(Adapted from BBC)
The Ottoman Empire was the one of the largest and longest lasting Empires in history.
It was an empire inspired and sustained by Islam, and Islamic institutions.
It replaced the Byzantine Empire as the major power in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Ottoman Empire reached its height under Suleiman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-66), when it expanded to cover the Balkans and Hungary, and reached the gates of Vienna.
The Empire began to decline after being defeated at the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and losing almost its entire navy. It declined further during the next centuries, and was effectively finished off by the First World War and the Balkan Wars.
One legacy of the Islamic Ottoman Empire is the robust secularism of modern Turkey.
At its peak it included:
Parts of Arabia
Much of the coastal strip of North Africa
The Ottoman Empire reached the peak of its power during the rule of Selim's son, Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520 -66) and his grandson Selim II (1566 - 74).
Suleiman came to the throne as one of the wealthiest rulers in the world. His strength owed much to the work his father Selim had done in stabilising government, removing opposition, frightening (but not succesfully conquering) the Safavid Empire of Iran into adopting a non-aggression policy, and conquering the Mamluk empire of Egypt and Syria.
These conquests, which united the lands of Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean under a single ruler, brought a time of peace and stability, under which the Empire flourished.
Suleiman had no internal rivals for power. His father had seen to that by executing his own brothers and their sons, and all 4 of Suleiman's brothers.
The Ottoman Empire now included so much of the territory where Islam was practiced, and so many of the Islamic holy places, that Suleiman was widely regarded as the religious leader of Islam, as well as the earthly ruler of most Muslims.
Ornate mosaic tiles on building walls The Empire attracted Muslim artists and craftsmen ©
The wealth and stability of the Empire at this time attracted the top Muslim brains of the period, and craftsmen, artists, intellectuals and writers were eager to move to Istanbul.
Suleiman was named 'The Magnificent' by the Europeans, but his own people called him 'The Lawgiver'.