Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Ottoman Empire - Mehmet the Conqueror VIII

Back into Anatolia
It was not until the autumn of 1472, after consulting with his astrologers as was his custom, that Mehmet personally led his armies into Anatolia. Prince Mustafa and Prince Bayezid accompanied their father along with Davud Pasha. Mehmet reinstated Mahmut Pasha as Grand Vizier, recognising that he was;

‘The most valiant and practical man that he had at his court.’[i]
The army went into winter quarters in Amasya and the spring saw them march to Erzincan where Hass Murad Pasha, one of Mehmet’s most favoured generals, led an attack into an ambush that saw him and his men annihilated.
A furious Mehmet saw no option but to retreat; Uzun Hasan decided to seize the moment and a week later proffered battle at Otlukbeli. An eight hour battle on
Battle at Otlukbeli
11th August 1473 left the
White Sheep tribe routed; felled by Mehmet’s artillery, an innovation Uzun Hasan’s people had not seen before. Uzun himself fled the battlefield.
Internal Revolt
The 14 year old Prince Jem had been left in charge of Adrianople with a small force, under the supervision of his tutors Nasu Bey and Kariștiranli Süleman Bey. The news of Uzun Hasan’s victory at Erzincan had been published abroad by the Venetians. After hearing nothing from his father for forty days Jem decided to take charge and usurp the throne.
Prince Jem as an adult
When the news of the victory at Otlukbeli arrived Jem fled but was forgiven by Mehmet, who may have recognised some of his own youthful impetuosity in the boy. Jem’s tutors were not so lucky and were both punished. Jem was sent as governor to Kastamonu. Mehmet then dismissed Mahmut Pasha again, blaming him for the fiasco at Erzincan. According to one Angiolello[ii];
‘The Turkish Signor was angry that Mahmut Pasha withdrew….and did not give help to Murat, and it was suspected that he had done that on purpose, because he was not his friend.’[iii]
Mahmut Pasha was replaced by Gedik Ahmet Pasha.
Death of a Son
Mehmet spent 1474 in Istanbul, taking his ease in the Topkapi Palace while Mustafa governed in Konya, the capital of Karaman, Beyazid was in Amasya and Jem governed in Kastamonu.
The autumn of 1473 Mustafa spent boating on Lake Beyșehir. In the early winter he sent troops with the intention of besieging Develi Karahisir. The Karamanid garrison refused to submit to any but Mustafa who journeyed to the region with great difficulty as he had fallen ill. 
Mustafa’s condition worsened and his advisers decided to send him back to Konya and notified Mehmet. Mehmet sent an army of 30,000 under Gedik Ahmet Pasha to Develi Karahisir and his own physician to attend Mustafa. Mustafa died in June en route at Bor and his body was embalmed and taken to Konya.
Mehmet’s old tutor Hoca Sinan Pasha was the only one of Mehmet’s entourage brave enough to inform the Sultan of the death of his favourite son.
‘He [Mehmet] gathered the dust and placed it over his head, as a sign of great sorrow. And he was beating his face, his chest and his thighs with his palms, and he groaned greatly. And he remained this way for three days and three nights………..Mustafa was especially beloved of his father and of all those who had dealings with him.’[iv]
Mehmet had Mustafa buried at the Muradiye and Mustafa’s daughter Princess Nergiszade gave a one hour oration praising her father. Jem was transferred to become governor of Konya in his brother’s place. Mehmet blamed Mahmut Pasha for Mustafa’s death; the two men had become enemies although the reason(s) are unknown. Mahmut Pasha was arrested and executed on 18th July 1474.
Further Distractions
Giovanni Mocenigo
In January 1475 Mara Branković again approached the Venetians with a peace proposal. Many of the Venetian Senate were opposed to considering the idea, but the Doge, Giovanni Mocinego, speaking with the voice of reason, overcame the opposition and emissaries were sent to Istanbul. The negotiations broke down in the October and the two parties were back at each other’s throats in short order.
In June 1475 the defenders of Kaffa[v] surrendered to the Ottoman fleet[vi] which then went on to capture all the other Genoese Crimean possessions and the Venetian colony of Tana[vii] on the Sea of Azov.
Mehmet led an army into Moldavia in the spring of 1476 to fight Count Stephen; battle was joined at Razboieni on 26th July. The battle was intended as an ambush by the Moldavians but the battle left them with 2,000 dead and 8,000 of Count Stephen’s men taken prisoner.
Count Stephen
‘We put Count Stephen to flight, seized the artillery, and followed him into the wood…..if the wood had not been so dense and dark because of the height of the trees, few would have escaped.’[viii]
The Hungarians attacked after Mehmet withdrew and the news reached him in Adrianople. He turned round and marched to Serbia and attacked Smederevo where Matthias Corvinus had built three forts to defend the city. The garrison surrendered under promise of safe conduct and then Mehmet razed the forts to the ground before returning home.
A Short Lived Peace
Friuli region
Meanwhile the Ottomans were also besieging Scutari[ix] but nearer to Venice Turkish irregulars were overrunning Friuli up to the river Livenza. The Venetians’ attention was diverted by problems in Florence; Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici were attacked on Easter Day 1478. Giuliano was killed and Lorenzo took swift and merciless retribution against his enemies who included the nephews of Pope Sixtus[x]. It would be almost impossible for Italy to present a united front to the infidels for some years to come.
Mehmet’s plans were further assisted by the death of Uzun Hasan on 6th January in Tabriz. 1478 saw the fall of Kruje, Skanderbeg’s fortress, as well the taking of Lezhe where he had died. The advances in Albania and the attacks in Friuli brought the Venetian Senate to consider coming to terms with Mehmet.
Vathia in the Maini peninsula
The peace treaty was signed on 28th January 1479; the Venetians ceded Scutari, Kruje, Lemnos, Negroponte and the Maini peninsula in the Morea. Mehmet agreed to return some of the Venetian possessions the Ottoman army had taken in the Morea, Albania and Dalmatia. The Venetians agreed to pay 100,000 gold ducats[xi][xii] reparation and an annual tribute of 10,000 ducats[xiii] for the right of free trade in the Ottoman empire without import or export duties.
Mehmet swore an oath of agreement;
‘By the God of Heaven and earth, by our great Prophet Mohammed, by the seven copies of the Koran which we Moslems possess and profess, by the 124,000 prophets of God by the faith which I believe and profess, by my soul and the soul of my father, and by the sword with which I am girded.’[xiv]
The fortress at Otranto
The Venetians had achieved peace, but at a price; her fellow Christian countries reviled her for coming to terms with the infidel. And adding salt to the wounds, later in 1479 the Ottomans invaded and took the Ionian islands and the following year seized Otranto[xv].
Death of a Conqueror
In the summer of 1480 Mehmet launched an attack on Rhodes, a hive of resistance to his suzerainty of the eastern Mediterranean. As winter drew on the besiegers withdrew and no doubt Mehmet intended to return the following year. His death on 3rd May 1481, after 31 years on the throne, intervened.
Mehmet had spent the winter in the Topkapi and Istanbul was riddled with rumours of his ill-health. He was having an army muster at Üsküdar on the shores of the Bosphorus, but he had not indicated his plans for the summer. Mehmet joined the army on 25th April and the Grand Vizier Karamani Mehmet Pasha ordered the troops to march down the shores of the Sea of Marmara.
Sultan Bayezid II
A halt was called at Gebze as Mehmet was suffering severe abdominal pains. His Persian physician, Hamiduddin al-Lari, gave Mehmet medications that only made matters worse. Accordingly his Jewish physician Master Iacopo was called in and diagnosed a blockage of the intestines. Master Iacopo was unable to do anything but alleviate the pain with large doses of opium. Mehmet lingered on until the 3rd, dying at ten o’clock, still only forty-nine. He had;
‘Besides the gracious gift of the conquest of Constantinople, Fatih wrested twenty or more independent lands from the enemies of His High Estate.’[xvi]
Jem made a bid for the throne but the Janissaries threw their weight behind Bayezid the scholar and Jem lived the rest of his life as a stranger in a strange land, initially in Rhodes enjoying the hospitality of the Knights of St John and then in Rome as a guest of the Pope.
The Grand Turk – John Freely, I.B. Tauris and Co Ltd, 2009
The Janissaries – Godfrey Goodwin, Saqi Books 1994
Lords of the Horizons – Jason Goodwin, Henry Holt & Co 1998
The Ottoman Empire – Halil Inalcik, Phoenix 1994
The Ottoman Empire – Lord Kinross, Folio Society 2003
A History of Venice – John Julius Norwich, Penguin Books 1982
The Ottoman Empire – Andrina Stiles, Hodder & Stoughton 1989

[i] The Grand Turk - Freely
[ii] An Italian captive in the service of the Ottomans
[iii] The Grand Turk - Freely
[iv] Ibid
[v] One of the Genoese trading settlements in the Crimea
[vi] The Italians were resettled in Istanbul and a census of 1477 recorded that they lived in 277 houses and had 2 churches
[vii] Now Azov
[viii] The Grand Turk - Freely
[ix] Now Shkoder in Albania
[x] Who Lorenzo knew secretly supported the botched assassination
[xi] The word gold before currency signifies payment in coin; use of the word ducat on its own meant that the money was on account.
[xii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £65,040,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,905,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £28,850,000,000.00
[xiii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £6,504,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £190,500,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £2,885,000,000.00
[xiv] The Grand Turk - Freely
[xv] Part of the possessions of the Kingdom of Naples, on the heel of Italy
[xvi] The Grand Turk - Freely

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Ottoman Empire - Mehmet the Conqueror VII

Elbasan Castle
On the Road Again
Refreshed by his year out from conquering, Mehmet took to the campaign trail again in 1466. His army hit Albania, devastating the countryside while the Albanians fled to the mountains. Even there the Ottoman army pursued them, taking 20,000 prisoners and then laid siege to Kruje which was defended by Skanderbeg and the Venetians under Gian-Maria Contarini.
Mehmet left Balaban Bey to continue the siege while he organised the building of a fortress at Elbasan thirty miles to the south. This fortress would become the main base for any further campaigns in Albania. Mehmet then departed for Adrianople leaving 400 men to garrison the new fortress.

Late 1466 saw Skanderbeg make a hurried trip to Rome to beg aid from the pontiff, arriving on 12th December. The Mantuan ambassador reported;
Ferrante of Naples
‘The Lord Scanderbeg arrived here on Friday, and the households of the cardinals were sent out to meet him. He is a man of advanced age, past sixty; he has come with a few horses, a poor man. I understand he will seek aid.’[i]
In early January the Pope offered Skanderbeg the relatively miserly[ii] sum of 5,000 ducats[iii]. But he left Rome without any money at all, bar 200 ducats[iv] from a cardinal that he used to pay his bill at the inn, saying that it would be better to war on the church rather than the Turk.
The Pope then had a change of heart and gave Skanderbeg 2,300 ducats[v]. Skanderbeg received further monies from King Ferrante of Naples and he returned to Kruje where he killed Balaban, routed his forces and set off to besiege Elbasan.
Dark Times Indeed
Patras Castle
With Mehmet’s attention diverted in Albania the Venetians, under the command of Vettore Capello, swept into the Aegean taking the islands of Imbros and Lemnos before besieging Patras[vi]. Őmer Bey, Mehmet’s commander in Greece, forced the Venetians to lift the siege and abort the campaign.
The Venetians sent Capello on a peace mission in December. Mehmet demanded the return of Imbros and Tenedos along with an annual tribute; all of which Capello refused. The peace mission may have been crippled by the machinations of Florentine and Genoese agents, eager to see their rivals drain their resources fighting the Ottomans.

Lezhe Castle
Angered by the loss of his army besieging Kruje, Mehmet returned to Albania in 1467 devastating the countryside once again. Having unsuccessfully scoured the country for Skanderbeg, Mehmet returned to besiege Kruje. The siege was lifted in late summer but Skanderbeg was ill; he departed for Lezhȅ where he died in January after a short illness leaving Albania and his son to the protection of the Venetians.
The following year Mehmet campaigned in the south, his objective had been the new Mamluk Sultan Kaitbey. But his wrath was diverted to one of his vassals who failed to answer the call to arms; Pir Ahmet. The Ottoman troops overran Karaman;
‘Pir Ahmed fled to Taș-Ili. The Sultan took Kavel, Konya, the capital of the Karamanids, and Larende and gave responsibility for the administration of the province to Prince Mustafa………in the spring of 873 [1469] the Sultan remained in Istanbul and sent an army into Karaman to clean up the rebels.’[vii]
Then Mehmet dismissed Mahmut Pasha, replacing him as Grand Vizier with Ishak Pasha[viii].
All Roads Lead to Negroponte
The Venetians decided that now, while Mehmet’s attention was distracted elsewhere, was an ideal time to launch an expedition against the Turks. The Doge suggested to his Captain General of the Sea; Jacopo Loredan, that
‘Never, in everyone’s judgement, has there been a more promising and favourable period than at present for embarking upon an expedition against the Turk, the fierce enemy of our faith……… must consider embarking upon such an expedition as you shall deem both honourable and expedient.’[ix]
Gallipoli peninsula
In the summer of 1469 the Venetians were horrified to discover that Mehmet had massed a fleet at Gallipoli, along with an army of 80,000 and was planning a campaign aimed at ending Venetian power in the eastern Mediterranean. The two forces were to combine at the Venetian colony of Negroponte.
The Venetians attempted to rally support in Europe and were ignored; even so they were able to mass a navy, but it paled against the force that Mehmet had created. According to one of the Venetian captains Geronimo Longo;
‘At first I estimated it at 300 sail; now I would put it at 400. The whole sea appeared like a forest………they row magnificently, with a fast stroke; true, their galleys are less good than ours under the oar, but under sail and in every other aspect they are superior…… confront so mighty a force, I consider that we shall need not less than a hundred good galleys.’[x]
By mid 1470 the Venetians could boast 53 galleys and numerous smaller boats to fend off the Ottoman fleet. The Venetian Senate appointed a new Captain-General of the Sea, Niccolo de Canale; an unfortunate choice as de Canale was;
‘A man of letters rather than a fighter, a learned man readier to read books than direct the affairs of the sea.’[xi]
The Fall of Negroponte

The Ottoman fleet sailed out of the Dardanelles on 3rd June 1470 as Mehmet led the army down from Thrace. The army attacked Imbros, Limnos and Skyros while shadowed by the vastly outnumbered Venetian fleet. The Ottoman fleet anchored off Negroponte on 15th June and the troops disembarked south of the fortress.
The navy then created a bridge of boats from the mainland and half the army crossed to Euboea. Mehmet sent 2,000 cavalry to devastate the countryside while he offered the residents ten years grace from taxes. The bailo of the fortress Paolo Erizzo and the two co-captains of the fortress were offered positions in the Ottoman bureaucracy which was contemptuously dismissed.
Mehmet ordered the setting up of four batteries to assault the fortress and town. But even so the siege dragged on for several weeks; at least 14,000 of the Ottoman army died in the failed assaults[xii]. The Venetian navy failed to attack and Negroponte finally fell on 11th July.  The battle changed nothing as far as the Venetian senate were concerned; the fight against the infidel would continue.
Peace Plans; War Plans
Mara Branković and her sister Catherine[xiii] contacted Mehmet in 1470 offering to act as intermediaries between the Porte and the Venetian Senate. Mehmet informed his stepmother that he would be prepared to meet an envoy from Venice to discuss terms. The Venetians informed the Pope of this development;
‘We understand very well that this is one of the usual cunning stunts of the Turk, in whom we believe that absolutely no trust should be placed, for he yearns for the destruction of our faith and religion….it has seemed best to us to play his own game of pretence and to go along with him.’[xiv]
The senate sent two envoys to Istanbul to meet with Mehmet; they were to suggest to Mehmet that each side keep what they currently held. The Venetian peace mission was a failure as neither party was prepared to accept the other’s terms.
A general defensive alliance between the states of Italy against the Turk was agreed in December 1470. Pope Paul died in July 1471 and the new Pope, Sixtus IV, called for a crusade against the infidel, sending out envoys calling for support for this latest crusade.
In 1470 the Anatolians took advantage of Mehmet’s preoccupation with Negroponte and fomented uprisings. Two separate uprisings were led by Pir Ahmet, attempting to recoup the lands lost to Mehmet, and his brother Kasim Bey who attacked Ankara and laid waste the surrounding countryside. Pir Ahmet was a client of Uzun Hasan, long one of Mehmet’s enemies.
Hasan entered into an alliance with the Venetians and they offered to mount a diversionary attack in the Mediterranean. Uzun Hasan declared to the Venetians that, having defeated the Shah of Persia and Abu Said at the battle of Qarabagh, that now;
‘No other obstacle remains, save the son of the Ottoman Turk, Mehmed Bey, and it is an easy thing to abase and eradicate his dominion and lordship.’[xv]
Mehmet appointed Davud Pasha as Sancak-bey of Ankara and sent Rum Mehmet Pasha, at the head of an army, to put down the rebellion. Rum Mehmet retook all of Karaman, north of the Taurus Mountains and then marched southwards to attack the Varsak Türkmen tribe[xvi] led by Uyuz Bey. The Varsak tribe ambushed Rum Mehmet’s army and he was forced to retreat at the end of the campaign season.
The 1471 campaigning season saw Mehmet send Ishak Pasha to Anatolia to renew the offensive against Pir Ahmet and his brother. Pir Ahmet was forced to flee, again taking refuge with Uzun Hasan. Meanwhile Kasim Bey evaded capture and continued the fight.
Rum Mehmet’s troops captured Alanya with the aid of the navy. Alanya gave the Ottomans control of the eastern Mediterranean seaboard as far as Silifke, still in the hands of the Karamanids. Silifke was taken by Prince Mustafa and Gedik Ahmed Pasha in the summer of 1472.
The crusaders assembled at Rhodes in June and then sailed for Antalya which they burned to the ground. The port of Smyrna was overcome by a crusading fleet on 13th September 1472 and burnt to the ground.
The Grand Turk – John Freely, I.B. Tauris and Co Ltd, 2009
The Janissaries – Godfrey Goodwin, Saqi Books 1994
Lords of the Horizons – Jason Goodwin, Henry Holt & Co 1998
The Ottoman Empire – Halil Inalcik, Phoenix 1994
The Ottoman Empire – Lord Kinross, Folio Society 2003
A History of Venice – John Julius Norwich, Penguin Books 1982
The Ottoman Empire – Andrina Stiles, Hodder & Stoughton 1989

[i] The Grand Turk - Freely
[ii] The Pope was worried by the instabilities in central Italy
[iii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £3,453,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £96,890,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,520,000,000.00
[iv] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £138,100.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £3,876,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £60,800,000.00
[v] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,588,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £44,570,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £699,200,000.00
[vi] In the northern Peloponnese
[vii] The Grand Turk - Freely
[viii] Replaced in his turn by Rum Mehmet Pasha in 1471
[ix] The Grand Turk - Freely
[x] A History of Venice - Norwich
[xii] Mostly expendable troops, not the Janissaries
[xiii] Who had joined Mara at her estate at Ježevo in 1469
[xiv] The Grand Turk - Freely
[xv] The Grand Turk - Freely
[xvi] Settled in the area north of Tömük