Bayezid I: 4th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire


From 1389 until 1402 Bayezid I commonly known as Bayezid the Thunderbolt was the Ottoman Sultan. Gülçiçek Hatun and Murad I were his parents. He amassed one of the world's greatest armies at the time and unsuccessfully besieged Constantinople. As a result, Sultan-i Rûm was his new title, Rûm being an ancient Islamic term for the Roman Empire. In 1396, he decisively beat the Crusaders in Nicopolis (modern-day Bulgaria), was defeated and captured by Timur at the Battle of Ankara in 1402, and died in captivity in March 1403 in the Ottoman Interregnum.

Bayezid I

4th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire


16 June 1389 ‒ 20 July 1402


Murad I


Interregnum (1402 – 1413)


c. 1360


8 March 1403 (aged 42)


Bayezid I Mosque, Bursa


  • Sultan Hatun
  • Devlet Hatun
  • Hafsa Hatun
  • Despina Hatun




Murad I


Gülçiçek Hatun


Sunni Islam


Bayezid's first significant position was as governor of Kütahya, which he gained by marrying the daughter of the Germiyanid king. He was a rash soldier who earned the moniker "Lightning" during a fight with the Karamanids. Following his father's death Murad I Serbian knight Miloš Obilić, slew at, or shortly after the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. Serbia became a client state of the Ottoman Sultanate, Bayezid rose to the throne. To avoid a conspiracy, he killed his younger brother shortly after assuming the kingdom. Bayezid married Princess Olivera Despina, Prince Lazar of Serbia, who had also died in Kosovo in 1390. With significant authority, Bayezid acknowledged Stefan Lazarević, the son of Lazar, as the new Serbian leader and eventually tyrant. Upper Serbia held out against the Ottomans until 1391 when General Pasha Yiğit Bey conquered Skopje and turned it into an essential centre of operations.

Efforts to Unify Anatolia

In the meanwhile, the Sultan began to unite Anatolia under his control. The Ottoman connection with the gazis, a vital supply of soldiers for this royal dynasty on the European frontier, may have been jeopardized by forcible expansion into Muslim territory. As a result, Bayezid began obtaining fatwas, or legal opinions, from Islamic experts to legitimize attacks against these Muslim kingdoms. Bayezid, on the other hand, had doubts about the allegiance of his Muslim Turkoman subjects; therefore, he enlisted the help of his Serbian and Byzantine vassals in these conquests. As a result, Bayezid captured the beyliks of Aydin, Saruhan, and Menteshe in a single campaign in the summer and fall of 1390. Sulayman, the emir of Karaman, retaliated by allying with Kadi Burhan al-Din, the ruler of Sivas, and the surviving Turkish beyliks.

Nonetheless, Bayezid pressed on, defeating the other beyliks (Hamid, Teke, and Germiyan) and capturing the Karaman's towns of Akşehir and Niğde, as well as their capital Konya. Bayezid accepted peace negotiations from Karaman (1391) at this time, fearful that further gains might enrage his Turkoman supporters, leading them to join Kadi Burhan al-Din. After making peace with Karaman, Bayezid proceeded north against Kastamonu, which had taken in many of his soldiers fleeing, and captured both that city and Sinop. Burhan al-Din, on the other hand, ended his future expedition at the Battle of Krkdilim. He ruled Bulgaria and northern Greece from 1389 until 1395. Finally, in 1394, Bayezid crossed the Danube to conquer Wallachia, governed by Mircea the Elder. The Ottomans were numerically more robust, but the Wallachians won the Battle of Rovine on 10 October 1394 (or 17 May 1395) amid wooded and marshy terrain, preventing Bayezid's army crossing the Danube.

Bayezid besieged Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire's capital, in 1394. The stronghold of Anadoluhisarı was constructed between 1393 and 1394 in preparation for the second Ottoman siege of Constantinople, which occurred in 1395. A new crusade was planned to destroy him at the request of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus. This was unsuccessful: in the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, the Christian allies, led by King of Hungary and future Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, were defeated. To commemorate this triumph, Bayezid constructed the beautiful Ulu Cami in Bursa. As a result, the siege of Constantinople extended until 1402. When Bayezid defeated the Timurid Empire in the east, the besieged Byzantines were given a respite. Thrace (excluding Constantinople), Macedonia, Bulgaria, and portions of Serbia were all part of Bayezid's empire. His territories in Asia stretched to the Taurus Mountains. In the Islamic world, his army was regarded as one of the greatest.

Clash with Timur

Bayezid fought and killed the emir of Karaman in Akçay in 1397, annexing his realm. In 1398, the Sultan invaded the Djanik emirate and Burhan al-Din'sal-Din's breaking a treaty with the Turco-Mongol warlord Timur. Bayezid eventually conquered Elbistan and Malatya. Timur successfully rallied the local Turkic beyliks, who had been Ottoman vassals, to assist him in an attack against Bayezid, who was also one of the most powerful monarchs in the Muslim world. Timur and Bayezid have exchanged nasty letters for years. Timur chose to weaken Bayezid'sBayezid's standing as a ruler and downplay the value of his military victories while both kings attacked one other in their ways. This is an extract from one of Timur'sTimur's letters to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire: "You are a pismire ant, therefore don't try to battle the elephants; they will crush you under their feet. Will a small prince like you be able to compete with us? On the other hand, your rodomontades are nothing out of the usual; a Turcoman never spoke in judgment. You will be sorry if you do not heed our advice."

On 20 July 1402, the Ottoman army was defeated at the Battle of Ankara. Bayazid attempted to flee but was apprehended and sent to Timur. According to historians, their first meeting was as follows: Timur burst out laughing when he spotted Bayezid. Offended by this chuckle, Bayezid informed Timur that laughing at misfortune was impolite; to which Timur answered, "It is evident therefore that fate does not value power and ownership of large territories if it distributes them to cripples: to you, the crooked, and to me, the lame."

Many sources allege that the Timurids abused Bayezid. Nevertheless, Bayezid was treated well, according to authors and historians from Timur'sTimur's court, and Timur even lamented his death. Mustafa Celebi, one of Bayezid'sBayezid's sons, was kidnapped and kept hostage in Samarkand until 1405. After Mehmed'sMehmed's triumph, coronation as Mehmed I, and the deaths of all four save Mehmed, Bayezid'sBayezid's second son Mustafa Çelebi emerged from hiding. He launched two failed rebellions against his brother Mehmed and his nephew Murad II after Mehmed's death.

Bayezid in Captivity

The narrative of Bayazid's humiliation in captivity was well-known in Europe. He was supposedly tied and forced to witness Olivera, his loving wife, served Timur at dinner. According to tradition, he carried Bayezid around in a barred palanquin or cage, humiliating him in various ways, using him as support beneath his legs, and placing him under the table where bones were thrown at him during supper. There were also many stories of Bayezid's death. Bayezid's suicide was noted by one of them. Sultan is said to have killed himself by beating his head against the bars of jail or ingesting poison. Ottoman historians Lutfi Pasha and Ashik Pasha-Zade pushed for this view. Bayezid was also allegedly poisoned on Timur's orders, according to one story. This is improbable because evidence suggests that the Turkic monarch entrusted Bayezid's treatment to his doctors. There is no indication of a cell or humiliation in the accounts of contemporary and eyewitnesses to the events. Johann Schiltberger, a German wanderer and writer, wrote nothing about the cell, bars or brutal death. Bayezid's incarceration was observed by another contemporary, Jean II Le Maingre, who wrote nothing about the cell or poisoning.

Clavijo, who visited Timur's court as part of the mission in 1404 and visited Constantinople on his way back, likewise made no mention of the jail. The cell is absent from all Greek texts from the first decade of the 15th century. Bayezid was treated with dignity, according to Sharafaddin Yazdi in Zafar-Nama, and Turco-Mongols located his son among the captives and delivered him to his father at his request. Timur transferred Bayezid's wife and his daughters to her husband, according to Sharafaddin. Olivera is said to have converted to Islam as a result of Timur's influence. In the writings of ibn Arabshah (1389-1450) and Constantine of Ostrovica, the first allusions to a contemptuous attitude toward Bayazid occur. When Bayezid saw his wives and concubines serving at a feast, Ibn Arabshah wrote, "Bayezid's heart was shattered to pieces."

"Ibn Usman became prey and was shut up like a bird in a cage," Ibn Arabshah wrote about Bayezid's imprisonment. This is, however, merely a "flowery style," not an open cell. "The flowery beauty of language has also impacted historiography," writes literary historian H.A.R. Gibb. The majority of Timurid authors succumbed to its influence." Although Constantine of Ostrovica did not mention the cell or Bayezid's wife's nudity, he did say that Bayezid committed suicide. In both Constantine's and ibn Arabshah's stories, the Sultan was so taken aback that his wife brought wine to a feast that he poisoned himself with poison from his ring. Bayezid's incarceration was recounted by Ottoman historian Mehmed Neshri (1450-1520), who referenced the cell twice. Timur, according to him, asked Bayezid what he would do if he were Timur in charge of the hostage. Bayezid said, "I would have put him in an iron cage." "This is a poor answer," Timur said. He gave the order to prepare the cage, and the Sultan was placed inside. Bayezid is kept in a cage, fed garbage under the table. Timur uses Bayezid as a support to get on and off a horse, according to Pope Pius II Asiae Europaeque elegantissima descriptio, written in 1450-1460 (published in 1509): Bayezid is kept in a cage, fed garbage under the table, and Timur uses Bayezid as a support to get on and off a horse. Later authors, such as Theodore Spandounes, continued to expand the concept. His narrative was initially written in Italian and completed in 1509, with a French translation following 1519. Spandounes wrote solely about the golden chains and how the Sultan was utilized to stand in these tale versions. Spandounes only inserted the cell in subsequent editions of the book. Later editions of the book add a description of Bayezid's wife's public humiliation: "He had a wife of Ildrim, who was likewise a hostage." They pulled her clothing down to her navel, revealing embarrassing parts of her body. And Timur had her do it in front of him and his guests.


Gülçiçek Hatun, his mother, was of ethnic Greek origin.






  • Sultan Hatun
  • Devlet Hatun
  • Despina Hatun
  • Hafsa Hatun


  • Şehzade Ertuğrul Çelebi
  • Şehzade Süleyman Çelebi 
  • Şehzade İsa Çelebi  
  • Şehzade Mehmed Çelebi  
  • Şehzade Mustafa Çelebi  
  • Şehzade Yusuf Çelebi 
  • Şehzade Kasım Çelebi
  • Hundi Hatun
  • Erhondu Hatun
  • Fatma Hatun
  • Ayşe Hatun
  • A daughter married to Abu Bakar Mirza,


Bayezid was characterized by haste, impulsivity, unpredictability, and imprudence, according to Lord Kinross, a British orientalist. He was unconcerned with state matters, which he left to his governors. Bayezid was regularly indulged in indulgences like gluttony, drunkenness, and depravity between campaigns, according to Kinross. The Sultan's courtyard was renowned for its splendour, and it was similar to the Byzantine court in its prime. Simultaneously, the Sultan was a capable commander. Bayezid only experienced one loss during his 13-year rule, which proved to be deadly. Despite his desire for worldly pleasures, Bayezid was a devout Muslim who would spend hours at his own Bursa mosque. He also surrounded himself with Islamic theologians.

Evaluation of Rule

Bayezid was able to extend his kingdom to the Danube and the Euphrates rivers. Sultan's policies, on the other hand, resulted in a humiliating loss at Ankara and the fall of his realm. From the period of Orhan, the Ottoman Empire shrank to the size of a beylik, but even that region was split by Timur and handed to Bayezid's two sons. Small beyliks regained their independence owing to Timur, who sought to reach China in his final years and thus could not finish the Ottoman defeat. The Ottoman interregnum began with the victory at Ankara, which lasted ten years.

In Fiction

Later Western authors, musicians, and artists took up the theme of Bayezid's loss. They added a cast of people to the narrative that he was transported to Samarkand by Timur, creating an oriental dream that has endured. Three years after William Harborne left for Constantinople as an agent of the Levant Company, Christopher Marlowe's play Tamburlaine the Great was first produced in London in 1587, three years after the formal establishment of English-Ottoman commercial ties. Jean Magnon's drama Le Gran Tamerlan et Bejezet premiered in London in 1648, while Handel's Tamerlano premiered and was published in London in 1725; Vivaldi's rendition of the narrative, Bajazet, was composed in 1735. Magnon had given Bayezid an intriguing wife and daughter. At the same time, Handel and Vivaldi's versions featured a prince of Byzantium and a princess of Trebizond in a passionate love tale, in addition to Tamerlane and Bayezid and his daughter. Finally, the topic was transferred to a new medium in a cycle of paintings in Schloss Eggenberg, near Graz, Austria, completed in the 1670s, just before the Ottoman army attacked the Habsburgs in central Europe. Harold Lamb's historical book The Grand Cham (1921) is about a European hero's attempt to enlist Tamerlane's help in conquering Bayezid. Bayezid (also spelt Bayazid) is a crucial character in Robert E. Howard's Lord of Samarcand tale, in which he commits himself during Tamerlane's victory feast. Bayazid is a prominent character in James Heneage's novel The Walls of Byzantium (2013).

In Popular Culture

Actor Branislav Lečić portrayed sultan Bayazit as a participant in the Battle of Kosovo in the Serbian 1989 historical drama film Battle of Kosovo, and by Ion Ritiu as a young Sultan. The latter fought in Rovine, Nicopolis and Angora in the Romanian historical drama Mircea (Proud heritage).

Last updated: 2021-October-11
Tags: Ottoman Empire
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