What were the advantages and disadvantages of a land empire as opposed to a maritime empire? (The Earth and Its Peoples, 526)
There are a few notable advantages and disadvantages of classical imperial rule. Many times, the disadvantages of such rule are the same as its advantages. The most obvious of the advantages come from the conquest itself – land and resource acquisition. Many times dominance can be difficult to spread over land, as the state’s population increases, so must the complexity of its rule. Maritime empires, such as Great Britain (U.K.) and the United Netherlands procured their wealth through overseas trade and political force thereof. Controlling the seas required a good deal of ever-evolving technology, which the early modern empires of the east largely ignored.
Three such empires of note were the Ottoman, the Safavid, and the Mughal. Ottoman Empire originally grew out of trade route control and successful military reward systems. The Safavid came from the religious and political aspirations of Ismail I, hereditary leader of a military religious brotherhood, Safaviya. The Mughal Empire was created and ruled by descendants of Timur, an Asian conqueror of the 14th century. It is important to note the commonalities between these three empires. All three were of Turkic origin and practiced some form of Islam. After initial conquests, they were comprised of mixed cultures, used land as military payment, and exercised religious beliefs in their dominance of conquered lands.
The power of the Ottoman Empire was visible in its military might and strategic invasions. From a number of decisive battles (conquer of Constantinople, Battle of Chaldiran, etc.) in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the Ottomans established their ruling presence in Southwest Asia. The empire creatively made use of its Christian prisoners of war from the Balkan territories by turning them into yeni cheri (“Janissary”), military slaves. In the mid-16th century, the empire saw its golden age with the rule of Suleiman, son of Selim I. The ruler extended the Shari’a (Islamic law) and conquered large sections of Greek and Hungarian land, securing the powerful trade port of venice and furthering Ottoman reach to the west.
What set the Safavid Empire apart from its competitors was the adoption of Shi’a Islam by its founder Ismail I. This form of Islam, specifically “Twelver” Islam, focuses on the twelve imams, who are descendants of Ali, cousin of the prophet Muhammad. Shah Ismail I, founder of the empire had inherited and maintained devout group of military followers, who helped him establish his place as ruler, expel the Sunni Muslims from Iran, gather followers, and impose law. These actions both set Iran’s identity as a Shi’ite state, and laid the foundation for other rulers of the Safavids. One such ruler was Shah Abbas I. Abbas glorified the state by moving its capital to Isfahan, reforming the government and military, and...