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The Difference Between The Ottoman Empire and The Roman Empire



Both the Ottoman and Roman Empires were stretched over large swathes of the earth. While the Ottoman Empire, which was established by Osman 1, was a world power from 1299AD and 1923AD, the Roman Empire, whose first emperor was Augustus, dominated the world from 27BC to 476AD. The Ottoman Empire’s capital was Istanbul, while the Roman Empire’s capital was Rome. In the Ottoman Empire, only the son of the Sultan could succeed him as ruler. The Roman Empire, on the other hand, was a republic with a senate that voted on who would be appointed as Caesar (Potter, 1999).

Differences Between the Ottoman and Roman Empires

The Ottoman Empire lasted longer than the Roman Empire, which only existed for five and a half centuries. The differences between the two empires also extend to their religious, scientific, cultural and political structures. Soldiers of the Ottoman Empire had more advanced weapons than those of the Roman soldiers, as firearms were non-existent 2000 years ago.

Sultans like Mehmed II took personal interest in scientific discussions and the establishment of educational institutions in the kingdom. Some of the most significant scholars in mathematics and astronomy, like Taki al- Din al-Rasid, championed the sciences within schools in the Ottoman Empire. Mehmed II personally oversaw the establishment of the Kayışdağı, Kırkçeşme, Hamidiye, Cev’mi-i Şerife and Taksim water systems (Masters, 2001). He also funded the construction of 33 Sukemeri (aqueducts) like the Mağlova Kemeri, Kovuk Kemer, Güzelce Kemer, Uzunkemer, and Paşa Kemeri (Masters, 2001). Roman engineers mainly focused on creating vaults, arches, and aqueduct systems that would serve the needs of their many cities.

Women in the Ottoman as well as the Roman Empire were expected to live under the protection of men. In the Roman Empire, the lives of all women were dictated by their husbands, sons, or fathers. Only vestal virgins, who served the gods and goddesses in numerous temples, were somewhat free to live their lives as they saw fit. Even though women in the Ottoman Empire had limited lives outside the home, there were many regular events that allowed them to leave their homes.

For instance, in celebrations such as paca günü and kina gecesi, women would celebrate engagement and wedding preparations outside their homes (Keating, 2007). There was even a period between the 16th and 17th centuries when women like Ayşe Hafsa Sultan , Mihrimah Sultan, Hürrem Sultan, and Kösem Sultan ruled the Empire because the emperors were either incompetent, or in their minority (Keating, 2007). The famous Sultana Valideh, Hürrem, actually received foreign officials and advised the emperor on different subjects simply because he respected her intellect.

The Ottoman Empire had just one state religion- Islam. Even though non-Muslim subjects were encouraged to convert to Islam, Christians and Jews were allowed to practice their religions in accordance with the Treaty of Umar ibn al-Khattab (Masters, 2001). In contrast, the Roman Empire supported the worship of a collection of deities known as the Pantheon (Potter, 1999). The pantheon included gods like Mars, Apollo, Pluto, Neptune, Jupiter, Janus and Bacchus; as well as goddesses like Juno, Venus, Minerva, and Proserpine (Mehta-Jones, 2004).

Slaves were a part of both the Roman and Ottoman Empires. In Roman society, slaves had no rights. They could be mistreated, misused, and even murdered by their masters with no penalty being exacted by the justice system. In the Ottoman Empire, Muslims could not be held as slaves unless they were prisoners of war. There were also Islamic laws that guaranteed slaves the right to medical care, shelter, food, and clothing. Slaves also had the right to marry who they wished to. The Sultans believed that killing un-ransomed captives of war was un-Islamic, and a waste of military capital. This is why they authorized the drafting of young Christian male captives in the Yeniceri (janissary) elite regiment (Masters, 2001).


The Roman and Ottoman empires existed in different millennia, and each of their boundaries stretched into Asia, Africa, and Europe. Even though both empires were ruled by authoritarian rulers, their political, religious, and cultural structures had significant differences.

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References :

[0]Keating, M. (2007). Feminine Roles in the Ottoman Empire: The Significance of Women during the Sultanate of Women Period. Women in Islam/Ottoman History. Retrieved from http://www.rowan.edu/colleges/chss/concentrations/womensstudies/WomensStudiesProgramRowan1University.htm

[1]Masters, B. (2001). Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: The Roots of Sectarianism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam031/00067486.pdf

[2]Mehta-Jones, S. (2004). Life in Ancient Rome. New York: Crabtree Publishing Co. Retrieved from http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip0418/2004013064.html

[3]Potter, D. S. (1999). Life, Death, and Entertainment in the Roman Empire. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Life-Death-Entertainment-Roman-Empire/dp/0472085689


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