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Account for the declining strength of the Ottoman Empire beginning in the 17th century, including the failed siege of Vienna in 1683 and the rapid pace of modernization in European economic, political, religious, scientific, and intellectual life resulting from the ideas embedded in the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution.

Topics on the Page

First Siege of Vienna
Second Siege of Vienna
Decline of the Empire
Women's Roles

Focus Question: What factors contributed to the declining strength of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century as well as the rapid modernization of Europe?


  • After the stunning sack of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire continued to advance and expand around the Eastern Mediterranean.

  • This continued for several hundred years until the Ottoman Empire encountered the Austrian-Hapsburg Empire

  • After two failed sieges on the capital city of Vienna, 1529 & 1683, the Great Turkish War ensued, where Christian forces were finally able to repel the invading Ottoman Empire.

Multimedia.pngFirst take a look at these short videos to get an idea about the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire.

The Fall of Constantinople

Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire 1300 - 1923

The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire: a documentary in years

You can read about the history of the decline of the Ottoman Empire here.

The Siege of Vienna, 1529.  Painting by Peter Snayers.
The Siege of Vienna, 1529. Painting by Peter Snayers.

podcast icon.png
British Broadcasting System Audio: Listen to audio of historians discussing the Siege of Vienna

external image 200px-Paperback_book_black_gal.svg.pngSee The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe by Andrew Wheatcroft (2010) for a recent look at the events of the Battle of Vienna.

The First Siege of Vienna (1529) was the first attempt by the Ottoman Empire to capture the city of Vienna, Austria.

The attempt was unsuccessful and had dire consequences for the Empire which led to its decline.

  • marked the height of Ottoman Empire
  • result of long lasting rivalry with Europe

Multimedia.pngSee 1529 Siege of Viennaa video from the Military History Channel about the First Siege of Vienna.

Between the years 1566-1683 The Ottoman empire experienced several revolts and revivals.

The negative aspects of this time period regarding the Ottomans and leading to their decline, include:

  • European states attempted to curb overland trade by the Ottomans
    • Western European states began to circumvent Ottoman trade monopoly by establishing their own naval routes to Asia
      • Ottoman Currency was quickly inflated when Spanish silver from the New World spread through Europe
        • Ottomans lacked advancing military technology contrary to the many developments being made in Europe

The Second Siege of Vienna (1683) often called The Battle of Vienna was the second attempt by the Ottoman Empire to capture Vienna.
"Polish soldiers return from Vienna with Ottoman Loot"

  • After the death of Koprulu Ahmed Pasha, Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha gained the viziership on November 5, 1676. Hungary had revolted against Austria and wanted Ottoman authority again. Mustafa Pasha declared Emeric Thokely as King to central Hungry.
  • After, Emeric Thokely took the leadership of the Hungarians, he rebelled against the King of Austria, Leopold I. Thokely asked for an Ottoman assistance and Mustafa Pasha besieged Vienna on July 14, 1683.
  • The siege took 60 days. Mustafa Pasha was waiting to strike a fatal attack but Jan III Sobieski, the King of Poland, led a relief force to Vienna to defend the city.
  • Although the Turkish Tatars under Mustafa Pasha outnumbered by the Austrian, German and Polish armies, they were ultimately outmaneuvered and defeated[1] . The Ottomans withdrew through Belgrade. With the withdrawal of the Ottomans, Austrians entered Hungary and invaded Vishgrad, Uyvar, and Budapest.
  • After this defeat, Sultan Mehmet IV was dethroned with the decision of council. Prince Suleyman replaced him in November 8, 1687.

Multimedia.pngClick here for a video about the Second Siege of Vienna.

primary_sources.PNGFirst-hand account of the defeat of the Ottomans outside Vienna

- Click here for more information about the Battle of Vienna.

Read more at History on the Web

In 1689 the Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of Karlowitz as a defeated power.
You can find a translated English version of the Treaty of Karlowitz here.

* Click here to see how the Ottoman Empire declined.

The Ottoman Empire lost great amounts of land in the ensuing Great Turkish War 1683 - 1699

Stagnation and reform resulted between the years 1683 and 1827.

Events during this time period which led to the decline of the Ottoman Empire include:

  • Much of the area in the Balkans was ceded to Austria
  • Egypt became independent in all but name (subsequently became part of Britain and France)
  • Central authority lessened as provincial autonomy increased
  • Series of wars between Ottomans and Russians
  • Attempts were made to update the military but were largely unsuccessful
  • By 1815 Serbia gained autonomy

For more about Ottoman Decline and the formation of independent nation-states check out The History of the Ottoman Empire at HistoryWorld.net


Other key factors which contributed to the Ottoman Decline:

  • Sultan Suleman ruled with a military perspective and looked at subjects as soldiers. He looked only to advance through military means while the rest of the world around him was advancing industrially, agriculturally, scientifically, politically and economically.
    • Sultan Suleman's main means of economic advancement was from looting and pillaging the people and places he had conquered. He was neither interested in the study of economics or advancing agriculturally or scientifically.
  • The Islamic religion was neither questioned or challenged as was the Catholic religion in Europe. European society was advancing economically and searching for new means of profit around the world by searching for raw materials, and various markets for profits.
    • The middle class in the Ottoman society were looked upon as a threat. The Ottoman middle class received little support and in fact their desire and attempt to advance economically was hindered by the Sultan. Meanwhile Europe's middle class advanced in wealth and influence.
  • Economically the Ottoman Empire suffered greatly. The government sold the job of tax collecting to already wealthy individuals who became corrupt and taxed anyone who could afford to invest in new enterprises, hindering economic advancement.
    • War and military expansion was the primary source of wealth. However, rulers also seized and taxed property. Less wealth was invested in the empire as a result.

Multimedia.pngClick here to watch a video about the decline of Ottoman Empire.

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngPBS Timeline of the West and the Ottoman Empire, 1515-1923 from the series Civilization: The West and the Rest with Niall Ferguson. This timeline compares the ascent of Western science to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Some historians believe "closing of the door to new ideas allowed the West to catch up and surpass the Ottomans.
  • Click here to see a full timeline of the Islamic World

- Click here for an interesting game about the Ottoman Empire.

womens history.jpgWomen had an important role in Ottoman society.

Here is an article of women throughout the Ottoman Empire

Turkish Sultans had groups of women called harems for their use. To learn more, read the following article:
Harem, and the Ottoman women

This article provides an interesting insight into the role of homosexuality in the fading years of the Ottoman Empire.

  1. ^ "The Siege and Battle of Vienna in 1683"Retrieved February 22, 2011 from : History on the Web: http://www.history-on-the-web.com/index.php?Itemid=41&catid=92:european-history&id=38:the-siege-and-battle-of-vienna-in-1683&option=com_content&view=article