Frontiers of the Ottoman Empire in Mirat ul Memalik
The Eastern Frontiers of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century and Its Observed Effects on Mirat ul Memalik
The importance of trade roads and routes such as the Spice Route and the Silk Road is evident before the geographical discoveries. These trade roads and routes and, their ports were of great importance. At the beginning of these ports, the ports located at the end of these trade roads and routes came from the ports with a large trade volume. At the beginning of the 16th century, when these trade routes and ports were still of high importance, the Ottoman Empire was aware of this importance and made various moves in this direction. These moves could be investigated in two ways: the reign of Sultan Selim 1 and the reign of sultan Suleiman 1(the magnificent). These moves improved especially Ottoman Empire’s economy for a time in addition to others like politics, religion, administration. These moves were, controlling the Egypt-Red Sea trade and Iraq-Basra trade.
At the reign of Sultan Selim 1, there was two main threat at the eastern frontiers of the Ottoman Empire. The first one was Safavid Empires, Safavid ruler’s power depended on religion and they were the Turkish dynasty too. Because of that threat to the Ottoman Empire. This was known from Selim 1. After some time the sultan made a decision: “Selim’s march to the East had removed the main Safavid threat, although they were to remain a potent enemy to the Ottomans for many decades.” (McCarthy, p. 83). In addition, there was another threat which is Mamluk Empire. “The other great power in the Middle East, in addition to the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, was the Mamluk Empire.” (McCarthy, p. 84). “The most important economic event of Selim’s reign was the conquest of Syria and Egypt. This put the Ottomans in position to claim the taxes on all the major routes of Asia to Europe transit trade.” (McCarthy, p. 87). With that, a respectable part of Spice Route was controlled by the Ottomans and Egypt-Red Sea was an important base so important admiral of the Ottoman is attendant at Egypt. “I must here mention that Piri Bey, the late Admiral of the Egyptian fleet, had some time previous to this been dispatched with about 30 ships (galleys and galleons) from Suez, through the Red Sea, touching Jedda and Yemen, and through the straits of Bab-i Mandeb, past Aden and along the coast of Shahar.” (Mirat, p. 3).
However, the Iraq-Basra trade was controlled by the Safavid Empire. “The great sea route from India and the Orient passed through the Middle East by two routes…or through Gulf to Basra…By conquering Egypt the Ottomans had gained control of the Red Sea route, but the Safavids controlled the other.” (McCarthy, p. 90). Suleiman 1, was not focusing on the eastern frontiers of the Ottoman Empire yet, he had to take steps. The Iraq-Basra side of the trade routes will be secured at the reign of Sultan Suleiman 1(the magnificent). Because at the reign of Sultan Suleiman 1 Ottoman Empire has other motivations too. “The Ottomans also had the religious motivation and a religious excuse for campaigning in the East.” (McCarthy, p.90). As a result, Suleiman 1 conquered Baghdad in 1533, and the Iraq-Basra trade route was secured too. As well as could be seen that Basra was under the control of the Ottomans so they can leave little force in Basra: “He (Murad Bey, formerly Sanjakbey of Catif) was ordered to leave two ships, five galleys, and one galleon at Basra, and with the rest…he was to return to Egypt.” (Mirat, p. 4).
All in all, at the end of these movements, the Ottoman Empire has great control of the region and trade routes. “Selim 1’s authority had been recognized in Mecca and Medina, the traditional cornerstone of a Muslim dynasty’s prestige. Damascus, the seat of the Ummayad Caliphs, was Ottoman, and now Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphs, was Ottoman as well.” (McCarthy, p. 91). These results could be seen from the Mirat ul Memalik when Sidi Ali Reis taking supplies at the Red Sea or Basra or Ormuz to his Indian Ocean route. At Basra with help of Mustapha Pasha he takes supplies: “As far as could be,…, calked and provided with guns,…, either from the stores from there…” (Mirat, p. 5). Also, we can learn from the supplies that the security in the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean of the Arabian Peninsula side is also ensured: “On the day after we passed Khorfakan, where we took in water…” (Mirat, p. 6). Also, we can learn that Arabian Peninsula was loyal: “…and as the rowers were Arabs they had been hospitably treated by the Arabs of Nedjd.” (Mirat, p. 7). Furthermore, Ottoman’s religious superiority could be understood from its religious effect when the fleet came to Notak which is Pakistan’s state nowaday’s. “Here we came upon a Notak… We told them that we were Muslims, whereupon their captain came on board our vessel; he kindly supplied us with water…” (Mirat, p. 7). Besides, sultan Suleiman 1’s authority could be seen from the Governer of Guador which is Pakistan’s port city. “The Governor of Guador came on board our ship and assured us of his unalterable devotion to our glorious Padishah.” (Mirat, p.7). Finally, the eastern frontiers of the Ottoman Empire in the 16’th century and actions to ensuring them, made Ottoman Empire’s trade routes secure and gained control of the area could be observed from the shreds of evidence of Mirat ul Memalik and McCarthy’s work.
Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 329–395. (Original work published by Sidi Ali Reis. (1557). Mirat ul Memalik (The Mirror of Countries).)
McCarthy, J. (1997). The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923 (1st ed.). Routledge.