Mehmed II: Ottoman Sultan from 1444 to 1446 and 1451 to 1481

Overview

Mehmed II, often known as Mehmed the Conqueror, was a Muslim conqueror. He was an Ottoman sultan who reigned from August 1444 to September 1446, again from February 1451 to May 1481. After Hungarian intrusions into his country broke the stipulations of the Szeged agreement, Mehmed II crushed John Hunyadi's crusade during his first reign. Mehmed II bolstered the Ottoman navy and planned an attack on Constantinople after he recaptured the throne in 1451. At the age of 21, he dominated Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire. Following the victory, Mehmed claimed the title "Caesar" of the Roman Empire. Since Emperor Constantine I dedicated it in 330 AD, Constantinople has been the seat and capital of the remaining Eastern Roman Empire. The Patriarchate of Constantinople only accepted the charge.

Nonetheless, Mehmed II considered the Ottoman state a continuation of the Roman Empire throughout his life and himself as a continuation rather than a replacement. Mehmed extended his conquests in Southeast Europe, as far west as Bosnia, after the reunification of Anatolia. At home, he instituted a slew of political and social reforms. He was an advocate for the arts and sciences. By the end of his reign, his restoration efforts had converted Constantinople into a bustling imperial capital. He is regarded as a hero in modern-day Turkey and parts of the Muslim world. He is commemorated by the Fatih area of Istanbul, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, and the Fatih Mosque.

Mehmed II

7th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

1st sovereignty

From August 1444 to September 1446

Ancestor

Murad II

Inheritor

Murad II

2nd sovereignty

From 3 February 1451 to 3 May 1481

Ancestor

Murad II

Inheritor

Bayezid II

Born

30 March 1432

Birthplace

Edirne, Ottoman Sultanate

Deceased

On 3 May 1481 when he was 49 years old

Interment

Fatih Mosque, Istanbul

Wives

  • Gülbahar Hatun
  • Gülşah Hatun
  • Sittişah Hatun
  • Çiçek Hatun
  • Hatice Hatun

Dynasty

Ottoman

Father

Murad II

Mother

Hüma Hatun

Religion

Sunni Islam

Early Sovereignty

Mehmed II was born at Edirne on March 30, 1432. Sultan Murad II was his father, and Hüma Hatun, a slave of unknown origin, was his mother. Mehmed II was sent to Amasya with his two counsellors when he was eleven years old to govern and gain experience, as was the habit of Ottoman kings before him. Sultan Murad II also sent him several professors to learn. Mehmed's Muslim views were reinforced, and his personality was moulded due to his Islamic education. Practitioners of science, particularly his master Molla Gürani, impacted him in his practice of Islamic epistemology. He moved in the same direction as them. From an early age, Akshamsaddin had a stronghold on Mehmed's life, especially when it came to fulfilling his Islamic duty of overthrowing the Byzantine empire by conquering Constantinople.

Murad II abdicated the throne to his 12-year-old son Mehmed II in July/August 1444, after making peace with Hungary on 12 June 1444. After Hungarian raids into his kingdom broke the terms of the peace Peace of Szeged in September 1444, Mehmed II repelled the crusade commanded by John Hunyadi during his first reign. The Pope's emissary, Cardinal Julian Cesarini, had persuaded the King of Hungary that breaking the ceasefire with Muslims was not treason. Mehmed II requested that his father resume the throne at this time. Murad II was adamant about not doing so. On 10 November 1444, Murad II led the Ottoman army to victory in the Battle of Varna. According to Halil Inalcik, Mehmed II did not request his father. Instead, it was the efforts of Çandarlı Halil Pasha to restore Murad II to the throne. Murad II ascended to the throne in 1446. Mehmed II kept his sultan title but only served as governor of Manisa. Mehmed II became Sultan for the second time after Murad II died in 1451. Invasion of the disputed area by İbrahim Bey of Karaman inspired multiple revolts against Ottoman power. Mehmed II launched his first campaign against Karaman's İbrahim. Ottoman claimant the Byzantines threatened Orhan.

Invasion of Constantinople

When Mehmed II ascended the throne for the second time in 1451, he focused on developing the Ottoman navy and planning an attack on Constantinople. On the Asian side, his great-grandfather Bayezid I built the castle Anadoluhisar. On the European side, Mehmed built an even more powerful castle called Rumelihisar. As a result, he obtained exclusive control of the strait. Mehmed continued to levy a toll on ships sailing within range of his cannon after completing his castles. Except for the Captain, a Venetian vessel that disobeyed instructions to stop was sunk with a single shot, and all of the surviving crew were beheaded. As a warning to other sailors on the strait, the Captain was impaled and mounted as a human scarecrow.

During the first Siege of Constantinople, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari died. Mehmed's sheikh Akshamsaddin discovered the grave of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari when Mehmed II's army approached Constantinople. Mehmed erected the Eyüp Sultan Mosque on the location after the conquest to stress the conquest's significance to the Islamic world and promote his role as ghazi. Mehmed began the siege of Constantinople in 1453 with an army of 80,000 to 200,000 men, an artillery train of over seventy heavy field pieces, and a navy of 320 ships. The city was surrounded by water and land. The navy at the Bosphorus's entrance stretched from shore to shore in the crescent shape, ready to intercept or repel any help from the sea for Constantinople. The Siege of Constantinople began in early April. Even though Mehmed's army used Orban's new bombard, the city's fortifications held off the Turks. A boom chain was used to block the harbour of the Golden Horn, which was defended by twenty-eight warships. Mehmed's lighter warships were moved overland to the Golden Horn's northern shore. After paving a path, eighty galleys were brought from the Bosphorus. As a result, the Byzantines could stretch their forces across a larger area of the walls.

After a fifty-seven-day siege, Constantinople surrendered on 29 May, about a month later. Mehmed assumed the title of Caesar of the Roman Empire and transferred the Ottoman capital from Adrianople to Constantinople after this conquest. George of Trebizond, a contemporary scholar, backed up his claim. However, the Catholic Church did not accept the assertion. Mehmed had appointed Gennadius Scholarius, a fierce opponent of the West. As the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, he was given all the ceremonial aspects, ethnarch status, and property rights by the Sultan himself in 1454, making him the second greatest landlord. In turn, Gennadius II acknowledged Mehmed the Conqueror as the throne's heir.

Invasion of Serbia

Following Constantinople, Mehmed II's initial battles were directed at Serbia, an Ottoman client state since the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. The Serbian Despotate had a relationship with the Ottoman sovereign. He took advantage of this to claim certain Serbian islands. That Đurađ Branković had just allied with the Hungarians and had been haphazardly paying the tribute. In 1454, when Serbia failed to comply with these demands, the Ottoman army marched from Edirne to Serbia. The towns of Smederevo and Novo Brdo were under siege. These were Serbia's most major metal mining and smelting facilities. Until 1456, the Ottomans and the Hungarians fought. Finally, the Ottoman army made it to Belgrade. At the Barricade of Belgrade on 14 July 1456, they attempted but failed to take the city from John Hunyadi. Till the Fall of Belgrade in 1521, during the reign of Mehmed's great-grandson, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the region enjoyed a period of relative tranquillity. The Sultan withdrew to the city of Edirne. Đurađ Branković reclaimed some sections of Serbia. Branković died before the conclusion of the year. After conflict among his widow and three remaining sons, the Ottoman Empire legally acquired his territory, Serbian independence lasted barely two years. Lazar poisoned his mother and sent his brothers into exile, but he died soon after. Stefan Branković, the oldest brother, ascended to the throne during the chaos but was deposed in March 1459. Sultan Mehmed was enraged when the Serbian throne was offered to Stephen Tomaevi. In June 1459, he dispatched an army and seized Smederevo, putting an end to the Serbian Despotate's existence.

Invasion of Morea

The Morea Despotate was located on the southern edge of the Ottoman Balkans. In 1446, the Ottomans conquered the region under Murad II, smashing the Byzantine defences at the Corinth Isthmus. Mehmed ordered Ottoman troops to invade Morea before the final siege of Constantinople. The last emperor's despots (Demetrios Palaiologos and Thomas Palaiologos) neglected to provide any aid. Their ineptness prompted an Albanian-Greek uprising against them. During this time, they summoned Ottoman forces to assist in suppressing the insurrection. Several important Moreote Greeks and Albanians made private peace with Mehmed during this period. Mehmed entered the Morea in May 1460, after further years of inept management by the despots, their refusal to pay their annual tribute to the Sultan, and finally, their insurrection against Ottoman rule. On 29 May 1460, the capital of Mistra fell exactly seven years after Constantinople. Demetrios became an Ottoman prisoner, but his younger brother Thomas escaped. By the end of the summer season, the Ottomans had conquered nearly all of the Greek cities. For a while, there were a few holdouts. The island of Monemvasia stood firm in its refusal to surrender. For a brief while, it was ruled by a Catalan corsair. Before the end of 1460, when the population pushed him out, they persuaded Thomas to submit to the Pope's protection. The Mani Peninsula, on the south end of Morea, resisted under the leadership of a loose coalition of local clans, and the peninsula eventually fell under the control of Venice. Salmeniko was the last holdout. The military commander stationed at Salmeniko Castle was Graitzas Palaiologos. Graitzas and his soldiers and some town citizens held out in the castle until July 1461, when they fled and entered Venetian territory.

Invasion of Trebizond

Trebizond's emperors made relationships with several Muslim rulers through royal marriages. In exchange for his commitment to defend Trebizond, Emperor John IV of Trebizond married his daughter to his brother sons-in-law. He also received assurances of help from the Turkish beys of Sinope and Karamania and the Georgian king and princes. The Ottomans were driven to conquer Trebizond to receive an annual tribute. In 1442 through the reign of Murad II, they attempted to seize the capital by water for the first time. However, the landings were challenging due to the high surf, and the effort was aborted. In 1456, the Ottoman ruler of Amasya attacked Trebizond while Mehmed II was laying siege to Belgrade. Despite his defeat, he seized numerous prisoners and demanded a large tribute. Following John's death in 1459, his brother David rose to power and courted several European countries for assistance in fighting the Ottomans, rumoured to include the conquering of Jerusalem. When Mehmed II learned of the plots, he was further compelled to act by David's demand that Mehmed refunds the payment owed to his brother. In the summer of 1461, Mehmed the Conqueror responded. From Bursa, he led a large army on land and the Ottoman fleet at sea. He took Sinope and put an end to the Jandarid dynasty's official reign. Despite appointing Ahmed as governor of Kastamonu and Sinope, he revoked the position the next year.

Crimean Policy

Since the early middle Ages, a group of Turkic peoples known as the Crimean Tatars have lived on the peninsula. The Crimean Tatars established an autonomous Crimean Khanate under Hacı I Giray, a descendant of Genghis Khan after Timur destroyed the Golden Horde earlier in the 15th century. From the Kuban to the Dniester River, the Crimean Tatars controlled the steppes. However, they could not wrest control of the commercial Genoese cities known as Gazaria, which had been under Genoese authority since 1357. In addition, Genoese communications were hindered after the conquest of Constantinople. The Ottomans replied to the Crimean Tatars' request for assistance by invading Genoese cities. Gedik Ahmed Pasha led the conquest in 1475. Following the capture of the Genoese towns, the Ottoman Sultan imprisoned Meñli I Giray. In exchange for acknowledging Ottoman suzerainty over the Crimean Khans and enabling them to reign as vassal princes of the Ottoman Empire, he was later liberated.

Excursion to Italy

In 1480 an Ottoman force led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha invaded Italy and took Otranto. Gedik Ahmed Pasha retreated to Albania with most of his forces due to a lack of supplies, leaving a garrison of 800 infantry and 500 cavalries to hold Otranto in Italy. He was anticipated to return after the winter. Because it had only been 28 years since Constantinople had fallen, there was considerable anxiety that Rome would follow in its footsteps. The Pope and the residents of Rome began preparations to flee the city. Pope Sixtus IV reiterated his demand for a crusade from 1481. Several Italian city-states well received the appeal. In 1479 it concluded a costly peace pact with the Ottomans. King Ferdinand I of Naples recruited an army in 1481, led by his son Alphonso II of Naples. Hungary's King Matthias Corvinus contributed a contingent of warriors. Beginning on 1 May 1481, the city was besieged. After Mehmed's death on 3 May, the Ottomans were unable to dispatch troops to Otranto. As a result, the Turkish occupation of Otranto was brought to an end through negotiations with Christian forces.

Government and Culture

Mehmed II introduced the Arabic word "Siyasah" to refer to a book he issued that purported to be a compendium of Byzantine Caesars' political teachings. At his court, he gathered Italian artists, humanists, and Greek scholars. He let the Byzantine Church continue to exist. He gave patriarch Gennadius the task of translating Christian teaching into Turkish. Gentile Bellini, a Venetian painter, was commissioned to create his portrait and Venetian paintings that have since gone. He amassed a library at his palace, which contained writings in Greek, Persian, and Latin. Muslim scholars and astronomers such as Ali Qushji and artists were welcomed to Mehmed's court at Constantinople. He decided to establish a university. He constructed mosques, canals, and Topkapı Palace and the Tiled Kiosk in Istanbul.  He built eight madrasas around the magnificent mosque that he built. The madrasas maintained their status as the Empire's highest educational institutions for Islamic sciences. Mehmed II gave his subjects a great deal of religious freedom in exchange for their obedience to his reign. He gave the Bosnian Franciscans the Ahdname of Milodra in 1463. He gave them the freedom to move about the Empire as they pleased. He invited them to worship in their churches and monasteries, where they may exercise their faith without fear of government or unofficial harassment. His standing army, on the other hand, was drawn from the Devshirme. It was a group that began studying Christian themes while they were young. They became Muslims as a result of their conversion. After that, they were educated for a career in administration or as a military Janissary. This was a meritocracy that produced four out of every five Grand Viziers from this period. Mehmed founded a millet or self-governing religious community. He named former Patriarch Gennadius Scholarius as the religious leader of the city's Orthodox Christians. All Ottoman Orthodox Christians were under his jurisdiction. This excluded the suburbs' Genoese and Venetian colonies, as well as Muslim and Jewish settlers. This strategy allowed the Christian Byzantines to rule indirectly and the residents to maintain a sense of autonomy even when Mehmed II launched the Turkish renovation of the city in the 1920s.

Monopolization of Government

Mehmed II consolidated control by appointing officials to his imperial court who would be completely loyal to him, giving him more autonomy and authority. Previous sultans had populated the divan with noble families who had interests and allegiance that differed from those of the Sultan. Mehmed II led the Empire away from the Ghazi mentality, which valued traditional customs and ceremonies above modern rule. He consolidated the Empire's bureaucracy, which was mostly made up of devşirme officials. Furthermore, Mehmed II converted the religious scholars who worked in the Ottoman madrasas into salaried employees of the Ottoman bureaucracy. During the years 1477–1481, a kanunname was issued, allowing for this centralization. It specified the Ottoman government's top officials, their positions and responsibilities, wages, protocol, and sanctions for the first time. Mehmed took great care to appoint people who would assist him carry out his plan after establishing an Ottoman bureaucracy and transforming the Empire from a frontier civilization to a centralized government. Mehmed II was the first Sultan to codify and implement kanunname entirely on his power.

Furthermore, Mehmed II was allowed to implement kanunname in the future, notwithstanding existing tradition or precedent. This was significant in an empire steeped in tradition and prone to being sluggish to change or adapt. Having viziers and other officials was an important aspect of Mehmed II's rule since he gave the viziers more power than previous sultans. As portion of his new strategy of imperial seclusions, he entrusted key powers and tasks of administration to his viziers. As part of the more closed era, a wall was built around the palace. Mehmed was no longer accessible to the public or even lower officials, unlike previous sultans. His viziers oversaw the military and conferred with foreign ambassadors, both critical aspects of his administration, especially given his repeated military expeditions.

Decease and Inheritance

Mehmed marched with the Ottoman army in 1481. However, when he arrived in Istanbul's Maltepe, he felt unwell. He was just getting started on new campaigns to take Rhodes and southern Italy. According to some historians, his next expedition was intended to overturn the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, take Egypt, and claim the caliphate. After a few days, he died on 3 May 1481 at the age of 49. He was rested close to the Fatih Mosque Complex. As per historian Colin Heywood, there is strong evidence that Mehmed was poisoned, presumably on his eldest son and successor Bayezid. In Europe, the news of Mehmed's death was greeted with joy. Celebrations were held, and church bells were rung. Sultan Mehmed II is credited with being the first to establish criminal and constitutional law. As a result, he solidified the image of the despotic Ottoman monarch.

Last updated: 2021-October-12
Tags: Ottoman Empire
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