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Mehmed II, Fatih Sultan Mehmed, Mehmed The Conqueror



Mehmed II, Fatih Sultan Mehmed, Mehmed The Conqueror Mehmed II (Ottoman Turkish: محمد ثانى Meḥmed-i sānī, Turkish: II. Mehmet), (also known as el-Fatih (الفاتح), "the Conqueror", in Ottoman Turkish, or, in modern Turkish, Fatih Sultan Mehmet) (March 30, 1432 – May 3, 1481) was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to 1446, and later from 1451 to 1481. At the age of 21, he conquered Constantinople, bringing an end to the medieval Byzantine Empire. From this point onward, he claimed the title of Caesar in addition to his other titles.


Mehmed II


Early reign

Mehmed II was born in Edirne capital city of the Ottoman state, on March 30, 1432. His father was Sultan Murad II (1404–51) and his mother Huma Hatun was a daughter of Abd'Allah of Hum, Huma meaning a girl/woman from Hum. When Mehmed II was 11 years old he was sent to Amasya to govern and thus gain experience, as per the custom of Ottoman rulers before his time. After Murad II made peace with the Karaman Emirate in Anatolia in August 1444, he abdicated the throne to his 12-year-old son Mehmed II.


During his first reign, Mehmed II asked his father Murad II to reclaim the throne in anticipation of the Battle of Varna, but Murad II refused. Enraged at his father, who had long since retired to a contemplative life in southwestern Anatolia, Mehmed II wrote: "If you are the Sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am the Sultan I hereby order you to come and lead my armies." It was upon this letter that Murad II led the Ottoman army in the Battle of Varna in 1444. It is said Murad II's return was forced by Chandarli Khalil Pasha, the grand vizier of the time, who was not fond of Mehmed II's rule, since Mehmed II's teacher was influential on him and did not like Chandarli. Chandarli was later executed by Mehmed II during the siege of Constantinople on the grounds that he had been bribed by or had somehow helped the defenders.


Mehmed II reclaimed the throne upon his father's death. Two years later he brought an end to the Byzantine Empire by capturing its capital during the Siege of Constantinople. After this conquest, he conquered the Despotate of Morea in the Peloponnese in 1460, and the Empire of Trebizond in northeastern Anatolia in 1461. The last two vestiges of Byzantine rule were thus absorbed by the Ottoman Empire. The conquest of Constantinople bestowed immense glory and prestige on the country; as the Ottoman state was internationally recognized as an Empire for the first time.


Some modern scholars believe that the following tale is merely one of a long series of attempts to portray Muslims as morally inferior, and point to the story of Saint Pelagius as its probable inspiration. Steven Runciman recounts that during the siege of Constantinople Mehmed II promised his men "the women and boys of the city."


Other explanations for this alleged departure from Mehmed II's nominal amnesty were that Loukas Notaras, a treasury official, had attempted to ingratiate himself with Mehmed II by retaining money from the Byzantine treasury as a gift for the Sultan. Mehmed II was neither impressed nor grateful, instead suggesting it should have been used for the defense of the city and viewed it as treason.


It is said that when Mehmed stepped into the Palace of the Caesars, founded over a thousand years before by Constantine the Great, he uttered the famous line of Persian poetry: "The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars; the owl calls the watches in the towers of Afrasiab."


After the Fall of Constantinople, Mehmed claimed the title of Roman Caesar (Kayzer-i Rûm), since Byzantium was the successor of the Roman Empire after the transfer of its capital to Constantinople in 330 AD. Mehmed also had blood lineage to the Byzantine imperial family, as his predecessors like Sultan Orhan I had married a Greek princesses. He was not the only ruler to claim such a title, as there was the Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe, whose emperor, Frederick III, traced his titular lineage from Charlemagne who obtained the title of Roman Emperor when he was crowned by Pope Leo III in 800.


Reference is made to the prospective conquest of Constantinople in an authentic hadith, attributed to a saying of the Prophet Muhammad. "Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will he be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!". Ten years after the conquest of Constantinople Mehmed II visited the site of Troy and boasted that he had avenged the Trojans by having conquered the Greeks (Byzantines).


Conquests in Asia

The conquest of Constantinople allowed Mehmed II to turn his attention to Anatolia. Mehmed II tried to create a single political entity in Anatolia by capturing Turkish states called Beyliks and the Greek Empire of Trebizond in northeastern Anatolia and allied himself with the Golden Horde in the Crimea. Uniting the Anatolian Beyliks was first accomplished by Sultan Bayezid I, more than fifty years earlier than Mehmed II but after the destructive Battle of Ankara back in 1402, the newly formed Anatolian unification was gone. Mehmed II recovered the Ottoman power on other Turkish states. These conquests allowed him to push further into Europe.


Another important political entity which shaped the Eastern policy of Mehmed II was the White Sheep Turcomans. With the leadership of Uzun Hasan, this Turcoman kingdom gained power in the East but because of their strong relations with the Christian powers like Empire of Trebizond and the Republic of Venice and the alliance between Turcomans and Karamanoğlu Tribe, Mehmed saw them as a threat to his own power. He lead a successful campaign against Uzun Hasan in 1473 which resulted with the decisive victory of the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Otlukbeli.


Conquests in Europe

Mehmed II advanced toward Eastern Europe as far as Belgrade, and attempted to conquer the city from John Hunyadi at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456. Hungarian commander successfully defended the city and Ottomans retreated with heavy losses but at the end, Ottomans occupied nearly all of Serbia.


He also came into conflict with and was defeated by his former vassal, Prince Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia in 1462 at the Night Attack. Then, Mehmed II helped Radu, the brother of Vlad, to take the revenge of the Ottoman military losses and Radu managed to take the control of Wallachia in the same year. Vlad lost all his power and escaped from his country.


In 1475, the Ottomans suffered a great defeat at the hands of Stephen the Great of Moldavia at the Battle of Vaslui. In 1476, Mehmed won a victory against Stephen at the Battle of Valea Albă and nearly destroyed all of the relatively small Moldovian army. Then, he sacked the capital of Suceava, but couldn't take the castle of Piatra Neamţ, nor the citadell of Suceava. With a plague running in his camp and food and water being very scarce, Mehmed was forced to retreat as Stephen was reinforcing his army and Dracula, turning from exile, was marching with a 30,000-strong army to aid the Moldavians.


Mehmed II invaded Italy in 1480. The intent of his invasion was to capture Rome and "reunite the Roman Empire", and, at first, looked like he might be able to do it with the easy capture of Otranto in 1480 but Otranto was retaken by Papal forces in 1481 after the death of Mehmed.


A rebellion led by George Kastrioti Skanderbeg (İskender Bey), an Albanian noble and a former member of the Ottoman ruling elite, in Albania between 1443 and 1468 prevented the Ottoman expansion into the Italian peninsula. Skanderbeg was sent to Albania as the highest representative of the Ottoman Empire in the region by Mehmed's father Murad II.


These military conflicts between the Ottomans and the European forces showed that the Ottoman presence in Europe is not a temporary situation. During the reign of Mehmed II, Balkan forces were not completely surpassed by the Ottoman war machine but they couldn't stop it either.



Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge seen from the Bosphorus


Administrative actions

Mehmed II amalgamated the old Byzantine administration into the Ottoman state. He first introduced the word Politics into Arabic "Siyasah" from a book he published and claimed to be the collection of Politics doctrines of the Byzantian Caeasars before him. He gathered Italian artists, humanists and Greek scholars at his court, kept the Byzantine Church functioning, ordered the patriarch to translate the Christian faith into Turkish and called Gentile Bellini from Venice to paint his portrait.He was extremely serious about his efforts to continue the Roman Empire, with him as its Caesar, and came closer than most people realize to capturing Rome and conquering Italy. Mehmed II also tried to get Muslim scientists and artists to his court in Constantinople, started a University, built mosques e.g. the Fatih Mosque, waterways, and the Topkapı Palace.


Mehmed II's reign is also well-known for the religious tolerance with which he treated his subjects, especially among the conquered Christians, which was very unusual for Europe in the Middle Ages. However, his army was recruited from the Devshirme. This group took Christian subjects at a young age. They were split up: those regarded as more able were destined for the sultans court, the less able but physically strong were put into the army or the sultan's personal guard - the Janissaries.


Within the conquered city, Mehmed established a millet or an autonomous religious community, and he appointed the former Patriarch as essentially governor of the city. His authority extended only to the Orthodox Christians of the city, and this excluded the Genoese and Venetian settlements in the suburbs, and excluded the coming Muslim and Jewish settlers entirely. This method allowed for an indirect rule of the Christian Byzantines and allowed the occupants to feel relatively autonomous even as Mehmed II began the Turkish remodeling of the city, eventually turning it into the Turkish capital, which it remained until the 1920s.


 The Fatih Mosque Dome


Mehmed II spoke seven languages (including Turkish, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and Latin) when he was 21 years old (the age at which he conquered Constantinople). After the fall of Constantinople, he founded many universities and colleges in the city, some of which are still active. Mehmed II is also recognized as the first Sultan to codify criminal and constitutional law long before Suleiman the Magnificent (also "the Lawmaker" or "Kanuni") and he thus established the classical image of the autocratic Ottoman sultan (padishah). Mehmed II's tomb is located at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul; the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge is also named after him.


 The Fatih Mosque


Mehmed II's Firman on the Freedom of the Bosnian Franciscans

"I, the Sultan Khan the Conqueror,


hereby declare the whole world that,


The Bosnian Franciscans granted with this sultanate firman are under my protection. And I command that:


No one shall disturb or give harm to these people and their churches! They shall live in peace in my state. These people who have become emigrants, shall have security and liberty. They may return to their monasteries which are located in the borders of my state.


No one from my empire notable, viziers, clerks or my maids will break their honour or give any harm to them!


No one shall insult, put in danger or attack these lives, properties, and churches of these people!


Also, what and those these people have brought from their own countries have the same rights...


By declaring this firman, I swear on my sword by the holy name of Allah who has created the ground and sky, Allah's prophet Mohammed, and 124.000 former prophets that; no one from my citizens will react or behave the opposite of this firman!"


This oath firman, which has provided independence and tolerance to the ones who are from another religion, belief, and race was declared by Mehmed II the Conqueror and granted to Angjeo Zvizdovic of the Franciscan Catholic Monastery in Fojnica, Bosnia and Herzegovina after the conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 28th of 1463. The firman has been recently raised and published by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey for the 700th anniversary of the foundation of the Ottoman State. The edict was issued by the Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror to protect the basic rights of the Bosnian Christians when he conquered that territory in 1463. The original edict is still kept in the Franciscan Catholic Monastery in Fojnica.


It is one of the oldest documents on religious freedoms. Mehmed II's oath was entered into force in the Ottoman Empire on May 28, 1463. In 1971, the United Nations published a translation of the document in all the official U.N. languages.

Source: Wikipedia 










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