Osman I

Osman I or Osman Ghazi, sometimes transliterated archaically as Othman, was the leader of the Ottoman Turks and the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. The dynasty bearing his name later established and ruled the Ottoman Empire. This state, while only a small Turkmen principality during Osman's lifetime, transformed into a world empire in the centuries after his death. It existed until shortly after the end of World War I.
Due to the scarcity of historical sources dating from his lifetime, very little factual information about Osman has survived. Not a single written source survives from Osman's reign. The Ottomans did not record the history of Osman's life until the fifteenth century, more than a hundred years after his death. Because of this, historians find it very challenging to differentiate between fact and myth in the many stories told about him. One historian has even gone so far as to declare it impossible, describing the period of Osman's life as a "black hole".
According to later Ottoman tradition, Osman's ancestors were descendants of the Kayı tribe of Oghuz Turks. The Ottoman principality was just one of many Anatolian beyliks that emerged in the second half of the thirteenth century. Situated in the region of Bithynia in the north of Asia Minor, Osman's principality found itself particularly well-placed to launch attacks on the vulnerable Byzantine Empire, which his descendants would eventually go on to conquer.

Osman's name

Some scholars have argued that Osman's original name was Turkish, probably Atman or Ataman, and was only later changed to ʿOsmān, of Arabic origin. The earliest Byzantine sources, including Osman's contemporary George Pachymeres, spell his name as Ατουμάν or Ατμάν, whereas Greek sources regularly render both the Arabic form ʿUthmān and the Turkish version ʿOsmān with θ, τθ, or τσ. An early Arabic source mentioning him also writes ط rather than ث in one instance. Osman may thus have adopted the more prestigious Muslim name later in his life. Arab scholars like Shihab al-Umari and Ibn Khaldun used the name Othman while Ibn Battuta, who visited the region during Orhan I's reign, called him Osmancık. The suffix -cık, indicates the dimunitive in Turkish, thus he was known by the name of Osmancik, which means "Osman the Little", in order to differentiate between him and the third Caliph "Uthman the Great".

Origin of the Ottoman Empire

The exact date of Osman's birth is unknown, and very little is known about his early life and origins due to the scarcity of sources and the many myths and legends which came to be told about him by the Ottomans in later centuries. He was most likely born around the middle of the thirteenth century, possibly in 1254/5, the date given by the sixteenth-century Ottoman historian Kemalpaşazade. According to Ottoman tradition, Osman's father Ertuğrul led the Turkic Kayı tribe west from Central Asia into Anatolia, fleeing the Mongol onslaught. He then pledged allegiance to the Sultan of the Anatolian Seljuks, who granted him dominion over the town of Söğüt on the Byzantine frontier. This connection between Ertuğrul and the Seljuks, however, was largely invented by court chroniclers a century later, and the true origins of the Ottomans thus remain obscure.
Osman became chief, or bey, upon his father’s death in. Nothing is known for certain about Osman's early activities, except that he controlled the region around the town of Söğüt and from there launched raids against the neighboring Byzantine Empire. The first datable event in Osman's life is the Battle of Bapheus in 1301 or 1302, in which he defeated a Byzantine force sent to counter him.
Osman appears to have followed the strategy of increasing his territories at the expense of the Byzantines while avoiding conflict with his more powerful Turkish neighbors. His first advances were through the passes which lead from the barren areas of northern Phrygia near modern Eskişehir into the more fertile plains of Bithynia; according to Stanford Shaw, these conquests were achieved against the local Byzantine nobles, "some of whom were defeated in battle, others being absorbed peacefully by purchase contracts, marriage contracts, and the like."

Osman's Dream

Osman I had a close relationship with a local religious leader of dervishes named Sheikh Edebali, whose daughter he married. A story emerged among later Ottoman writers to explain the relationship between the two men, in which Osman had a dream while staying in the Sheikh's house. The story appears in the late fifteenth-century chronicle of Aşıkpaşazade as follows:
The dream became an important foundational myth for the empire, imbuing the House of Osman with God-given authority over the earth and providing its fifteenth-century audience with an explanation for Ottoman success. The dream story may also have served as a form of compact: just as God promised to provide Osman and his descendants with sovereignty, it was also implicit that it was the duty of Osman to provide his subjects with prosperity.

Military victories

According to Shaw, Osman's first real conquests followed the collapse of Seljuk authority when he was able to occupy the fortresses of Eskişehir and Kulucahisar. Then he captured the first significant city in his territories, Yenişehir, which became the Ottoman capital.
In 1302, after soundly defeating a Byzantine force near Nicaea, Osman began settling his forces closer to Byzantine controlled areas.
Alarmed by Osman's growing influence, the Byzantines gradually fled the Anatolian countryside. Byzantine leadership attempted to contain Ottoman expansion, but their efforts were poorly organized and ineffectual. Meanwhile, Osman spent the remainder of his reign expanding his control in two directions, north along the course of the Sakarya River and southwest towards the Sea of Marmara, achieving his objectives by 1308. That same year his followers participated in conquest of the Byzantine city of Ephesus near the Aegean Sea, thus capturing the last Byzantine city on the coast, although the city became part of the domain of the Emir of Aydin.
Osman's last campaign was against the city of Bursa. Although Osman did not physically participate in the battle, the victory at Bursa proved to be extremely vital for the Ottomans as the city served as a staging ground against the Byzantines in Constantinople, and as a newly adorned capital for Osman's son, Orhan. Ottoman tradition holds that Osman died just after the capture of Bursa, but some scholars have argued that his death should be placed in 1324, the year of Orhan's accession.


Due to the scarcity of sources about his life, very little is known about Osman's family relations. According to certain fifteenth-century Ottoman writers, Osman was descended from the Kayı branch of the Oghuz Turks, a claim which later became part of the official Ottoman genealogy and was eventually enshrined in the Turkish Nationalist historical tradition with the writings of M. F. Köprülü. However, the claim to Kayı lineage does not appear in the earliest extant Ottoman genealogies. Thus many scholars of the early Ottomans regard it as a later fabrication meant to shore up dynastic legitimacy with regard to the empire's Turkish rivals in Anatolia. Yazıcıoğlu Ali, in early 15th century, traced Osman's geneaology to Oghuz Khagan, the mythical ancestors of Western Turks, through his senior grandson of his senior son, so giving the Ottoman sultans primacy among Turkish monarchs.
It is very difficult for historians to determine what is factual and what is legendary about the many stories the Ottomans told about Osman and his exploits, and the Ottoman sources do not always agree with each other. According to one story, Osman had an uncle named Dündar with whom he had a quarrel early in his career. Osman wished to attack the local Christian lord of Bilecik, while Dündar opposed it, arguing that they already had enough enemies. Interpreting this as a challenge to his leadership position, Osman shot and killed his uncle with an arrow. This story does not appear in many later Ottoman historical works. If it were true, it means that it was likely covered up in order to avoid tarnishing the reputation of the Ottoman dynasty's founder with the murder of a family member. It may also indicate an important change in the relationship of the Ottomans with their neighbors, shifting from relatively peaceful accommodation to a more aggressive policy of conquest.


The Sword of Osman was an important sword of state used during the coronation ceremony of the Ottoman Sultans. The practice started when Osman was girt with the sword of Islam by his father-in-law Sheik Edebali. The girding of the sword of Osman was a vital ceremony which took place within two weeks of a sultan's accession to the throne. It was held at the tomb complex at Eyüp, on the Golden Horn waterway in the capital Constantinople. The fact that the emblem by which a sultan was enthroned consisted of a sword was highly symbolic: it showed that the office with which he was invested was first and foremost that of a warrior. The Sword of Osman was girded on to the new sultan by the Sharif of Konya, a Mevlevi dervish, who was summoned to Constantinople for that purpose.


Ottoman historiography depicts Osman as a semi-holy person.
It is known that among the Turkoman tribes, the tribe or part of it was named after its leader. The fact that the Kayi tribe became known by the name of Osman, suggests that the tribe became powerful because of his excellent leadership. Orientalist R. Rakhmanaliev writes that the historical role of Osman was that of a tribal leader, who enjoyed enormous success in uniting his people around him.
The activities and personality of Osman as the founder of the state and dynasty are highly appreciated by historians of both the past and the present. The state and the dynasty of rulers are named after him. The population of the state was called Ottomans until the beginning of the 20th century, that is until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Historian F. Uspensky notes that Osman relied not only on force, but also cunningness. Historian and writer Lord Kinross writes that Osman was a wise, patient ruler, whom people sincerely respected and were ready to serve him faithfully. He had a natural sense of superiority, but he never sought to assert himself with the help of power, and therefore he was respected not only by those who were equal in position, but also those who exceeded his abilities on the battlefield or on wisdom. Osman did not arouse feelings of rivalry in his people - only loyalty. Herbert Gibbons believed that Osman was "great enough to exploit masterful people".
According Kemal Kadafar, Osman for the Ottomans was the same as Romulus for the Romans.