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Word Count: 681
By the 16th century the vast and mighty empire of the Ottomans had reached the zenith of its power The lands under Ottoman rule stretched from the heart of Central Europe to the deserts of Arabia In nearly every respect the Ottoman Empire was strong and well-organized As such it comes as no surprise that the people under Ottoman rule were organized in a neat power structure as well From the royal Sultan to the villagers in the rayyah class the people of the Empire each had a unique position in Ottoman society At the very top of the pyramidal societal structure was the Sultan absolute commander of all and executor of decisions concerning politics and state wealth for the purposes of serving the states interests A step below the Sultan were a small group of wealthy esteemed leaders who were ascribed special status because they were essentially the Sultans slaves The main duties of this select little group were to protect and enlarge the financial assets of the state for the benefit of the Sultan and the Empire These leaders also ruled and defended the far-flung Ottoman Empire While the Sultan invested wealth and the leaders protected it the majority of commoners the rayyahs had the task of actually producing the wealth The rayyahs had to pay part of their profits from industry commerce and farming to the state in the form of taxes Townsfolk villagers and pastoral peoples made up the eclectic mix of the rayyah class The word rayyah literally translates into the protected flock of the Sultan While Ottoman society was clearly divided into distinct social classes these classes were neither closed nor confining meaning that with the proper attributes and luck a man could raise his social status
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