By the end of the First World War, a significant change took place in the Middle East. The Fall of the
Ottoman Empire in 1923 gave rise to multiple small nations in its wake. These nations include states
like Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The states which will give birth to armed extremist groups
and terror organizations. The fall of the Ottoman Empire will also begin a race for the holy city of
Jerusalem between Israel and Palestine. But what made the Ottomans so significant that their fall
gave rise to so many conflicts?
For a better view of the situation, we have to go back to the 14th century. Let's see how the
Ottoman Byzantine war in Jerusalem shaped the world we know today.
The Byzantines were direct descendants of the Roman empire. When the Roman empire fell in the
fifth century BCE the first Roman emperor, Constantine I, moved the capital to modern day Istanbul.
In 330 BCE Constantinople was found. The Byzantines ruled the entire land mass of Greece and
Turkey but were prone to invasions from the barbaric neighbors. The Byzantines kept alive the Greek
and Roman cultures in the middle east. Art and literature flourished during their reign. In 1203 AD an
army of French Crusaders wreaked havoc in the capital city. They burned art and homes
indistinguishable. The empty throne was re-claimed by Roman emperor Michael Palaiologos. But the
now weakened empire was vulnerable to a massive foreign invasion, and just what happened in
1453 AD when the Ottomans came in the scene.
Not much is known about the history of the ottomans because they never kept written records but
the initiation of the Ottoman Empire can be dated back to 1300 AD when a tribal leader named
Osman from the post-Mongol reign started a conquest of the west from its capital in present-day
Portugal. The actual Ottoman conquest of Byzantine began in 1389 AD with emperor Edirne. It was
until Sultan Bayezid what the Ottomans started posing a threat for the Byzantines. In 1453 the
Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed II started the conquest of the holy city of Constantinople. A 53-day
siege that began on 6 April 1453, erased the Byzantines from history. By 1517 the Ottomans had
conquered Egypt and Syria and also the holy city of Jerusalem. By 1566 the Ottomans have claimed
land bigger than present-day Russia. By World War I the Ottomans claimed the entire middle east.
The fall of the Ottoman empire and the constitution of modern Turkey saw various drawbacks. The
lands seized by the Empire were now empty and prone to rise of armed rebellion, which is exactly
what happened. An article from Britannica commented on the fall of the Ottoman Empire by saying
“As a result, the prosperity of the Middle Eastern provinces declined. The Ottoman economy was
disrupted by inflation, caused by the influx of precious metals into Europe from the Americas and by
an increasing imbalance of trade between East and West.”
The fall of the Ottomans also instigated the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia which made them the
richest nation and the initiators of the cold war in the middle east. The withdrawal of Ottomans from
Jerusalem gave rise to Israel and later the independent Palestine who conflicts till date for the
control of the holy city.
All of these conflicts and economic roller-coasters make us re-think what might have happened if the
Byzantines had deflected the Ottoman seize of Constantinople.