The ottomans defended the frontiers of islam and

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The Ottomans defended the frontiers of Islam and expanded them when possible. Theywere faced by a threat from several sides. On the east stood the Safavids of Iran; thestruggle of Ottomans and Safavids for control of Anatolia and Iraq gradually acquiredreligious overtones, for the Safavids proclaimed Shi‘ism as the official religion of the dynasty,while the Ottomans became more strictly Sunni as their empire expanded to include the maincentres of the high urban culture of Islam. On the other side of them stood the powers ofChristian Europe. The Byzantine Empire had vanished with the fall of Constantinople in1453; the Orthodox state growing up in Russia, and claiming to be the heir of Byzantium, didnot begin to advance southwards towards the Black Sea until the end of the seventeenthcentury. The main challenge came not yet from there but from the three great Catholicpowers of the northern and western Mediterranean basin: Spain, the Holy Roman Empirewith its southern extension into Italy, and Venice with its eastern Mediterranean colonies.During the sixteenth century there was a struggle with Spain for control of the westernMediterranean and the Maghrib, with Venice for the islands of the eastern Mediterranean,and with the Holy Roman Empire for control of the Danube basin. By the end of the centurya more or less stable frontier had been created: Spain controlled the western MediterraneanSea (but only a few small points on the coast of the Maghrib); the Ottomans ruled theDanube basin as far as Hungary; Venice had lost Cyprus and other islands but retainedCrete. This balance was partly changed during the seventeenth century: the Ottomansconquered Crete, the last great Venetian outpost, but lost Hungary to the Holy RomanEmpire, and other parts of its European lands in a war which ended with the Treaty ofCarlowitz (1699).The sultan was not only the defender of the frontiers of Islam, he was also the guardian ofits holy places. Mecca and Madina in Hijaz, Jerusalem and Hebron in Palestine. As ruler ofMecca and Madina he had the proud title of Servant of the Two Sanctuaries. He alsocontrolled the main routes by which pilgrims went to them. To organize and lead the annualpilgrimage was one of his main functions; conducted with great formality and as a majorpublic act, the pilgrimage was an annual assertion of Ottoman sovereignty in the heart of theMuslin world.Every year thousands of pilgrims came to the holy cities from all over the world of Islam; aEuropean traveller who was in Mecca during the pilgrimage of 1814 estimated that therewere some 70,000 pilgrims there. Groups of pilgrims went to the holy cities from Yemen,from central Africa by way of the ports of the Sudan, and from Iraq through central Arabia,but the main organized caravans of pilgrims continued to go from Cairo and Damascus. Ofthe two, that from Damascus had a greater importance in the Ottoman period, because itwas linked with Istanbul by a major land-route and could be more firmly controlled. Everyyeara

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