By the 1400s, two powerful new empires had emerged in the Middle East: the Ottoman and the Safavid empires. Both were Muslim empires, and both ruled diverse peoples. Most important, both owed their success in part to a new military technology, gunpowder. For this reason, the Ottoman and Safavid empires are often called “gunpowder empires.” Gunpowder led to the use of new weapons such as cannons that blasted through defensive walls. Later, muskets made a new kind of army possible, giving firepower to ordinary foot soldiers and reducing the importance of mounted warriors.
Until the Ottomans invaded, the high, thick walls and well-positioned defenses of Constantinople had repelled invaders for a thousand years.
Like the Seljuks, the Ottomans were a Turkish-speaking nomadic people who had migrated from Central Asia into northwestern Asia Minor. By the 1300s, they were spreading across Asia Minor and into Eastern Europe's Balkan Peninsula.
Ottoman expansion threatened the crumbling Byzantine empire. After several failed attempts to capture Constantinople, the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II finally succeeded in 1453. In a surprise move, the Ottomans hauled ships overland and launched them into the harbor outside Constantinople. After a nearly two-month siege, Ottoman cannons finally blasted gaps in the great defensive walls of the city, and it became the new capital of the Ottoman empire. From Constantinople, which gradually also became known as Istanbul, the Ottoman Turks continued their conquests for the next 200 years.
The Ottoman empire enjoyed a golden age under the sultan Suleiman (soo lay MAHN), who ruled from 1520 to 1566.