The Ottoman Empire in the 17th century is a land of contrasts. I know that sounds like the opening to a bad high school essay, but it’s not wrong. The 17th century ended with the Ottomans signing the first truly disadvantageous treaty they’d ever signed, and while reports of Ottoman decline in this period can be exaggerated, I think it’s fair to say that this was a sign that all was not well. Even if the empire wasn’t declining in absolute terms, its European enemies were clearly catching up to it. At the same time, though, we have to acknowledge that the mid-century (1645-1669) Cretan War, or the Fifth Ottoman-Venetian War if you prefer, brought the Ottoman Empire to its largest territorial extent. Yes, OK, you have to fudge a little to get there—the Ottomans didn’t have a whole lot of day-to-day control over, say, Algeria in this period, even though Algeria is considered part of their empire. But still, the mid-17th century is the closest the Mediterranean has come to being ruled by one entity since the collapse of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century.
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