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Ottoman Empire
From the 13th to the 20th centuries, the Ottoman
Empire was among the world’s most powerful. Centred in
the region of modern Turkey, it covered the area from Hun-
gary in the north to Aden in the south, and from Algeria in
the west to the Iranian border in the east. Through the vas-
sal state, Khanate of the Crimea, the empire’s power also
extended into the Ukraine and southern Russia.
One of the most important businesses of the Ottoman
Empire was warfare, and its central institution was its army.
The early Ottoman forces consisted of Turkish cavalry who
were given land grants, or timars, from government rev-
enues. The more land conquered meant more income for
Turkish Muslim ghazis. However, there were not enough
ghazi light horsemen for regular warfare, so as of the mid-
14th century, the Ottomans began recruiting separate
salaried troops from mercenaries, slaves, and prisoners of
war; and from the mid-15th century, by a levy of Balkan
Christian youths. From these new forces emerged the cele-
brated, and highly disciplined Ottoman infantry known as
the Janissaries, who were the main power in the Ottoman
military successes from the later 15th century onwards.
Mining Activities
Mining activities during the Ottoman rule continued to
focus primarily on the arms manufacturing industry. Mines
were operated mainly as sources to supply arms and ammu-
nition to the army as well as coins for the treasury. It seemed
amazing at the time, in 1453 AD, that this previously
obscure clan breached the walls and conquered the Byzan-
tine capital of Constantinople. Under Mehmed the Con-
queror (1432-1481), the Ottomans rebuilt the devastated
city and renamed it Istanbul.
Mehmed II, referred to as Fatih, or “the Conqueror,” was
responsible for the Ottoman Empire’s development into a
true imperial power after having accomplished the great
feat of conquering Constantinople. He had received a rigor-
ous education in Istanbul, not only in the Islamic arts and
sciences but also in the western tradition, and thus was well
trained as the future ruler of the Ottoman Empire. As a mil-
itary commander, he possessed extraordinary talent, man-
aging an exceedingly disciplined and well-organized army.
He was renowned for his ability to keep all military tactics
and campaigns secret. He was the first Ottoman sultan to
pay substantive attention to artillery. Before him, cannons
were deployed solely as a means to frighten the enemy by
virtue of their thunderous booms; in other words, their
destructive power and the critical role they would assume
in warfare went entirely unacknowledged. Realizing their
perspective power, the sultan ordered his engineers to pro-
duce larger cannons, in quantities which were, at that point,
far unsurpassed. He is reported to have computed the bal-
listic and resistance calculations on his own. During his 30-
year reign, he conquered 17 states, including two empires.
It is known that copper mines excavated in the Küre region
were used in casting the artillery pieces used during the
conquest of Constantinople.
It was Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1494-1566) who
brought the Ottoman Empire to its zenith. During Mehmed
II’s reign, the larger cannons were used mainly against well-
built fortifications. The impact was demonstrated by the
Ottoman Turks, who used giant guns cast on the battlefield
to breach the walls of Constantinople and capture it in 1453.
Preparations for the conquest of the city started only one year
ahead with the moulding of huge cannons. In 1452, Rumeli
Castle was constructed to control the Bosphorus (Fig. 6). A
mighty fleet of 16 galleys was formed, and the number of sol-
diers was doubled. The supply routes to Byzantine were
taken under control. An agreement was made with the
Genoese to keep Galata impartial during the war. In April
1453, the first Ottoman border forces were seen in front of
Istanbul. The siege started on April 6, 1453, when the under-
ground tunnel dug in the direction of Eg˘rikapı intersected
the Byzantinian underground tunnel and an underground
skirmish erupted. The same day, an attempt to cut the sturdy
chain blocking the entrance of the bay failed (Fig. 7).
metallurgy
Mining history in Anatolia—Part 2
by A. Akcil, Suleyman Demirel University, Isparta, Turkey
Fig. 6. Map of Bosphorus and Golden Horn in Istanbul where the two
continents meet.
68 CIM Magazine Vol. 1, N° 2
Modern Army and Modern Metallurgy
The Ottomans created specialist corps of artillery and
engineers. Mahmud II (1785-1839) sought to abolish the
old army and replace it with a new European-style force. In
1826 he abolished the Janissaries; the sipahi (cavalrymen)
army slowly became ineffective and the timars were all taken
back by the state by 1831. In their place, Mahmud raised a
paid, disciplined, conscripted force which became the main
instrument of political centralization during the last century
of the Ottoman Empire, and also the main inspiration for
the modernization of other Ottoman institutions. A modern
army was expensive; taxes were needed to pay for it and a
larger, more efficient bureaucracy was required to collect the
taxes. Furthermore, a modern educational system was
needed to supply the army officers and state officials. There
were also important law reforms and significant develop-
ment of communications (telegraph and railways) (Bir and
Kacar, 2003).
A lot of copper slags have been disposed of without using
modern metallurgical processes. Mining in Küre continued
by the Greeks until 1845 during the Ottoman period; from
1895 to 1925, foreign companies mined copper. Today, there
are significant numbers of iron, copper, lead, gold, and silver
mines scattered across Anatolia that were once used by the
Ottomans. The millions of tons of slags are proof of mining
and metallurgy works during the Ottoman era. Astyra gold
mine in Kartaldag˘ ı-Çanakkale, which was shut down at the
beginning of First World War in 1914, was the last gold
mine that had been operational in Anatolia. Silver mining
that began in the antique ages had also continued during
the Ottoman period. Silver mining had been intensely prac-
ticed in the Gümü˛shacıköy, Amasya, and Bolkardag˘, Nig˘de
regions. The first gold coin of the Ottoman Empire had been
coined during the reign of Sultan Mehmet (Fig. 8). The last
gold coin of the Ottoman Empire issued during Sultan
Mehmed Vahideddin VI’s reign can be seen in Figure 9.
Tophane-i Amire (now one of the main venues of the
biennial) is the most important historical monument in
Istanbul (Fig. 10). The Royal Cannon Foundry (Tophane-i
Amire) in Istanbul was used for centuries to produce can-
nons and associated equipment, and was considered as a
high priority place by the sultans. In addition to bronze-
copper and tin cast in this foundry, a symbolic amount of
gold, requested from the cannon producers by the sultan,
was also cast in huge moulds during each cannon casting
operation.
metallurgy
Fig. 7. A piece of chain which was used to close the Golden Horn (Halic)
by the Byzantines when the Ottoman navy attacked Istanbul in 1453.
Fig. 9. A gold coin from the same collection, dating from the reign of
Mehmed Vahideddin VI between 1918-1922. It has a diameter of
43.5 mm and weighs 35 g. Fig. 10. The Royal Cannon Foundry (Tophane-i Amire) in Istanbul.
March/April 2006 69
Fig. 8. The Ottoman Empire’s first gold coin (now part of the Yapı Kredi
Bank’s collection) was coined during the reign of Mehmet II (Fatih) in
1467. It has a diameter of 20 mm and weighs 3.5 g.
The volumi-
nous cannons rep-
resenting the
greatness of the
Ottoman Empire
were honoured by
many scientists
and government
officials of that
time. For the first
time in history, the
powerful structure
of the cannon was
understood inter-
nationally through
the conquest of
Istanbul by means
of large calibre cannons. Firearms came into use in the
beginning of the 14th century with the introduction of gun-
powder in the West. The short squat mortars had changed
little from the time when they were first used in 1453 by the
Ottomans. They were well adapted, however, to hurling
shells over the walls of a fort where other cannons could
not (Agoston, 1994).
The Topchu (gunner) Corps were founded by Murad II
in the mid-15th century, although there was a similar
organization that used catapults before. Their main mission
was to manufacture special cannons in tophanes (artillery
workshops, cannon foundry) and use them in battle. They
had a distinguishing uniform, which included head gear in
Balkan style as depicted in many Ottoman miniatures. The
size of the Topchu Corps was usually around 1,100
topchus.
The Ottomans acquired firearms, especially cannons,
from Hungary, Venice, or Genoa during the mid-14th cen-
tury (when cannons were not used that widely in Europe).
The Ottomans used cannons at the Battle of Kosovo for the
first time just to scare the enemy horses. Real usage came
metallurgy
Fig. 12. Screwed cannon in 1453 (Ayduz, 1998).
70 CIM Magazine Vol.1, N° 2
References
AGOSTON, G., 1994. Ottoman Artillery and European Tech-
nology in the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Acta Ori-
entalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaria, XLII/1-2, Budapest,
p. 25-35.
AYDUZ, S., 1998. Tophane-i Amire and Casting Technology
of Cannons during Ottoman Empire, Ph.D Dissertation
(Turkish), University of Istanbul.
BIR, A., and KACAR, M., 2003. Ottomans in Search of
Machinery. http://www.turkishtime.org, August-September
issue (3).
KENNARD, N., 1986. Gun Founding and Gun Founders: A
Dictionary of Cannon Founders from Earliest Times to 1800,
London, United Kingdom.
LEFROY, J.H., 1868. The Great Cannon of Muhammad II
(A.D. 1464). The Archaeological Journal, 25, p. 263-264.
later in the early-15th century. During Mehmed II’s reign,
the Ottoman artillery technologies were greatly improved,
partly due to the help of Hungarian engineers like Urban in
1453. The largest of the tophane manufactories were
located in Istanbul, Belgrade, Buda, and Temeshvar
(Timisoara), and the Ottomans had great use for cannons in
battles such as Chaldiran and Mohach. The Ottomans con-
tinued to manufacture bronze cannons even in the late-17th
century when the European nations had already begun
developing light field artilleries, which were much more
effective than the heavy Ottoman cannons (Figs. 11 and 12)
(Kennard, 1986; Lefroy, 1868).
Acknowledgments
The author would like to thank Fathi Habashi and Salim
Ayduz for their contributions and collaborations. The author
also thanks Uluc Gencer for photographing the Ottoman
cannons.
Fig. 11. Cannon when the Ottoman Empire was in Istanbul in 1706 (Rumelihisarı Museum, 2003).
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