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27 Jul

The Ottoman Turks

The Southeastern Europe and Byzantine Empire were faced with Ottoman invasions at the same time when Europe was entering the Age of discoveries and explorations. The expansion of the Ottoman Turks who emerged on the ruins of Seljuk Sultanate at the end of the 13th century initially did not represent any greater threat but the Byzantine Empire greatly weakened after the Fall of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 was slowly falling in the Ottoman hands.

The first Byzantine villages and cities were conquered by the Ottomans during the rule of Osman I (1290-1326) who founded the Ottoman dynasty. Osman I also captured Bursa which was made capital by his successor Orhan I (1326-1362). In 1346, Orhan I supported John VI Cantacuzenus against the Byzantine Emperor John V Palaeologus, married Cantacuzenus’ daughter Theodora and gained permission to raid the Balkans. At the same time Orhan I captured Gallipoli and established a strong base for the future Ottoman conquests in the Balkans. Under his successor Murad I (1362-1389) the Ottomans conquered Thrace, Macedonia and severely defeated the coalition of Serbian lords in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. However, Serbian noble Milos (K)Obilic tricked the Turks and assassinated Murad I during or after the battle.

A portrait of Mehmed II the Conqueror

Sultan Mehmed II

Murad I was succeeded by his son Bayazid I (1389-1402) who made the Ottoman Empire a major power. He extended the Ottoman dominion in Anatolia, annexed central and northern Macedonia, and conquered Bulgaria, Thessaly and eastern part of today’s Greece to Athens and Peloponnese. Ottoman territorial expansion in Europe was for a short period halted by the Mongol conqueror Timur (also called Timur Leng) who severely defeated the Ottoman forces in the Battle of Ankara in 1402. Bayazid was captured and died in Mongol captivity in the same year, while Ottoman Empire fell into an inner crisis until the accession of Mehmed I in 1413. His successor Murad II (1421-1451) spent his early years dealing with revolts and rivals to the throne but his later rule was marked by a new period of territorial expansion of the Ottoman Empire which reached its height under his successor Mehmed II the Conqueror.

Mehmed II the Conqueror (1451-1481) completed the Ottoman conquest of Asia Minor, conquered Constantinople in 1453 and subjugated Serbia (1459), Morea (1460), Bosnia (1463) and Albania (1467), while Wallachia and Crimean Khaganate were made Ottoman vassal states. By the end of the Middle Ages the Ottoman Empire emerged as a major world power and greatly influenced the future development of the Balkan Peninsula which fell under “the Turkish yoke”.

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