Details of his life are scarce but Ertuğrul Ghazi, the father of the Ottoman Empire’s founder Osman I, is a much revered figure in Turkish culture. On Friday, a three-day event celebrating and commemorating him kicked off in Söğüt, the informal birthplace of the Ottoman Empire where Ertuğrul’s tomb is located.
Local authorities, including the governor of Bilecik province where Söğüt is now located, paid a visit to the tomb, guarded by soldiers dressed as “alps” or comrades-in-arms of Ertuğrul and later Osman, before the empire had a fully formed army. After a traditional change of guards at the tomb, a wreath was laid in an area where a monument is erected in memory of Ertuğrul and the alps, before a minute of silence and the recitation of the national anthem.
Celebrations and remembrance will continue on Saturday and Sunday with a wrestling tournament, folk dance performances and concerts, including one by a mehter Ottoman military band in Söğüt. Horseback archers, javelin throwers and archers will also perform stunts in memory of the Ottomans’ forefather.
Ertuğrul was the leader of the Kayı tribe which the Ottomans originated from. His exact birth date or date of death is not known but historians predict he lived between 1189 and 1281.
Hailing from Asia, the Kayı tribe first settled in Karacadağ, located today in the capital Ankara, after the Seljuk sultan allocated them the land. In 1230, the tribe relocated to a region which is now located between Söğüt and Domaniç, a district of Kütahya province. He is credited with uniting hundreds of thousands of Turkic people who were living scattered across Anatolia, something that would ultimately lead to the foundation of the Ottoman Empire. A few centuries later, the Ottomans would go on to topple the Byzantine Empire and cement centuries of Ottoman rule in present-day Türkiye and beyond.
Ertuğrul Ghazi’s success is attributed to his good relations with tekfurs, a name given to local rulers of the Byzantine Empire around the regions where the Kayı lived.
Centuries later, interest in his legacy was revived thanks to the wildly popular “Diriliş Ertuğrul” or “Resurrection Ertuğrul,” which also paved the way for similar historic TV shows like “Kuruluş Osman” (The Ottoman).
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