mesopotamia were taken from Persia. The latter conquest gave the Ottomans an outlet to the Persian Gulf, where they were soon engaged in a naval war with the Portuguese.

When Süleyman died in 1566, the Ottoman Empire was a world power. Most of the great cities of Islam–Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo, Tunis, and Baghdad–were under the sultan’s crescent flag. The Porte exercised direct control over Anatolia, the sub-Danubian Balkan provinces, Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia. Egypt, Mecca and the North African provinces were governed under special regulations, as were satellite domains in Arabia and the Caucasus, and among the Crimean Tartars. In addition, the native rulers of Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania, and Ragusa (Dubrovnik) were vassals of the sultan.

The Ottomans had always dealt with the European states from a position of strength. Treaties with them took the form of truces approved by the sultan as a favour to lesser princes, provided that payment of tribute accompanied the settlement. The Ottomans were slow to recognise the shift in the military balance to Europe and the reasons for it. They also increasingly permitted European commerce to penetrate the barriers built to protect imperial autarky. Some native craft industries were destroyed by the influx of European goods, and, in general, the balance of trade shifted to the disadvantage of the empire, making it in time an indebted client of European producers.

European political intervention followed economic penetration. In 1536 the Ottoman Empire, then at the height of its power, had voluntarily granted concessions to France, but the system of capitulations introduced at that time was later used to impose important limitations on Ottoman sovereignty. Commercial privileges were greatly extended, and residents who came under the protection of a treaty country were thereby made subject to the jurisdiction of that country’s law rather than Ottoman law, an arrangement that led to flagrant abuses of justice. The last thirty years of the sixteenth century saw the rapid onset of a decline in Ottoman power symbolized by the defeat of the Turkish fleet by the Spanish and Portuguese at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and by the unbridled bloody succession struggles within the imperial palace, the Seraglio of Constantinople.

Köprülü Era

Ottoman imperial decadence was finally halted by a notable family of imperial bureaucrats, the Köprülü family, which for more than forty years (1656-1703) provided the empire with grand viziers, combining ambition and ruthlessness with genuine talent. Mehmet, followed by his son Ahmet, overhauled the bureaucracy and instituted military reforms. Crete and Lemnos were taken from Venice, and large provinces in Ukraine were wrested temporarily from Poland and Russia. The Köprülü family also resumed the offensive against Austria, pushing the Ottoman frontier to within 120 kilometers of Vienna. An attempt in 1664 to capture the Habsburg capital was beaten back, but Ahmet Köprülü extorted a huge tribute as the price of a nineteen-year truce. When it expired in 1683, the Ottoman army again invaded Austria, laying siege to Vienna for two months, only to be routed ultimately by a relief force led by the king of Poland, Jan Sobieski.

The siege of Vienna was the high-water mark of Ottoman expansion in Europe, and its failure opened Hungary to reconquest by the European powers. In a ruinous sixteen-year war, Russia and the Holy League–composed of Austria, Poland, and Venice, and organised under the aegis of the pope–finally drove the Ottomans south of the Danube and east of the Carpathians. Under the terms of the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, the first in which the Ottomans acknowledged defeat, Hungary, Transylvania, and Croatia were formally relinquished to Austria. Poland recovered Podolia, and Dalmatia and the Morea were ceded to Venice. In a separate peace the next year, Russia received the Azov region.

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