During the first half of the sixteenth century, successful military campaigns by the Ottoman empire added new territories to its already vast domain. In 1516, the Ottomans defeated Mamluk forces in Damascus, the provincial capital of southern Syria (which included parts of present-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan; see map of the Ottoman empire). By the eighteenth century, Damascus was not only one of the most prosperous commercial cities in the empire, but a center of Islamic scholarship and worship. The population included sizeable Christian and Jewish communities, and the city attracted merchants, scholars, and pilgrims from all over the world.
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