Historical Perspective

Mehmet II
"The Conqueror"
The Turks originated in Central Asia and were a nomadic, militaristic people akin to the other Steppe tribes in the region like the Huns, and the Mongols. In fact, the Huns that invaded Roman Europe were a Turkic tribe that would be the harbinger of the waves of migration these Turkic peoples would make across Asia, and Europe. With such forebears in their history, it is no surprise that the Turks would come to establish many Empires.

As the waves of Turks migrated westward, they also came into contact with the various Islamic cultures of the Middle East. The Turks readily adopted this religion, and because of their warrior nature, the brand of Islam they practiced came to be rather militant, responding well to the cries of war in the name of God. Under this impetus, the Turks became a highly sought after group as mercenaries for the various Islamic Empires during the Dark Ages. Being the premier military body in the region, it was an eventuality that these warriors in service of others would take control for themselves. They would establish the Mameluke Sultanate in Egypt, the Seljuk Empire in Persia and Anatolia. But the greatest of them all was the Ottoman Empire. The two basic functions of government in the Ottoman Empire were said to be the making of war and the collecting of taxes to support the making of war. The Ottoman Empire would be the greatest threat faced by Christian Europe. Its greatest triumph was to bring about the end of the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453 A.D. Under Mehmet II (known as "The Conqueror") the here to impenetrable walls of Constantinople were brought down with the aid of the largest cannons that the world had seen to that day. They would rename Constantinople, Istanbul and make it their capitol. At its height the Ottoman Empire spanned from Eastern Europe to North Africa, the Caucasus and the Middle East.

The Ottoman Empire would begin to decline in the 16th Century, when the militaristic and despotic rule of the Ottomans could no longer be sustained through might alone. Indeed the idea of Turkish invincibility was dispelled at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 A.D. when the combined fleets of Venice, Spain and the Papal states defeated the Turkish fleet off the coast of Greece. Over the next several centuries the Empire lost more and more territory as its former subject peoples began to rebel and regain its independence. The Empire would eventually be reduced to the area of modern Turkey, when finally in 1923 A.D. Mustafa Kemal expelled the Sultanate and established Turkey as a secular republic. He became the country's first president and was given the surname "Ataturk", or Father of Turks for his key role in establishing the modern Turkish State.

The vast landscapes of the central Asian steppes were home to many nomadic people. Beginning around the 2nd century B.C. changing climatic conditions in turn led to political changes and military conflicts as various tribes tried to eke out a living in the harsh climate. Some of these tribes were forced to migrate in search of better pastures. Among these were the Oguz, or Turks as they were known by those whom they attacked. Their militaristic ways easily hurried the settled peoples they encountered, destroying towns to make way for their flock to pasture. A branch of these Turkic people called the Huns, eventually arrived at the doorstep of the Western Roman Empire in the 4th Century A.D. The exploits of Attila the Hun, and his role in contributing to the downfall of the Roman Empire are now legendary. They had swept into Europe pushing aside the previous Germanic tribes that had plagued the Roman Empire for centuries even deeper into Roman territory. Furthermore, the Huns would set up a robber kingdom and were extorting tribute from the Romans, until a revolt by allied Germanic tribes ended the Hunnic State. However, the Huns were only a sampling of things to come.

The Turkic tribes that instead migrated south west towards the middle east was for a long time held back by mountains and the Persian Empires, settling in the region just outside of the Persian Empire known as Transoxania. These Turks began to assimilate into the antecedent cultures that they faced. They would eventually becoming its most ardent revivers. They would also become its defenders against the successive attacks by their uncivilized brethren, that continued to flow westward. These assimilated Turks would establish the Gokturk Empire, which lasted from 552 A.D. to 744 A.D. It was not really an Empire in the traditional sense of the word, having no capitol or laws beyond the decrees of tribal chiefs. However, it was for a time when all the tribes submitted to the central authority of a dynasty of tribal chiefs. If it had been a true Empire, it would have stretch from the Black Sea across Asia along the northern borders of Mongolia and China almost to the Pacific Ocean. The Empire was for a time even strong enough to exact tribute from the Chinese Chou dynasty. However, the Chinese under the Sui dynasty would succeed in dividing the Gokturk Empire into two parts and manipulate them into fighting with each another. The Eastern Gokturk would even become subjugated by the Chinese under the Tang dynasty, being forced to become a tribute state. However the Turkish warrior spirit could not be kept down forever. They would eventually throw off Chinese domination and instead seized some of the Northern territories away from China in 720 A.D. The two parts of the Gokturk Empire also re-established friendly relations but this was not to last. Before long, the Empire fell apart when rival princes vied for control. An alliance of rebel tribes led by the Uygurs, took the opportunity to reassert their independence, destroying any hope of unity under Gokturk rule. The alliance itself broke apart after its work was done. The Uygurs would be dominant in the region for the next three centuries.

Turkic Cavalry Archer

Mehmed ibn Daud
"Alp Arslan"

As the Abbasid Empire in Persia declined, its Caliphs began to employed the Turkoman tribes that had settled in the region as mercenary warriors. The were the descendents of those who had founded the Western Gokturk Empire, and converted to Islam. The Abbasids needed them to bolster their flagging control on their Empire, and in some cases individual Caliphs hired their own army of Turks to reinforce their own positions. One of these groups, the Seljuks, served the Abbasids so well that they were appointed military guards of the Empire. Eventually, Tugrul Bey of the Seljuks forced the Caliphs to grant him the title of Sultan and Protector of Orthodox Islam in 1055 A.D. Leaving the Caliphs with little more power then as spiritual leaders. The Seljuk Empire, centered in Baghdadlasted from 1055 A.D. to 1182 A.D. They instituted a system of salaried soldiers called the Mamelukes, whom they used to repel other Turkish tribes that were still adhering to the nomadic raiding lifestyle. This forced these nomadic Turks instead to turn west into Anatolia and against the Byzantine Empire. These raiders began to weaken the already tenuous position the Byzantines had in the region. The Seljuks had originally wanted to ally with the Christians against the Fatimids in Egypt that practiced the Shia sect of Islam, which was in rivalry with the Sunni sect of Islam, practiced by the Seljuks. However, the prospect of gain from the weakened Byzantine Empire was too tempting. So when the Byzantine Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes decided to send an army to Manzikert in 1071 A.D. to reassert his power in the region. The Seljuks under Mehmed ibn Daud, or Alp Arslan meaning "Lion Hero" as he was known, decided to meet the Byzatines in battle. This Battle would mark the pivotal moment that opened up Anatolia (modern day Turkey) to the Turks, as the Byzantine Emperor was captured and his army fled in disarray.

Not all of the Turks raided the Byzantine settlements however. Some hired themselves out in service of the various individual rival Byzantine Princes and Lords fightings against each other, as well as, defending against subsequent Turkish raiders. However the effect was the same, as the only credible military presence in the region was largely Turkish. In fact one of these groups that had helped the Byzantines would go on to establish a rival Seljuk state in Central Anatolia under Suleyman Shah, known as the Sultanate of Rum.


Alp Arslan was killed a year after Manzikert while campaigning against the rebellious Karahanids and was succeeded by his son Maliksah in 1072 A.D. His son would go on to defeat the rebels and even organized three campaigns against Georgia and extending the Seljuk Empire as far as the Black Sea in the North. Likewise in the west, dominion was also established in the opposite end of the Empire, along the Mediterranean up to northern Syria. During his reign, Maliksah relied heavily on Nizam Al Mulq, who had served his father Alp Arslan previously as Chief Vizier. Nizam Al Mulq is credited with re-organizing the Seljuk military structure and as the founder of the famous Nizamiyah Madrasah (Muslim University) in Baghdad. However the Empire was being harassed from within by the Ismaili Assassins, who being of the Shia sect was bent on a campaign of terror and assassination against political and religious leaders of the Seljuk state. In 1092 A.D. while on a siege of the Ismailis' stronghold at Alamut, Maliksah was killed along with Nizam Al Mulq who was murdered by the Ismaili Assassins. This marked the decline of the Seljuk Empire. Military loyalty had been bought with the expense of the granting of feudal estates to the Mameluke Generals. In addition, the old nomadic traditions of sharing power amongst members of the ruling dynasty further weakened the Empire. Family members were granted provinces, allowing them to create their own armies.

Furthermore, the previous expansion of the Seljuk Turks also stimulated a response in Europe in the form of the Crusades beginning in 1096 A.D. In a few years of campaigning, Byzantine rule was restored in the western part of Anatolia. The crusaders carved out feudal states there and in Syria as vassals of the Byzantine Emperor. A Turkish revival in the 1140's nullified many of the Christian gains, but the Seljuks began to face a new threat in the form of the Mongols. The first wave of Mongols established the Kara Khitai Empire, which took much of Transoxania from the Seljuks, while the Kwarazm Shah took over Persia establishing the Kwarasm Empire. The second Mongol invasion would come early in the 13th Century. Genghis Khan would reabsorb the Kara Khitai Empire and destroy the Kwarasm Empire that had displaced the remnants of the Seljuk Empire in Northern Persia by 1220 A.D. His descendents would continue the conquest with the destruction of the Caliphate of Baghdad, and then with the subjugation of the Sultanate of Rum by 1258 A.D. The Mongols would remain dominant in the region for the next two centuries.

The Seljuks of Rum in Anatolia would however go on to establish the greatest of Turkish Empires. During the Mongol invasion of Anatolia in the 13th century, Ertugul was the chief military commander in the army of the last great Seljuk Principality. The Principality was very weak after the Mongol invasion, but it was ideally situated near the crumpling Byzantine Empire. This left it room for expansion. Osman was the son of Ertugual and he possessed great political astuteness in rallying the other Turks to his causes against the Byzantines. He would go on to found the Osmanli dynasty in 1281 A.D. that would be the foundation of the Ottoman empire for whom it was named. He would extend the Ottoman Empire up to the Black Sea, cutting off the land route of the Byzantine Empire from their possessions in Anatolia. His descendents would continue to expand the Ottoman's territory, as well as expanding its political and military might. By 1335 A.D. the Ottomans felt strong enough to stop paying tribute to the Mongols.

Osman's grandson, Murat I (who rule from 1360 A.D. to 1389 A.D.) would put much of the Northern Balkan peninsula under Ottoman control with the conquest of Thrace, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia. This act would isolate the Byzantines from western Europe reducing them to essentially an Ottoman vassal. He would also establish the Janissary Corp as a means to counter the growing power of the aristocracy. The Corp comprised of foreign slaves taken as prisoners of war, converted to Islam, and entered into the personal service of the Sultan. The Corp would expand and continue through the exacting of male children as tribute from the conquered people within the Ottoman empire. They would be used to fill the ranks of the Janissaries, as well as for administrative posts. The Janissary Corp would be greatly feared for their devotion to the Sultan and for the life long single-minded training that made them warriors of utmost quality. However, the gains of the Ottoman Empire up to this point would be undone in a single stroke. Bayezid, the son of Murat would successfully defeat a Crusader army at the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 A.D. but immediately turn his attention on a forceful reunification of the Anatolian Principalities, reversing his predecessors' policy of peaceful expansion. This not only upset the loyalty of the Turkish principalities towards the Ottomans but also caught the attention Tamerlane as he was trying to expand his Empire based on the former Il-Kkanate of the Mongol Empire. Without the loyalty of the Turkish principalities, Bayezid's army was defeated by Tamerlane at the Battle of Ankara in 1402 A.D. Bayezid died in captivity, and his Empire was broken up into the principalities as they had been before the Ottoman conquest, but now under the suzerainty of Tamerlane.

Osman I
Founder of the Ottoman Empire

Topkapi Palace

However, soon after Tamerlane's death in 1405 A.D., the Ottoman's were able to reassert themselves and began to rebuild the empire. However, succession was not without conflict. Mehmet I emerged as Sultan when he killed his three other brothers to eventually seize the throne in 1413 A.D. His successor, Murat II would continue the reconquest for the Ottoman Empire but again he had to kill his own brothers to secure the throne. This would establish a brutal practice in the Ottoman court of systematically murdering all male siblings who were rivals to the throne as soon as a new Sultan took power. After a period of war, Murat II decided to seek peace in order to consolidate and stabilize the Ottoman administrative structures and control over his newly conquered territories. In 1443 A.D. he negotiates a series of treaties with his chief European and Anatolian enemies by offering territorial concessions in order to secure peace. He then retired from the Sultanate in favor of his son Mehmet II. However Mehmet II was only twelve, and so power was actually given to Mehmet's regents while the child became of age. Seeing this situation, the Europeans formed a new crusade against the Ottoman Empire, forcing Murat the Second to return to the thrown. This time however, he completed the restoration of the Ottoman Empire up to its previous maximum extent, paving the way for his son to take Constantinople in 1453 A.D.

The Ottoman Empire while being a strict theocratic state based on Islam were however open to external influences. The court of Mehmet II, was full of foreign scholars and advisers. In fact he himself had a detailed knowledge of Greek and Greek traditions. This would lead to his victory over the Byzantines and the conquest of Constantinople. He and his successors were quick to adopt the European device of artillery. He enlisted in his service a Hungarian engineer named Urban. He would create a battery of artillery, the largest the world had yet seen, to bring down the mighty walls of Constantinople. Ironically the engineer had originally offered his services to the Byzantines, but was turned down, as they could not afford to pay for his salary and provide the raw materials to build the cannons. With the collapse of Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire, and in fact the Classical Roman Empire was put to an end. The Ottoman's would rename Constantinople to Istanbul and move their capitol to the city, which it still is to this day. Mehmet II found the Byzantine palaces in such a state that it was uninhabitable. He decided he must build a new palace befitting his status. The opulence of Topkapi Palace built by Mehmet II as the official seat of Imperial power still stands today as testament to his power. Its labyrinthine design would however foreshadow the intrigue that would take place within its walls. For situated within those walls was the official residence of the Sultan's wives and concubines called the Harem. It was a place where no man except the Sultan and his emasculated servants, the eunuchs were allowed. The whole of the Balkans south of Hungary, almost all of the Peloponnesus, the Crimea on the north coast of the Black Sea and of course Anatolia was now under Ottoman control. Ushering in what would be called the "Golden Age" for the Ottoman Empire.

Bayezid II succeeded Mehmet II in 1481 A.D. as the first Sultan of this so-called Golden Age. He was the most pacific and intellectual of all the Ottoman Sultans. He was given the title Veli, or "the saint" because of his ascetic and mystical leanings. However, his rule would not be free of conflict, as he again had to put down threats to his throne from his brother. In addition to defending the Empire from the Venetians who were eager to regain their lost Dalmatian and Aegean territories. He successful defense would leave his son Selim I to position the Ottoman fleet as the strongest naval force in the Eastern Mediterranean. Selim I would expand the empire to greatly. Conquering Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia and Egypt, obliterating the Mameluke Sultanate by 1517 A.D. With the conquest of Arabia and with it Mecca, Selim became the leader of the Islamic religion. This Islamic wall to the East of Europe would be largely responsible for the Europeans seeking an alternate route to East Asia, leading to the Age of Exploration.

Selim would be succeeded by Suleyman. He was known as Suleyman the Magnificent by the European powers and as Suleyman the Lawgiver by his subjects. During the reign of Suleyman the Ottoman Empire reached its zenith becoming foremost among world powers in the opulence and sophistication of its culture. Its military might and the extent of its political power was also the envy of the European powers. It's territory was further expanded after Suleyman's conquest of Algiers in North Africa in 1529 A.D. and then Tripoli (now Libya) in 1551 A.D. Although he failed to take Vienna when he was forced to abandon the siege due to a lack of supplies. While during his long reign of 46 years, he would led the Ottoman Empire and often at the head of his army, in a course of constant wars. However there was peace within his own Empire. He instituted many social reforms that saw the Ottoman Empire as the welfare state of its age, and created a bureaucracy based on merit rather then by birth regardless of religious, ethnic or racial origins.

Suleyman the Lawgiver

The Blue Mosque

After the rule of Suleyman, the Ottoman Empire began to show its first signs of vulnerability. In 1571 A.D. the combined fleets of Venice, Spain and the Papal states managed to defeat the Ottoman's at the great naval Battle of Lepanto. While the Ottoman's were able to re-establish naval control of the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe no longer thought that the Turks were invincible. Under Murad III who ruled 1574 A.D. to 1595 A.D., the Ottoman Empire reached its maximum territorial extent with the conquest of the Caucasus and Azerbaijan. Meanwhile central government control began to decay as palace intrigue by the Sultan's wives to position their sons as Sultan and the Janissary Corp who now began to become King makers within the Empire began to erode the power of the Sultan. By 1603 A.D. the Ottoman Empire began to loose territory beginning with the newly acquired possessions in the Caucasus and Azerbaijan, and further loses of territory in Iraq the next year.

The Ottoman's would attempt to re-assert power and prominence. First by the construction of the Blue Mosque in 1609 A.D. and then later by renewing its policy of conquest with an attack on Venice in 1645 A.D. However the Ottomans were defeated when their capitol of Istanbul was counter-attacked by the Venetians. Then a second siege of Vienna was attempted in 1683 A.D. Again it failed when a baker discovered Ottoman sappers were trying to undermine the city walls, foiling the Ottoman's attack plans. Instead of regaining Ottoman dominance, Europe instead benefited as a result with the introduction of coffee, as well as the invention of the croissant to commemorate the Ottoman's defeat in the siege of Vienna. Russia and Austria also began to ferment discontent in the Christian subjects within the Ottoman Empire, leading to direct military conflicts. This resulted in the loss of much Ottoman territory in the Balkans and along the Black Sea. Selim III, who ruled from 1789 A.D. to 1807 A.D. attempted to reform and improve the army but was assassinated by his own Janissaries.

By the early 19th century A.D the empire was clearly in trouble. They were scornfully labeled the "Sick man of Europe". Territory in North Africa reverted to local control and Egypt fell to the French. The Ottomans, with British help, would manage to expel the French, sending Muhammad Ali to re-establish control. Instead, his consolidation and modernization efforts was to position Egypt as an independent kingdom and install himself as ruler. Had the European nations turn a blind eye, Egypt would have gained its independence and the Ottoman Empire would all but become history. Instead the European powers, and in particular England saw more advantage in keeping around a weak Ottoman power that they can manipulate and act as a buffer against Russia. Territorial loss continued in 1828 A.D. when Greece gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. However the power of the Janissary Corp was finally extinguished when Sultan Mahmud II rid himself of the troublesome and now militarily ineffectual entity by having them massacred in their barracks by his loyal Spahis troops. In the intervening years leading to World War 1, the western European powers would continue to prop up the Ottoman Empire, in particularly during the Crimean War (1854 A.D. to 1856 A.D.), and again after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 A.D. at the Congress of Berlin. Finally, the Turkish people had enough and a military coup lead by the "Young Turk" movement deposed Sultan Abdulhamid II in 1908 A.D.. Sultan Mehmet IV was installed as their puppet head of state. This however, did not help much, as during this period that the Wars of Tripoli (1911 A.D. to 1912 A.D.) and the Balkans (1912 A.D. to 1913 A.D.) both ended in defeat and a loss of even more territory. In addition, movements towards a more modern Turkish nationalist state, combined with their mounting military defeats also upset the social order that had been based on Islamic ideals and military might. This resulted in conflicts with the various ethnic minorities within the Empire, which in fact continue to this very day with its Kurdish minority. The next move would almost prove fatal for the Ottoman State, as it entered the First World War on the side of Germany forming a part of the Central power alliance. After the war, the Ottoman state ended up on the side of the losers and were compelled to accept harsh peace terms. The Entente powers forced the Ottomans to accept the occupation of strategic sites by the victors within their country. This had the effect of essentially carving out Ottoman territory as they saw fit. Much of the Ottoman Empire outside of Anatolia was taken by the British, which eventually lead to the creation of the many Arab nations that now form the middle east, but also the Jewish state of Israel. This would lead to many wars and continual tension in the region even to this day. As the victors fanned out across the nation, the Turkish people rebelled.

The resistance was sporadic and disorganized at first, but when a former Turkish Colonel that fought during the First World War, Mustafa Kemal took leadership of the resistance. The revolt became an organized army and the movement became a full-scale war of independence. Within three years he managed to secure Anatolia under Turkish control with the Lausanne Peace Agreement in 1924 A.D. He also abolished the Sultanate in favor of a secular State, thus ending 600 years of the Ottoman Empire. In forming the modern Turkish state and becoming its first president, Mustafa Kemal now given the surname Ataturk, which meant "Father of Turks". He placed emphasis not on ethnic origins or religion, but on loyalty to Turkey. He instituted many social reforms, firmly orienting the nation towards a European standard in hopes of making the nation equal to other modern powers that had beaten it during the First World War. For Ataturk's efforts, Turkey is indeed the strongest Islamic nation in the region and a member of the NATO alliance that was formed by the western European and North American powers. It continues to seek closer ties with its application to the European Union.

In the post-Soviet era, Turkey is not the only nation that has a Turkish population. While the Ottomans formed it's greatest Empire, which lead to the creation of Turkey. The break up of the former Soviet Union spawned many independent nations whose people have a Turkic origin. These include the republic of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, there are still many Turkish people who live in Russia, Georgia and the Ukraine, such as the Chechens. There are even Turkish peoples in China's western provinces.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
(Father of Modern Turkey)

Overall Strategy for Players Using Turks

In Rise of Nations, the primary way to win the game is to capture cities, and this is where the Turks shine. Turks looks to be the ideal middle game civ, having both of their unique units around the Gunpowder and Enlightenment ages, but in fact may just be the optimal offensive civ.

Unlike other civilizations that have a strong offensive capability. It comes just at the best time in the game, at the advent of gunpowder and when the player's economy is running at full steam. It is neither too early nor too late. Civs with good offensive units in the beginning can suffer from the fact that those units generally aren't as effective in capturing cities, which is what you need to do in order to win, rather then just give them a bloody nose and give you an advantage. Also it requires the player to be very careful in planning their economy so that they can produce a capable rushing force and also not run out of steam, later in the game. On the other hand, late game power civs have to be careful not to get wiped out before they have their super units. Not to say that the Turks suffer in the age and tech race side, having of the game, since they have cheaper research costs in military technologies. Turk's advantages also allows them a lot of leeway in the mid game, since they have two ages where they have their unique units which doesn't depend on beating other people to that age to win. Their Janissary units can stand toe to toe with other units in those ages, and their siege weapons out class anyone else's in any age.

Particularly interesting are their extra long range and powerful siege weapons, and their faster city assimilation ability. This will make the capture of cities and moving on to the next target much easier. They will be able to pummel a city into submission faster, and have their siege weapons hang back further so that defenders will have a harder time destroy them. The faster assimilation rate will also make the defenders job very tough in sending reinforcements in time to prevent a city's capture. In the reverse, the Turks will also be just as good in recapturing cities they loose to the enemy. Making the overall tendency much more likely that the Turk will be doing much of the conquering.

Overall the Turks should try to get to the gunpowder age as quickly as possible. Slowly building up an army as that age approaches. This is in order to be able to attack in force as soon as the Gunpowder age is reached. This is also necessary to prevent being harassed in the early game, so that they can develop a strong economy. The economic side will be the Turks only weakness in not possessing any real economic bonuses. Their cheaper military research will help but it will most likely be useful in creating a larger and more powerful army quicker. However it doesn't help them in long term resource accumulation, which is of utmost importance in longer games. That makes it all the more important that they have a good economy so as to be able to be afford to build that large and powerful army to achieve victory. So build plenty of siege weapons, upgrade them as much and as soon as possible, and use your Janissaries to mop up and defend them. Then have your numbers of infantry to soak up enemy city defenders. They don't have their unique units in the late game, but their civ advantages will likely still be key in winning the game no matter what age they are in.

Turks as modelled in Rise of Nations

Unique units

  • Gunpowder Infantry Line
Janissary (Gunpowder Age)
Faster, more hitpoints then regular light infantry units.

Royal Janissary (Enlightenment Age)

  • Artillery Line
Basilica Bombard (Gunpowder Age)
Bonus against buildings, more accurate then regular artillery.

Basilica Cannon (Enlightenment Age)

Unique powers

  • +3 range and LOS on all artillery, siege, naval bombards
  • Receive 2 seige units for free whenever a New Siege Factory is built
  • Assimilate cities 4 times faster
  • Citizens ceated 33% cheaper
  • Military research is 33% cheaper, Seige units upgrade for Free

Written By: One Dead Angel


Gencturkler Dergisi, Washington State University, Ottoman Souvenir, Turkish Odyssey.