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Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 16th century

The 16th century has been characterised as “the golden century” of the Ottoman empire. It is the century of its full territorial expansion which (for short, nevertheless, periods of time) turned the Mediterranean into an “Ottoman lake” and featured the (ambiguous) pax ottomanica, after the model of the pax romana. On the throne of the Ottoman empire sat charismatic sultans, such as Selim I and Suleyman the Magnificent. However, with the latter's death in 1566 the Empire passed on to the less competent hands of Selim II, who managed, however, to continue the expansive policy of his predecessors in order to keep up the prestige as well as the necessary funds for the maintenance of the huge army and the bureaucratic mechanism on which the Ottoman state relied. In the second half of the 16th century the Viziers, starting from Mehmed Sokollu Pasha, began to exercise increasingly greater power on behalf of the Sultans.
The aforementioned vizier, originating from Serbia, managed to conclude a peace treaty with the Hapsburg monarch Maximilian II, according to which Moldovlachia was ceded -among other territories- to the Ottoman Empire. An over-ambitious campaign in Russia, aiming at uniting Volga and Don rivers with a canal, failed. On the contrary, the campaign to Arabia and Yemen were fully successful, offering the Ottoman Empire new territories as well as extraordinary prestige, as the Hijaz now came under Ottoman jurisdiction. Extremely important both from the political and the military point of view was the conquest of Cyprus, until then under the Venetians, a victory which made the Ottomans almost complete masters of the eastern Mediterranean.