Sultan Mehmet II
Sultan Mehmet II
In 1479, the Republic of Venice sent Gentile Bellini to Constantinople to paint the portrait of Sultan Mehmet II.
Mehmet II was born in 1433, the third of Murad’s sons.
He had two elder half-brothers Ahmet and Ali; both children
of well-born mothers, whereas Mehmet’s own mother was a
slave-girl in the harem. That was the reason why he received
very little attention from his father as a child.
It took the new Sultan just five days to travel from Magnesia to Adrianople, where he held a formal reception at which he confirmed his father’s ministers in their places or, in certain cases, appointed them elsewhere. In the course of these ceremonies Murad’s widow arrived to congratulate him on his succession. Mehmet received her warmly and engaged her for some time in conversation; when she returned to the harem she found her infant son had been murdered in his bath. The young sultan, it seemed, was not one to take chances.
But he was only 19, and in the Western world there was a general feeling that he was still too young and immature to constitute a serious threat as his father had done – a delusion that Mehmet did everything he could to encourage, while preparing to crush Byzantium. In January 1453 Mehmet II summoned his ministers to his presence in Adrianople to announce them his wish to conquer Byzantium.
“On 5 April Mehmet pitched his tent before the walls of Constantinople, where the bulk of his huge host had already arrived three days before. Determined to lose no time, he at once sent under a flag of truce the message to the Emperor that was required by Islamic law, undertaking that all his subjects would be spared, with their families and property, if they made immediate and voluntary surrender. If on the other hand they refused, they would be given no quarter.” As expected, he received no reply. Early in the morning of Friday, 6 April his cannon opened fire.
The siege went on till the end of May and finished with
capture of Constantinople. “Sultan Mehmet had promised his
men the three days of looting to which by Islamic tradition
they were entitled; but after an orgy of violence on such
a scale, there were no protests when he brought it to a
close on the same day as it had begun. There was by then
little left to plunder, and his soldiers had more than enough
to do sharing out the loot and enjoying their captives.
Mehmet II, called the Conqueror, born in March 30, 1432, died in May 3, 1481, sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1444-46, 1451-81), extended Ottoman control of southeastern Europe to the Danube and of Anatolia to the Euphrates. His father, Murat II, tried to abdicate when Mehmet was only 12 years old, but in the wake of the son's unsuccessful first reign, the father returned to power.
When the more mature Mehmet ascended the throne once more (after Murat's death), he tried to create a world empire like that of the Romans. He first conquered Byzantine Constantinople in 1453 and rebuilt it into the prosperous Ottoman capital of Istanbul. To counter the power of the Turkish aristocracy, Mehmet continued his father's policy of expanding the Janissary infantry corps. These Janissaries were made up of young Christians, recruited through the devshirme system, who were given salaries rather than fiefdoms to keep them loyal to and dependent on the sultan. Mehmet authorized autonomous religious communities to give his subjects religious freedom and gain the support of their religious leaders. Equitable tax and administrative systems were created, and justice for all was emphasized.
Mehmet subsequently conquered Serbia in 1459 and the Morea by 1460, extending the empire in Europe to the Danube and the Aegean despite resistance from Albania and Venice, with which he warred between 1463 and 1479. By 1461 he had conquered Anatolia as far as the Euphrates from the Turkmen principalities, but Mehmed failed to push further due to resistance from the Mamelukes of Syria as well as from the White Sheep Turkmen of Iran. He was just beginning new campaigns to capture Rhodes and southern Italy when he died suddenly in 1481. Mehmet was succeeded by his son, Bayezid II.
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