Today in Middle Eastern history: the Battle of Ankara (1402)

The Ottoman Empire was around for an impressive 624 years, from its (murky but generally accepted) beginnings in 1299 to its official downfall in 1923. But historians have this irritating urge to periodize everything, which is particularly strong when we’re talking about things that go on for 624 years, and so if you want to study the Ottoman Empire you’ll usually find the material chopped up into chunks.

One very good break point is 1453, for obvious reasons, marking the Ottoman shift from a regional empire to a genuine world power. The death of Sultan Suleiman I, generally considered the last unambiguously successful ruler in Ottoman history (hence one of his epithets, “the Magnificent”) in 1566 is another. The empire underwent a major transition from arbitrary monarchy to bureaucratic state somewhere in the late-18th to mid-19th century, and this is also often used as a transition point though the exact date of the shift is hard to establish. One often-cited early transition happened in 1402, at the Battle of Ankara, where the Ottoman Empire was almost destroyed before it really got going.

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