1. THE BASIC MUSLIM AND TURKISH FOUNDATIONS OF THE OTTOMAN STATE
In the middle of the fourteenth century the Balkan Peninsula was in turmoil. The second Serbian empire was disintegrating, and the Byzantine Empire, which in previous centuries had always been able to fill the vacuum left by similar collapses in the area, was too weak to play this role. Political chaos was paralleled by social and religious controversy. The lower classes were trying to shake off the rule of the traditional noble ruling element, and heresies, which often represented social class differences, flourished. Members of the Slav ruling families were fighting each other, and a similar struggle for the throne was in progress in the Byzantine Empire. It was the latter struggle that brought a new force, the Ottomans, into the Balkans.
Between 1341 and 1355 the corulers of the Byzantine Empire, John V Paleologos and John VI Cantacuzene, were fighting for sole possession of the throne. Being short of support and troops, the latter called on Orhan, the ruler of a rising Turkish principality on the eastern shores of the Marmara Sea, to come to his aid. Thus, in 1345 the first warriors serving the House of Osman crossed the Dardanelles and a new chapter began in the history of Southeastern Europe.
A little more than a hundred years later, in 1453, the House of Osman conquered Byzantium for which the two Johns had fought so desperately and made it the capital of a large state that stretched roughly from what is today central Yugoslavia to eastern Asia Minor. That state, known in the West as the Ottoman Empire, was called "The divinely protected well-flourishing absolute domain of the House of Osman." The two basic elements of the empire, the Islamic and Turkic, are indicated by this curious name. Neither can be fully explored in this volume, but a few important aspects must be mentioned to explain the system that determined the fates of Europeans under Ottoman rule. The House of Osman was a latecomer in the Near East and created a state based on pre-existing principles that justified its rule. Throughout the six hundred years of rule they clung to these principles, which they believed represented the divine and laic justifications for everything that they and the empire undertook. For that reason an understanding of these principles is essential.
In order to introduce the Islamic features that played a role in Ottoman thinking, one must begin with a few remarks about the origin of Islam. The Muslim lunar calendar begins with the year of the Hijra (migration) in 622 A.D. when the Prophet Muhammad moved from Mecca to YatrIb (Medina). The strictly monotheistic religion preached by the prophet included Jewish, Christian, and traditional Arabic elements together with some original additions. Islam, while morally and ethically lofty, is theologically much simpler than other monotheistic creeds. Therefore, it was perfectly suited for the people to whom the prophet addressed his message. It was equally well suited then, as it is now, for peoples who had reached a stage in civilization demanding a higher level of religious and metaphysical beliefs as well as a moral code regulating the activities of society, but who were not yet ready to cope with the theological difflculties and complications of either Judaism or Christianity. The Turks were such a people.
Muhammad recognized the common bond of monotheism between the religion he preached and Christianity and Judaism. Verse 62 of Chapter (sura) 2 of the Quran clearly links all montheists in a common fate until and including the Day of the Last Judgement:
" Lo! those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans -- whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right their reward is with the Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve."
This recognition went beyond mere statements. Muhammad was willing to use Christian and Jewish tribes as allies, and when his realm expanded he incorporated them in his Islamic state without demanding their conversion. We have several treaties dating from the time of his rule that spell this out quite clearly. One treaty with the city of Najran in Yemen, dating from 631, lists the obligations and taxes of the city and then states that Najran and their followers have the protection of God and the dhimmah [guarantee of security] of Muhammad the prophet, the Messenger of God, for themselves, their community, their land, and their goods . . . and for their churches and services [no bishop will be removed from his episcopate and no monk from his monastic position, and no church-warden from his church-wardship]... On the terms stated in this document they have protection of God and dhimmah of the prophet for ever, until God comes with His command, if they are loyal and perform their obligations well, not being burdened by wrong."
In these passages we find the first Islamic element that became fundamental for the life of the people of Southeastern Europe under Ottoman rule. Any monotheist who accepted the political supremacy of Islam and was willing to live in a Muslim state under stipulated conditions became a zimmi [dhimmi], a protected person. This protection extended beyond the religious freedom made explicit in the above passage. It involved a sort of self-government that under the Ottomans became institutionalized and known as the millet system, which was basically a minority home-rule policy based on religious afflliation. We can trace the origin of that system to the following lines of the treaty mentioned above:
" If any of them asks for a right, justice is among them (i.e., in their own hands) [To see that they are] not doing wrong and not suffering wrong; it belongs to Najran."
The protectors were the first-class citizens and the protected zimmis had to carry special burdens. Of these the oldest used throughout the Ot toman period was the poll-tax (cizye)/jizya. There were other tribute-taxes and obligations dating from early Muslim days that the Ottomans retained; these will be discussed in later chapters.
This distinction among the Muslims, the "people of the book" as the other monotheists were called, and the pagans who theoretically had to convert or die rested on a basic world view. This view is fundamental in understanding the "divinely protected" part of the Ottoman state's official name, and its reasons for existing in the eyes of those who ruled the empire. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, believes that humanity can live happily only if it follows God's command. God made his will known by repeatedly speaking through prophets. According to the Muslims, Adam was the first and Muhammad the last prophet. Sinful man always twisted God's word to suit himself, thus forcing the divinity to send more and more prophets. Because God is eternal, perfect, and unchanging His commands were always the same; therefore, all "people of the book" received the same message. The difference between the Muslims and other monotheists is simply that the former accepted the last, and therefore uncorrupted, message while the others stuck to their erroneous versions of divine revelation. The Muslims' perfect understanding of God's commands makes them His chosen people, whose duty it is to spread the true word to all mankind.
The basic Muslim beliefs concerning the Qur'an cannot be discussed here, but it must be pointed out that the book is considered to contain not the words of tlle prophet, but those of Allah. Therefore, it is neither subject to interpretation nor translatable because translations distort God's meaning. The Qur'an contains everything a man must know to live righteously and save his soul.
It soon became clear, however, that additional legislation was needed when the small Muslim-Arab community grew into a world-wide empire. First the community turned to the traditional sayings of the prophet, then to those of his immediate successors, and finally to the utterances of the first caliphs. Those statements that were considered genuine were collected and codified in the Hadiths (traditions). The Hadiths, together with the consensus of the learned (ijma') and their rulings based on analogy (ijas), and naturally the Qur'an, formed the Muslim law code, the shari'a. The splits that occurred in the Muslim community stemmed from diverging views concerning the acceptability of certain Hadiths, but the great majority of Muslims followed the four so-called orthodox legal schools and were jointly known as the Sunnis. The Ottoman were Sunnis and followed the shart'a. Because this law applied only to Muslims, a system had to be introduced for the non-Muslims, and it had to follow confessional lines because religious differences were the only ones that the Muslims understood. That system was the above-mentioned millet system.
Law was very basic to all Muslim, including the Ottoman, states because religion, law, and administrative structure and, therefore, correct behavior and salvation were closely tied together. The Muslims did not distinguish between secular and sacred or religious law; to them law meant shari'a. In practice, however, a distinction did exist, and the shari'a was by no means the only law. The second excerpt from the Najran Treaty indicates quite clearly that local laws and customs were respected and even reconfirmed. Later, local laws were confirmed in the Ottoman-ruled parts of Southeastern Europe at the time of conquest. In addition they were frequently incorporated into subsequent Ottoman laws, the kanuns, issued by the sultans for use in their provinces.
Kanuns were secular laws, provided we consider the shari'a sacred or religious law, something that would not be quite correct but comes nearest to our western concepts of what it really was. That such laws were needed, both in the earlier Islamic and later the Ottoman empires, to deal with a great variety of problems that did not face those who codified the shart'a is obvious. Nevertheless, in a religious-legal community whose basic law theoretically covered all the needs of mankind, the issuance of these additional laws had to be justified.
By definition inferior to the shari'a, these additional laws were based on urf (adat, orf), which is best translated as customary law. According to early jurisconsults, this was the law that princes were to follow in regulating the affairs of the country. Closely related to urf was amme, general or public law, which regulated state-to-state and state-citizen relationships. After the Turkish element became dominant in the eleventh century, the old Turkish principle of toru was added, which recognized the rights of the ruler to issue decrees. Because toru was closely related to the Islamic urf concept, it was easily absorbed into the Muslim legal tradition. These principles were the legal basis for the issuing of the numerous kanuns that became very important for the European people under O toman rule. Most kanuns were nothing else but the old laws of any given region which the Ottomans confirmed in areas they conquered.
The kadis (judges), who administered both the shart a and the kanun laws, and the muftis (juriconsults who interpreted the former) were also old Muslim officials whose offlces the Ottomans had taken over from the former Islamic states and brought intact into Europe. They belonged to the ulema (plural of alim), the class of learned men who were the educational, legal, spiritual, and often scientific and cultural leaders of the Muslim community. They played an important role, as will be seen, in Ottoman life.
What must be obvious from this sketchy outline of Muslim-Ottoman law is that Ottoman law was not centralized-territorial, but practically territorial-individual, because every individual's religion, occupation, place of residence, status in society, and sex determined the law that was applicable to him or her. This produced important variations that will be discussed later.
Brief mention must be made of one more Islamic aspect that became crucial for the Ottoman state and its inhabitants: the "Five Pillars of Faith," the basic duties of a Muslim. These duties are very simple: Prayer, Almsgiving, Fasting, Pilgrimage, and Profession of Faith. Naturally the Ottomans followed these basic rules. Every Ottoman tried to live up to these commands, and the numerous public buildings, hospitals, roads, and so on that were built in Southeastern Europe were the result of these endeavors. More important for the Ottoman state's well-understood mission are verses 1.90-93 of the second chapter of the Qur'an:
" Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth no aggressors.
And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.
But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers."
Literally, these lines speak of defensive war, condemn aggression, and appear to address themselves to a religious group subject to persecutions. Only one line, "fight until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah," can conceivably be read to mean the spreading of the word of God by the sword. Yet, on these lines was based the concept of jihad, holy war, against unbelievers. In its Ottoman version, gaza, jihad became the offlcial raison d'etre of the Ottoman Empire.
One of the earliest accounts we have about Osman, the founder of the dynasty, describes how his future father-in-law, Seyh Edebali, the leader of a mystical fraternity, ceremoniously hands him the sword of a gazi, a fighter for the Faith Osman won his first major battle against the Byzantines as a gazi chieftain at Baphaeum (Koyunhisar) near Nicea (Iznik) in 1301, for which the Seljuq sultan gave him the title of bey (beg). Although the Ottoman rulers added a long list of impressive titles to these first two, including those of sultan (the holder of authority), hudavendigar (emperor), sultan-i azam (the most exalted sultan), and padisah (sovereign), they always kept gazi as their first title.
The extension of the realm of the dar al-Islam (the domain of Islam) at the expense of the dar al-harb (the domain of war, the domain of those who fought Islam) was the Ottomans' duty. When the empire ceased to expand and especially when it began to shrink, the Ottomans began to feel that they had failed in their divinely ordered mission. The above Islamic aspects of the Ottoman Empire, while not complete, give the most important features affecting the lives of the people of Southeastern Europe and are sufficient to explain the Muslim nature of the state that was "divinely protected." This state was also the "domain of the House of Osman." In the various states of Europe, the Far East, and even the Arab-Muslim domains, a change of dynasty was a frequent occur- rence, but in a Turkic-Turkish state this was impossible. The existence of the Ottoman Empire was closely tied to the rule of a single dynasty, the Osmanli (Ottoman). This is the first important Turkish feature that must be noted, and it can be explained by the development of Turkish states prior to that of the Ottomans.
The original home lands of all Turkish (Turkic) people were the plains of southern Siberia and the endless expanses between the Caspian Sea and the Altaic range. The early Turkish "states" were at best tribal federations put together by strong men whose death usually meant the end of the "state." This society was dominated by a warrior aristocracy, the beys; not only was it stratified, but it also had the beginning of a vague legal system. Everybody had his place, but the entire structure hinged on a common loyalty to a supreme chief and possibly to his family. By the beginning of the eighth century the Turkish-inhabited areas bordering on Iran had been subjugated by the 'Abb-asids and had supplied them with an endless stream of slaves, many of whom became important functionaries in Baghdad.
Toward the end of the tenth century a confederation of Ghuz and Oghuz tribes established itself in the region of the Aral Sea. Known after their conversion to Islam as Turkomans, these peoples were led by a chief called Seljuq. The descendants of Seljuq had expanded their realm south and westward as far as Isfahan by the middle of the next century. In 1055 the weak caliph Al-Qa'im (1031-75) wanted to free himself from the tyrannical tutelage of another Turk, the chief of his body guard al-Basasiri. He turned to the leader of the Seljuq state, Tughril, for help and made him his chief officer. For the next hundred years, until 1157 when the caliphs reasserted their power, the Seljuqs were the real masters of the 'Abb-asid state. Their title was sultan.
When they were finally expelled from Baghdad, the Seljuqs had already established other power centers. One of these was in Asia Minor (Anatolia, Anadolu). There were reasons for this development. Turkish warriors were always looking for strong chiefs to follow, and once the Seljuqs were firmly established in Baghdad there were more followers than could be usefully employed. Since the newcomers were able and willing to fight, the Great Seljuqs, as those ruling in Baghdad were called, sent them to border regions to fight for faith, honor, advancement, and booty. They were equally eager to get rid of certain members of their family who had either the ability or the inclination, and sometimes both, to strive for the sultanate. The Byzantine border was the ideal place for unwanted relatives as well.
There Muslim gazis and their Christian equivalents, Greek akritoi, had developed a rough frontier society. This society was the result of centuries of continuous warfare, during which borderlines were never firmly established and the authority of the central government in the frontier region was at best nominal. The resulting no man's land attracted adventurous free spirits from both sides who made a living from robbing each other, justifying their action as a "defense of their faith." Even this curious way of life required rules; what developed was a rough code of behavior and chivalry acceptable to both sides.
Shortly after he became master of Baghdad, Tughril sent his nephew, Alp Arslan, to secure the realm's borders. In 1071 at Manzikert (Malazgirt) north of Lake Van, Alp Arslan won one of the crucial battles of history, defeating the Byzantines and capturing the emperor, Romanus Diogenes. Byzantium never recovered from this defeat. Eastern Anatolia was freed from Byzantine rule, and soon several independent, mainly Armenian, states appeared in the region. None of these states was strong, and the instability in the region lured the gazis who could easily reap rich rewards for raids. As early as 1072 Suleyman, an ambitious young relative of Alp Arslan, was sent back to Anatolia at the head of a large army of nomadic Turkomans. He conquered most of Asia Minor and reached Nicaea by 1082. While the First Crusade was reconquering most of Anatolia, Sulevman's son Kilic Arslan returned to Anatolia and established the state of the Seljuqs of Rum (Rome, Byzantium). From 1107 until 130, when their state was destroyed by the Mongols, the Sultanate of Rum with its capital at Konya (Iconium) developed the features of the frontier-gazi state as well as certain cultural features that became the foundations of the Ottoman state.
Constantly fighting not only the Byzantines and Crusaders, but also other Turkish states -- such that of the Danishmends' was the most importalnt -- Anatolia was in continllal flux and attracted increasing numbers of Turkoman warriors. These warriors became settlers once their fighting days were over, and land was the greatest reward they could receive. Although Persian and Byzantine models existed for the creation of these military fiefs, which were known as iqtas, the system was further expanded by the Seljuqs and eventually evolved into the timar system of the Ottomans. In its Seljuq-Ottoman form this landholding system tied to military service can be considered a very important Turkish feature transplanted into Europe. The timar system will be discussed in detail later, but here it should be noted that it was the institution basic to the army, agricultural production, taxation, and local law enforcement. This system, in typical Turkish fashion, was based on personal loyalty and allegiance, which, unlike in the European feudal system, was due directly to the ruler. There were no intermediary lords between the lowest fief holder and the holder of ultimate power.
The most typical, but at the same time the most complicated, development that faced the Seljuqs of Anatolia and later the Ottomans was the result not only of continuous warfare, but also of the fact that few major centers like Konya developed. The countryside continued to favor the life style of the gazi-akritoi frontier society. As a result the economic base for an organized state was lacking. There were several reasons for this development.
Between the Battle of Manzikert and the end of the thirteenth century, Anatolia was a constant battle ground. Except for relatively short periods when the Seljuq rulers were strong, there was no strong authority able to maintain security outside the major cities in Asia Minor. Even if the various Muslim and Christian rulers had been able to maintain order, they would have been powerless to influence the socioethnic factors that transformed Anatolia into a Turkish land during these centuries.
Most of the Turks who came into the region were Turkoman nomad warrior-herdsmen. Their migration became massive in the thirteenth century with the Mongol conquests of first Central Asia, then Persia, and finally Baghdad in 1258. These newly arrived Turks fought for various princelings and factions in a land that rapidly became overwhelmingly rural. The two major waves of Turkish conquest and migration destroyed most of the urban settlements. Just as Western Europe had to find a new solution to a similar problem after the Volkerwanderung and the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, so Anatolia had to find a solution. A new system of production, marketing, and public order was needed.
Both the gazis and the akritoi were "fighters of the faith," but neither group was educated and sophisticated enough to understand the true meaning of the religions for which they fought. They were fanatical upholders of their beliefs, but those beliefs had little to do with what the Muslim ulema or the Christian theologians would have recognized as the correct understanding and interpretation of the respective religions. The religions of the frontier -- with this Christian and Muslim mixture of supersitions, mysticism, traditional, and in some cases even pagan beliefs -- were more similar to each other than they were to oficially correct versions of the creeds. These folk-religions began to fuse and gradually became dominated by Muslim characteristics.
Just as the western medieval knight needed a code of conduct in fighting local wars of the early Middle Ages, so did the Anatolian warrior have to develop his own norms of behavior in conformity with his religious convictions. With the Turkish element dominant this code of Anatolian chivalry had to focus on the person (or family) of a leader. With military and religious considerations predominating in the frontier society, this leader could either be a religious or a military figure; ideally he should be both. When this was not possible, a close alliance between a religious leader ,seyh, and a military leader, whose title could be sultan, bey, or gazi, was sought.
The combination of economic needs, rapid ethnic transformation, unsettled conditions, rustication, acceptable religious leadership, and the unchanged desire for a focus for personal loyalty created a new system. We still do not know how and when it developed exactly; it was a gradual process that took place during the Seljuq period and was fully developed by the time Osman began his meteoric rise to power.
The nomenclature also reflects this confusion. We have several expressions for the same phenomenon, while other terms change their meaning. A few examples will suffice. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries akhi meant either the leader or any member of a mystic fraternity, and later it denoted the member of a trade or craft guild. Seyh stood for the leader of a religious fraternity (synonymous with the early meaning of akhi), and also for certain tribal leaders; later it referred to the "court-chaplain" of the sultan as well as to the chief religious officer of a guild. The crucial word futuwwa could denote an entire mystic fraternity, but it could also stand for this association's code of ethics and chivalry. The distinction between sufi a Muslim mystic, and a dervi s only slightly less confusing denoting at best a certain level of mystical attainment.
These difficulties aside, the final outcome can be roughly described as the establishment of fraternities on a folk-religious-mystic basis containing elements of Christianity and Islam as well as folk beliefs, but in its over-all character Muslim. These fraternities were led by their "holy man,"seyh, and its members (sufis or dervises) ministered to the spiritual needs of those who selected their fraternity as the one whose code of ethics, futuwwa, they were willing to follow.
The activity of the fraternities and the precepts of their futuwwas extended beyond the religious realm to social and economic spheres. The fratemities organized or established close contacts with craftsmen, and the futuwwa became the regulation for all the social and economic activities of the developing guilds. The code of chivalry was also tied to these futuwwas because most of the soldiers became members of the various fraternities. These organizations spread, and the larger ones had tekkes (houses for their members) and maintained zaviyes (inns for the laymen) all over the country. Traveling constantly, performing not only religious duties but often also practicing the trade of the guild with which they were associated, fraternal members performed numerous duties including the very important one of disseminating news. It became crucial for rulers or for those who wished to reach the top of the social pyramid to have the closest possible relations with the fraternities, because these organizations could spread their fame, recruit warriors for them, and bring them eco- nomic advantages through the craft associations.
Osman, as we have seen, began to rise by associating with Seyh Edebali whose futuwwa he accepted and whose daughter he married. He learned a trade to show that he had become a member of the fraternity, thereby setting a precedent that all his successors followed. In this manner Osman achieved the ideal position; he became both the military and spiritual leader to whom personal loyalty was due. The followers of Osman, the Ottoman Turks, therefore were not members of a tribe or clan, but simply a mixture of all kinds of Turks and turkified people of other origins who followed Osman and later his family. The crucial traditional Turkish role of the leader and his family in society and state becomes evident from this fact because nothing held the "Ottomans" together but loyalty to the ruling family.
The fraternity system moved with the Ottoman conquest to Europe. There its religious significance declined because, unlike in Anatolia, mass conversion to Islam did not occur. There, however, its role in the craft and trading guilds and charitable institutions became very important.
Naturally, no state could recruit the learned administrators needed from among the members of the fraternities or the gazis, nor was folk-Islam suited to become the ideological underpinning of a major political entity. The administrators of Muslim states were always recruited from among the learned Muslims and specially trained slaves. Fortunately for the Turkish states in Anatolia, learned men moved westward along with the warriors. At the height of its power Seljuq Konya had good adminis- trators and was an important center of Muslim leaming and culture. When Konya declined and other principalities rose, including that of the Ottomans, trained, learned manpower was available. It was expanded by highly trained slaves.
Slavery had been an old, established institution all over the Near East since time immemorial and was taken over by the Muslims. Islam produced some changes. Muslims could not be enslaved, but slaves who accepted Islam remained slaves, although their manumission was encouraged. Children of Muslim slaves were free men. Because most slaves accepted the religion of their masters, there was a constant need for new slaves. This need was filled by prisoners of war and by an active slave trade. Slaves were used not only in economic endeavors, but to a limited extent also as scholars, administrators, and soldiersrt, in all possible activities. Those in higher military and administrative posts were often extremely powerl men. In general their lot depended on the posi- tion of their master, whose prestige reflected on them. In a sense an important man's slaves can be likened to the clients of a prominent Roman patrician.
The Turks who were brought from Central Asia into the centers of Muslim power were often slaves and used mainly as soldiers. Their free Muslim descendants became powerful administrators. Those who came of their free will or were invited, as we have seen in the case of Tughril, occupied similar positions and also served a"master," the caliph. This personal service accorded well with their tradition of personal loyalty. When Turkish principalities arose this tradition survived, and slaves were used as soldiers and administrators whose functions and feelings of loyalty differed but little from the free-born servants of the same master. The important kul (Turkish for slave) system of the Ottomans was based on this tradition. To be a kul of the sultan opened the doors to the most important offices of the state, to the point where it became nearly a title of honor. Even free-born officials of the Ottoman state referred to themselves as kuls of the sultan. Although this type of slavery differs but slightly from the Arab-Islamic concept of slavery, it has, by its stress on personal loyalty, a certain specific Turkish flavor.
The above Islamic and Turkish characteristics will suffice to justify not only the name the Ottomans gave to their state, but also the contention of scholars that the Ottoman Empire was an Islamic-Turkish-warrior state influenced to some extent by Byzantine institutions and practices. The last-mentioned will be discussed later when they began to penetrate the Ottoman state. Whatever these were, they never did change the basic nature of the Ottoman Empire. In this short presentation only those aspects of the Islamic-Turkish tradition that will be referred to repeatedly in this volume were discussed.
Traditionally, Ottoman history has been divided into four periods. The first comprises the two-and-a-half centuries of the first ten sultans (1300-1566), culminating with the "golden age" during the reign of Suleyman I (1520-66). The second lasted roughly two hundred years, until the beginning of Selim III's reign in 1789. This was a period of decline and included an unsuccessful attempt to reverse the trend in the second half of the seventeenth century by members of the Koprulu family who held the office of the grand vezir, Sadrazam, the uppermost of the greatest). The third period, beginning with Selim III's rule and ending with the revolu- tion of the Young Turks (1879-1908), was one of attempted reform. Finally, there was the period of Young Turkish rule, including the First World War, which ended with the dissolution of the empire and the establishment of modern Turkey.
Correct as this general periodization is for Ottoman specialists, it does not meet the needs of our readers. For our purposes we must differentiate four periods: the years of the first Ottoman conquest (1352-1402); those of the second conquest and consolidation of power (1413-81); the period of stability (1453-1595), which overlaps slightly with the second period; and the period of decline, instability, and even anarchy during the last two centuries covered by this volume. The origins of the Ottoman Empire and the first of our four periods will be covered in this chapter.
Assiduous research has not yet clearly established the origin of Osman's family. We know that his father, Ertugrul, was a gazi warrior who held a small fief near the city of Sogut. It was not a rich holding, so we can assume that Ertugrul was only a moderately successful gazi warrior. In 1277 the Mongols, firmly established in Persia, Iraq, and eastern Anatolia, defeated the Seljuqs, who remained rulers in name only for another thirty years. During that time strong local leaders were able to carve out independent principalities. Even lesser figures were encouraged to seek their own fortune. One of these was Osman, who succeeded his father in Sogut four years after the great Mongol victory.
A man of outstanding ability, Osman found himself in a fortunate position. With the exception of the remnants of the Greek state around Trebizond (Trapezunt, Travzon, Trabson, Trapesus) on the southeastern shores of thc Black Sea, and an Armenian state in south-central Asia Minor along the Mediterranean, the only Anatolian lands in Christian hands were the Byzantine possessions along the Asiatic shore of the Marmara Sea. Their borders ran roughly from the mouth of the Sakaria (Sangarius) River on the Black Sea southward east of the important cities of Nicaea and Bursa (Prusa, Brusa), turned west about sixty miles south of the latter city, and reached the sea roughly where the Dardenelles join the Aegean near the classical town of Abydos (present-day Canakkale). Although relatively small in size, this area was fertile, included some important cities, and was near Constantinople. For the gazis, who could not fight each other both for religious reasons and because of their futuwwa code, and who could not venture eastward where Mongol rule was strong, this Byzantine possession offered the best chances for employment, fame, and fortune. Osman's fief bordered on this territory, and he had the intelligence and the ability to take advantage of his opportunity. While other Turkish leaders were attacking the southem part of the Byzantine province, Osman moved against the larger and richer northern half, gaining his first victory, as already mentioned, in 1301 and learning on his death bed that his son Orhan had captured the great city of Bursa, which became the first Ottoman capital.
With the conquest of Byzantine lands the realm of Osman became a principality equal in importance to other principalities, but expansion into Anatolia proper was also required to make it the leading Turkish power. Here the Ottomans faced other Muslim-Turkish gazi states, and military action was, therefore, difficult. The Ottomans seldom, if ever, occupied other Turkish lands outright. If attacked, they had a right to fight. In most cases, however, they gained land either by being called in to aid another principality, or by being asked to protect or serve as an ally of a relatively weak neighbor. They preferred to legitimatize claims by converting victories into alliances supported by marriages. Some former ruling families, the Cenderli (Candarli) dynasty of future grand vezirs being a good example, became leading members of the highest Ottoman ruling circles.
This practice of alliances was extended to Christians, too, once the O tomans had crossed to the western shores of the Marmara Sea. Among Orhan's wives were Theodora, the daughter of Stefan IV Uros, the ruler of Serbia, and Maria, the daughter of the Byzantine emperor, John VI Cantacuzene; one of Murad I's wives was the daughter of Emperor John V Paleologos, and another, Tamara, was a Bulgarian princess whose father, John Alexander II Shishman, ruled from Turnovo (TVarnovo, T'rnovo). Among the wives of Bayezid I were the daughter of John Hunyadi (Maria), Lazar I of Serbia (Despina), Louis, Count of Salona (Maria), and another unnamed daughter of the emperor John v 8 Mehmed I blamed Christian influence on policies for his father's failures and gave up marriage alliances with Christians. However, one of Murad II's wives, Mara, was a Christian princess, the daughter of George Brankovic of Serbia, and among Mehmed II's numerous women we find several noble Christian ladies including a Paleologos and a Comnena. These marriages would not be important if they did not denote certain policies dealing with the treatment of the European provinces throughout the first of our chronological periods and parts of the second.
When the Ottomans acquired their first foothold on the European shores of the Dardanelles at (impe (Tzympe) in 1352, the Byzantine Empire, torn by civil war, held an area roughly south of a line running due west from the Black Sea port of Burgas (Purgos, Burgaz) to the Struma (Strimon) River. In addition to this territory Byzantium held a small area around the city of Salonika (Thessalonih', Selanik) as well as Euboea, Attica, and an enclave in the Morea (Peloponnesus). Most of the Morea belonged to Venice, while a Bulgarian state occupied the area to the north, which stretched to the Danube. The rest of the Balkan Peninsula belonged to the Serbs.
Three years later, in 1355, Stefan Dusan, the great Serbian ruler, died, and both his and the Bulgarian state became the scene of prolonged internal conflict. As a result the Ottomans faced the same anarchic situation in Europe that had contributed to their first conquests in Anatolia. Here, too, they could intervene at the request of one side or the other in civil wars; here, too, they could offer protection, alliances, and treaties.
What is remarkable is the statesmanship of the Ottomans. In Europe the Turks were operating in Christian territory, and they could have behaved as they had in the Anatolian provinces of the Byzantines. They did not. It would be erroneous to ascribe their moderation simply to the early Muslim policies that recommended that "people of the book" be left to their own devices if they submitted without fighting. After all, every Ottoman advance in Europe was the result of a military victory, and they could have considered the lands thus conquered justifiably theirs, in spite of the claims of the Christian princes who fought as their allies. They realized that they did not have sufficient military forces and population to permit simultaneous extension of their sway in Anatolia where they aimed to reconstruct the Seljuq Empire under their leadership, maintenance of large forces in Europe, and turkification of these lands with the help of numerous settlers. Therefore, they preferred an arrangement that secured not only territorial advantages, but also additional troops through alliances or vassalage agreements with the European princes. The numerous marriages served to cement these arrangements. So long as the Ottomans did not face treachery or attempts to regain full independence on the part of their clients, they stuck to these covenants.
From the point of view of the inhabitants of these associated states, this arrangement was not too favorable. Although civil war between competing princes was curbed somewhat, the unhappy internal conditions did not change. Weak princes were unable to prevent the nobles and ecclesiastic dignitaries from fighting each other, oppressing the peasantry, and engaging in religious persecution; nor could they prevent taxes -- legal and illegal -- rising constantly. Trade was disrupted, manufacture and commerce declined, and urban and rural life became more and more difficult. Discontent grew in both the Byzantine and the Serbian and Bulgarian lands.
To this the Ottomans paid little attention so long as their interests remained protected. These interests went beyond the loyalty of the allied and vassal princes and beyond tribute and tax money. The concept of gaza and their self-conceived duty to extend the dar al-Islam not only made the Ottomans consider all territories over which they had overlordship as permanently in the hands of God's people, but demanded the introduction of some Ottoman institutions. In doing so they followed not only basic religious concepts but also satisfied certain very specific needs of the state and those elements of the population on which its power rested.
The three basic social elements that were the mainstays of Ottoman power in the first period of conquest in Europe were the leading Turkish families who held most of the important state offices, the gazis, and the akhi brotherhoods. The first two groups were interested in land acquisition to enhance their wealth and social position. The leading families often received rights to land formerly owned by princes and nobles who opposed the Ottoman advance. This transfer of ownership naturally a fected the people living on these lands, but in general the people regarded the change of lords as advantageous and became "loyal subjects" of the sultan. The case of the gazis is more complicated. Mostly foot-loose Turkoman tribesmen, they were both a great strength and a great problem for the first sultans. They belonged to the "military class" and therefore were exempted from taxes and had the right to advancement within their class and to an income derived from landed property. For those among them who had already spent a longer period in the Turkish principalities of western Anatolia the desire to better their lot was often the main reason for their military action. Since the expansion in Anatolia occurred mainly in other Turkish principalities whose well-established military-land-owning elements simply changed allegiance when the state switched from its original masters to the Ottomans, few of these gazis could be compensated for their services. This increased the pressure on the sultans to gain more land in Christian-inhabited territories.
The major problem was created by those Turkomans who streamed into Ottoman lands from the east in the early fourteenth century. Fleeing from the Mongols and attracted by the growing reputation of the Ottoman state, they were far too numerous to be absorbed smoothly into the "military class." Even if such a transformation had been possible, it would have upset the balance between the military and producing elements of the state so that revenue would have lagged hopelessly behind expenditures. The aim of the Ottomans was to settle this surplus of people as the Seljuqs had done in Anatolia during the centuries following the Battle of Manzikert.
From the first Ottoman incursions into Europe to roughly the conquest of Edime (Adrianopolis, Adrianople, Adrianopol, Odrin) in 1365 several factors, in addition to the above-mentioned population pressure, made the extensive settlement of Turks in Europe possible. The Ottomans realized the necessity to gain fimm control of the Dardanelles for both military and economic reasons. They wished to secure passage from Anatolia to the Balkans and charge transit fees on goods carTied through the straits. They were, therefore, anxious to create a new frontier in Europe, and the set- tling of this area with professional border-warriors appeared, to the government and the gazis alike, to be the right thing to do. Turkish raids were feared by the original inhabitants, and in these early years there were still territories and states to which they could flee. The Turkomans not only took over what the fleeing Christians left behind, but also, as will be seen shortly, established new rural and urban settlements. In this manner under Orhan (1324-60), and especially under Murad I (1360- 89), the lands that roughly coincide with today's Turkish provinces in Europe became overwhelmingly Turkish. This ethnographic transformation had serious repercussions in the Christian states, which had great difficulty in absorbing the refugee population. We have no statistical data on this population transfer, but, given the fertility of eastern Thrace and its proximity to the Dardanelles and Constantinople, it was probably significant. In later periods the massive influx of Turks ceased, but it did not stop. Major military roads and strong points had to be in reliable hands, so Turks were settled around them, although in considerably smaller numbers.
Throughout, the akhi fraternities played an important role. The sultans supported them for political, religious, and economic reasons. Wherever the Ottomans extended their power the akhis followed establishing tekkes and zaviyes, which often became the centers around which Turks settled. Several new villages owed their origin to the ukhis. Given the folk-religious character and eclecticism of those'brotherhoods, they were often able to find a place in theirfutuwwas for local saints and shrines. In this way cohabitation of old and new settlers was facilitated. Furthermore, regulations were established that soon dominated the relationship of the peasantry and the landlords, and served as channels of communications and maintained customary ties.
In the cities the role of the akhi fraternities became even more significant because the old-established guilds had little choice but to merge with those craftsmen and traders whose economic functions were well established and protected by the Ottoman state. Although this merger protected the livelihood of the Christian city population, the administration of the urban areas soon slipped from their hands into those of the leaders of the brotherhoods. So long as the system worked properlyy to the end of the sixteenth centuryransformation, which began in the first period of conquest, represented an improvement over the conditions that had prevailed in the cities on the eve of the Ottoman conquest.
Income was needed to support the tekkes and zaviyes, and this too came from landholding. When a brotherhood established a new house, its seyh petitioned the authorities for land. When the request was granted, the peasants acquired a new landlord in the strictest sense of the word because these grants, considered religious fundations or vaklfs were made in perpetuity. As will be seen when we discuss landholding, the rights of landlords were strictly regulated in the Ottoman Empire, and therefore this change of overlords usually pleased the peasantry. The granting of vak1fs was the best of the good works included in every Muslim's obligation to give alms. This broadly defined duty went beyond purely pious purposes to include helping fellow humans in every way possible. Vaktfs supported inns, baths, hospitals, fountains, bridges, and even markets where people could eam a living. The higher a person was on the social scale, the more numerous and extensive were the vaklfs he was supposed to establish.
These foundations were also supported mainly by the income from large rural estates. Land was set aside for them from the beginning, and this added to the change in landholding pattems and peasant obligations in the territories that came under direct Ottoman rule during the first period of conquest. Later additional sources of income were attached to these foundations. In the middle of the sixteenth cenury the establishment of such foundations transfommed Sarajevo from a practically unknown village into a city and created the town Uzunkopru (near Edime) in a place where there had not even been a village. Although we have no such drastic examples from the first period of conquest, in this period the establishment of vakfs in Europe began to produce profound changes in the towns and villages where they were located and in those mral regions whose income was set aside to support them.
This transformation occurred in territory formerly held by the Byzantines. The conquests were significant enough to worry not only the Balkan states, but also the western European powers. While the Ottomans were crossing the Byzantine-Bulgarian border in 1366, only to be defeated at Vidin, the Pope tried to organize a crusade against them. He was not successful, but a Christian fleet was able to reconquer Gallipoli in the same year and return it to Byzantine control. Although this placed the Ottomans in a difficult situation because they still lacked a navy and the heavy artillery needed for attacking fortified places, Murad I continued his operations in the Central Balkans.
The situation in the Balkans was confused. Both the Serbian and Bulgarian states were in full dissolution. Being nearer to the Ottomans, the Bulgarians felt the new influences. The Bulgarians had lost the Macedonian lands to the strong Serbian state of Stefan Dusan first. Then, in the middle of the fourteenth century the northeast seceeded and became known by the name of its second ruler, Dobrotitsa (today, the Dobrudja [Dobrogea] ). In 1365 John Alexander (Ivan Alexandur) divided his realm between his two sons. After his death in 1371, the two separate kingdoms of Turnovo and Vidin emerged. The same disintegration took place in Serbia after Stefan Dusan's death in 1355. Around the cities of Velbuzd on the upper course of the Struma River, and Prilep (Perlepe) two Macedonian states appeared, and Albania began to regain her independence.
The rulers of these states were constantly fighting each other to secure boundaries and recreate greater political units. Murad I saw his chance in this disunity. When the Macedonian princes attacked him in 1371 at Chirmen (Chernomen, Chermanon), a small village on the lower Maritsa (Meri, Ebros, Hebros) River, he defeated his attackers whose leaders were killed in battle. This opened the road for further conquests to the north and west, and the Bulgarian King of Tumovo was forced to accept the status of an Ottoman vassal. The move to the north put great pressure on Byzantium, which bought peace by returning Gallipoli to the Ottomans in 1376.
For the next few years the Ottomans extended their rule in Asia Minor and interfered constantly in the dynastic squabbles of Byzantium, giving the people of the Balkans a few years of relative respite. By 1380 they had turned again to Europe and the territories of the previously defeated Macedonian states, reaching the Vardar (Axios) River and following it both north and southward. In the north they moved through the lands of the Macedonian states, and, not content, went on to conquer Sofia, which belonged to their Bulgarian vassal, and to Nis, which was in the hands of Vidin Bulgaria. Moving southward, they entered Byzantine territory again and occupied Salonika in 1387.
These campaigns frightened the Balkan princes, who put aside their squabbles and united against the common menace. Although in 1387 the Byzantine emperor and the Balkan vassals and allies fulfilled their obligations and helped the Ottomans with important military forces in defeating the Karamanids, their major rival in Anatolia, the menacing moves of their overloads forced them to change their attitude. Lazar I of Serbia, Tvrto I of Bosnia, and John Stratsimir of Vidin united against Murad I and to- gether won a victory in 1388 at Plocnik (Plotchnik), a small village west of Nis. The sultan, however, turned around and invaded Vidin Bulgaria, forcing this state to acknowledge his overlordship. With the help of Christian vassal forces he met the last major Balkan rulers who still resisted him at the first Battle of Kosovo, on June 15, 1389, and defeated the Serbian and Bosnian forces. Although Murad was murdered by a Serb the night of this very bloody battle, immortalized in the famous Kosovo Epic, with this decisive victory he had established Ottoman rule over the Balkans, a rule that was to last for the next five hundred years.
The fact that he was the absolute master of the Balkans did not escape the attention of the next sultan, Bayezid I (1389-1402), although he could not turn to this region immediately. The death of his father had given new hope to Anatolian Turkish princes, who renounced their alliances and allegiances, and for three years Bayezid, the grandson, son, and husband of Christian princesses, had to fight them, relying on vassal Christian troops from Europe because his gazi forces were reluctant to fight fellow Muslims. In those years he gained complete control of Anatolia and replaced the Turkish ruling houses, who until the death of Murad I had retained their position as vassals, allies, or Ottoman governors, with governors who were his slaves and almost always of Christian origin. Although toward the end of his reign this policy cost him his throne and life, the new system of rule proved permanent and was introduced in the European provinces after these were transformed into outright Ottoman possessions.
Bayezid clearly thought of himself as a divinely appointed instrument whose duty it was to conquer the world for the greater glory of God. His ambition was to become a universal ruler. Yet he, like all Muslim princes, had to act "legally," especially since he had more enemies than friends among the Muslim Turkish aristocracy and could not simply turn around and declare a new "holy war" against those whose troops had helped him in Anatolia. His "legal" opportunity was furnished when the Hungarians and their friend and ally, the Wallachian Prince Mircea cel Batrin (the Old) (1386-1418), invaded the weak Bulgarian states. The Wallachian occupied the Dobrudja and the city of Silistra (Durostorum, Silistre) on the Danube, while the Hungarians tried to conquer the Vidin Kingdom. These infringements on his vassals' lands gave Bayezid authority to move.
His vassals suffered more from his "help" than did his enemies. Returning from Asia Minor to the Balkans in 1393, the sultan expelled the Wallachians from Silistra and the Dobrudja and declared that Danubian (or Turnovo) Bulgaria, unable to fend for herself, was now an Ottoman province. The last ruler, John Shishman, was accused of collaboration with the enemy and was executed at the orders of the sultan. Stefan Lazarevic, the ruler of Serbia, would probably have gotten the same treatment, in spite of the fact that he quickly swore a new oath of loyalty to Bayezid, had not the sultan had more pressing problems to solve.
While the sultan had been occupied in Anatolia, the Paleologi, in an effort to save their state, made their famous promise to reunite the two Christian churches. With the help of Venice they greatly strengthened the Morea. Since the sultan was still without a navy, this was a combination he could not well face. He therefore resorted to diplomacy and called all his vassals, including the Byzantine emperor, to Serres to force them to acknowledge his overlordship. When the emperor did not come Bayezid laid siege to Constantinople and sent his forces into the Morea at the invitation of Carlo Tocco, one of the lords fighting in that region. This cam- paign brought the Turks important gains. With Constantinople under siege and his back secure from Byzantine-Venetian attacks, Bayezid could turn his attention to the north again.
There the Hungarian-Wallachian alliance was still in effect, and Bayezid I now moved against Mircea. Once again, many Christians, mostly Serbs, fought in his army, including Kraljevic (the son of the king) Marko, the hero of another famous Epic, who died not in that battle, but in the Battle of Arges which Bayezid fought with the Wallachians on May 17, 1395. Mircea appears to have been victorious militarily, but his forces and resources were so depleted that he had to acknowledge the loss of the Dobrudja, into which Bayezid moved Turkish garrisons. He also had to accept the status of an Ottoman vassal and pay regular tribute. This arrangement lasted until the Danubian Principalities regained their independence. Although it created problems for the Romanians, it saved them from the much harsher treatment that went with direct Ottoman rule, especially during the centuries of decline.
The situation in Constantinople and in the Morea greatly alarmed European leaders, especially King Sigismund (Zsigmond) of Luxemburg. This famous Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Hungary (1387-1437) asked for help and got it from French knights and Venice. He led his army into the Balkans only to lose the great battle at Nikopolis (Nikopol, Niyebol) on September 25, 1396. Because Vidin had opened its doors to the Christian army, Bayezid took over the Vidin Kingdom, too, transforming it into an Ottoman province. During the next few years Ottoman armies concentrated on the Byzantine possessions and the various small Greek states in the Morea where they gained land and devastated much territory.
By 1400, apart from the Dalmatian coast and some cities in the Morea most of the Balkans were under Ottoman rule. Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia, were vassal states, and the Byzantine Empire was reduced to the great city and its immediate surroundings. The rest of the peninsula was divided into Ottoman provinces.
There can be little doubt that Bayezid would have completed the conquest of the Balkans had not a new Mongol attack forced him to return to Anatolia. There he lost the Battle of Ankara in 1402, was captured, and died in captivity a few years later. The victorious Timur returned the various Turkish lands to the princely families whom the Ottomans had displaced, leaving Osman's family only those he considered legitimately theirs in accordance with the provisions of the shari'a. There Bayezid sons fought among themselves for supremacy, giving the Balkan states a chance to re-emerge and making a second conquest necessary. The fact that not all the states took advantage of this opportunity and that European forces played an important role in settling the war between the Ottoman princes is as remarkable as is the fact that those who used this period of respite to reform their realms learned nothing from past experience and fell under Ottoman rule even faster and more easily than they had during the first conquest. These two factors contributed greatly to the establishment of the second Ottoman Empire.
When Bayezid I s empire collapsed, Timur recognized those territories that belonged to the House of Osman on the day of Murad I's death as being legitimately Ottoman. This ruling returned some Anatolian provinces to their former masters, something Timur was able to enforce. In theory it also stripped the Ottomans of all their gains in Europe as well as the changes introduced there under Bayezid. In Europe, however, Timur was unable to enforce his rulings, and the decision was left in the hands of those, including the Christian princes, who were in a position to take advantage of the new situation. The behavior of these people during the Ottoman interregnum from 1402 to 1413 is of great interest.
Bayezid was very unpopular among several elements of Turkish society, and it is well known that he lost the Battle of Ankara because only his Christian forces remained loyal while numerous Muslim units deserted during the fight. The gazis resented his highhanded illegal" treatment of fellow Muslim princes. The leading Turkish families, descendants of the first successful gazi leaders and of those who allied themselves with the Ottomans early and had achieved wealth and leading positions, resented the sultan's increasingly "Byzantine" tendencies. the growing centralization of power, a court that was more and more "imperial," and several new influences including slaves in the ruling and decision-making process, all of which diminished their position. Both of these groups accused Bayezid not only of abandoning the gazi tradition, but even of being a bad Muslim because he was too strongly under the Christian influence of his mother, wife, and European friends. Bayezid was certainly not interested in changing his faith, but his desire to become a universal ruler and his interest in the eclectic religious tendencies then fashionable made him somewhat more tolerant of other religions than was permissible under the regulations of strict High Islam. At the same time he was eager to diminish religious antagonisms. Thus, there were certain facets of his behavior that were justifiably objectionable to the gazi, the Turkish aristocracy, and the learned men, the major Turkish-Muslim supporters of his state.
Although two of these dissatisfied Turkish factions agreed on the need to reverse Bayezid's policies, they did not agree on what had to be restored. The gazi faction would have preferred a return to the days of Osman and Orhan, to continued expansion, to the great influence of the brotherhoods and folk-religion, and to the almost tribal chief role the early sultans had played. Although the leading families certainly did not object to the continuation of gazi wars, they wanted a polity modeled on the most glorious days of the Seljuq state when not Folk but High Islam dominated and where old Turkic traditions assured the supremacy of their class.
To these two groups must be added a third, which cannot be called Christian, but can be called European, although it had some partisans in Anatolia too. For simplicity's sake only two major elements that made up this faction will be mentioned. On the higher social level there were the important commercial interests. These persons were eager to re-establish "normal" conditions. They were not hostile to those"Byzantine" features that not only favored production and trade, but also made foreign business connections possible. For them the reunification of western Anatolia, through which numerous important trade routes led, was of prime importance, even if it involved the reabsorption of their own lands and the Turkish principalities into the Ottoman state. Small in number and without a firm religious commitment, this element needed mass support. It found such support mainly in Europe among those who were dissatisfied with centuries of religious strife and persecution and who, although they found Ottoman practices preferable to what had preceded, wanted to go further, to an elementary proto-democracy that included religious equality and freedom. This element played an important role in the civil war that restored the Ottoman Empire. The significance of this fact is enormous. The extremely elitist and hierarchial Ottoman State owed its rebirth to grass-root support. Although led by Muslim families often of European, mainly Greek, origin, this faction did not attempt to strengthen Byzantium or recreate the various Balkan states. Rather it tried to rebuild the traditional Ottoman domain.
The religious eclecticism of Bayezid I can be clearly seen in the names of his four sons who were involved in the civil war. The oldest, Suleyman, had an Old Testament name (Solomon) as had one of his brothers Musa (Moses). Isa's name is the Turkish equivalent of Jesus, while Mehmed's is the turkified form of the most favored Muslim name Muhammad.
The civil war was made possible by several circumstances. When Timur, playing the role of a Muslim legitimist, left the Ottomans some of their possessions, he appointed Isa emir of Bursa, and Mehmed governor of Manisa (Magnesia ad Maenderum), a position he held under his father. In this manner Timur created two strong Ottoman Anatolian bases in ter- ritories that were firm in their loyalty to the Osmanli family. Furthermore, he never came to western Anatolia himself, nor did he send his representatives to enforce his rulings. On his death in 1405 the local princes were left to settle the future political development of Asia Minor. Finally, the above-mentioned factionalism made it possible for the princes to seek followers among various groups of the population, all of whom were looking for a sultan who would represent their interests.
Suleyman, who had managed to escape from Ankara, made his way to Edirne where, with the help of the grand vezir, Ali Cenderli, he proclaimed himself sultan. He was not, however, able to force his two brothers to recognize him. When Bayezid I died in captivity, in 1403, Musa was allowed to take his father's body home to Bursa. Having accomplished this task, he left the city and joined Mehmed.
By this time the Cenderli family had important commercial interests and was allied with several other families who belonged either to the highest bureaucratic circles, to the trading community, or, like the Evrenos family of Greek origin and the Cenderlis themselves, to both. The leader of the janissary corps created by Murad I also made his way to Edirne. Consequently, Suleyman's position was very strong; the military leaders, the leading functionaries, were in his camp, and he was in the economically richest regions of the state. Mehmed, ably advised by his former tutor and competent general, Bayezid, relied mainly on the gazis for support, while Isa, having no clear faction to back him, was in the weakest position.
Suleyman, in accordance with the interests he represented, concluded alliances with the Byzantine emperor, Manuel II, and with Michael Steno, the doge of Venice. To cement his major alliance Suleyman married Manuel's daughter in 1403 and returned Salonika to his father-in-law. The latter move was not well received by the gazis who were numerous in eastern Thrace. His relations with Serbia, Wallachia, and Albania -- three states that had taken advantage of the Ottoman troubles and had regained their independence -- were not satisfactory either.
Suleyman was very intelligent and well educated, according to the information that has survived, but he was also very ambitious and extremely arrogant and overbearing. He needed the support of his father's ex-vassals to force his brothers to acknowledge him as sultan, but his behavior turned them against him. Later even his close collaborators tired of him, and his disregard of the strong popular movement in his lands alienated both the Muslim and Christian lower classes.
The struggle began when Musa, now in the service of his brother Mehmed, attacked Isa in Bursa. Musa was victorious, and Isa took refuge with Suleyman. The latter now used him, just as Mehmed had used Musa, and sent him back to Anatolia to recapture Bursa. Isa failed and lost his life. In 1404 Suleyman himself crossed into Anatolia, forced Musa to flee to Constantinople and then to Wallachia, and advanced as far as Ankara by 1405. At this moment, when he had Mehmed in a precarious situation, he had to return rapidly to Europe because Musa, taking advantage of Suleyman's lack of popularity with the Balkan princes and the Byzantine habit of backing the weakest against the strongest, attacked his European possessions with the help of Mircea of Wallachia, Stefan Lazarevic of Serbia, and the sons of the last two Bulgarian rulers. After suffering an initial defeat Musa regained the initiative in 1410 and defeated Suleyman whose bad habits had left him without any real supporters. As Suleyman was fleeing toward Constantinople he was killed by the discontented peasantry. Musa was now master of Europe and refused to recognize the overlordship of Mehmed any longer. Thus, the European and Asian halves of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire faced each other in preparation for a final show down.
From the point of view of the European princes, Musa is certainly the most interesting personality of the civil war. He gained his mastery of the European half of the empire with their help, yet he began his rule by moving against them. First, he attacked the Serbs whose "treachery" he blamed for his first defeat by Suleyman, resumed the siege of Constantinople, and sent raiding parties down the length of the Greek peninsula and even westward as far as Austria. He appears to have paid little attention to Mehmed and the gazi and to the increasingly strong bureaucratic support his brother enjoyed, and seems to have attempted to build up a new state structure on a wide popular basis. His military campaigns appear to have been directed against the leaders of the Balkan states, and he alienated the higher Turkish circles with their bureaucratic and commercial interests by constantly favoring the lower classes. Naturally, Mehmed made valiant efforts to gain the allegiance of the dissatisfied merchants, nobility, and learned men, adding their support to that of the gazi. Once besieged by Musa, Manuel II also shifted to an alliance with Mehmed and so did the European princes.
The best indication of Musa's revolutionary approach to what he considered to be the proper state structure was his appointment of Seyh Bedreddin to the highest legal position in the realm. A famous alim and scholar-turned-mystic, this man, who in 1416 was to lead a dangerous popular revolt against Mehmed I, was not only one of the leading spokesmen for religious peace and the union of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into one creed, but also something of an early socialist. He was very popular among the peasant masses, and his close relationship with Musa brought this prince mass support. By about 1410 or 1411 Mehmed had become the leader of the Turkish factions including those, together with their Christian and Jewish allies, who favored commercial interests and enjoyed the backing of the various rulers in Europe. Musa had become the leader of the "populist party," whose aim was to establish a state based on social and religious egalitarianism. So far as the inhabitants of the Balkans were concerned, this division meant that the aristocratic and commercial leadership backed Mehmed, while the masses followed Musa.
Mehmed's first attempt to defeat Musa, in 1410, was a failure. For the next two years the brothers left each other alone. While Musa was feuding with the Byzantine emperor and experimenting with his new approach to government, Mehmed was occupied in Asia Minor where the emirs of Izmir (Smyrna) and Ankara (Angora) were contesting his rule. Only after he had defeated these dignitaries could Mehmed turn westward again, and in 1412 the final battles began. During Musa's siege of Constantinople Mehmed moved his troops south of his brother's position, entered Sofia, and pushed on to Nis where he was joined by the Serbs. He then turned around and in 1413 met Musa's forces near Sofia. Mehmed won the battle; Musa lost his life. The Ottoman Empire was finally reunited under Sultan Mehmed I (1413-21), and the reorganization of the state could begin. Thus, the first step towards the final consolidation of Ottoman rule in the Balkans had taken place.
Consolidation was difficult. Mehmed still faced challenges not only from Turkish princes in Anatolia, from Balkan rulers, and from the powerful Hungarian state, but also from a discontented population that gladly followed Seyh Bedreddin's call to revolt. Furthermore, he had to unite the various factions under his own leadership. This Mehmed I and his successor, Murad II (1421-44), were able to accomplish. They based the new system on the state structure that Murad I had begun to develop, and while it did not reach its final form until the days of Mehmed II (1444-46; 1451-81), these two sultans virtually established what became the Ottoman social and state system for the remaining centuries of the empire's existence. For this reason the rest of this section will be devoted to a short discussion of the various, mainly military, moves of Mehmed I and Murad II in Europe, and the next chapter will deal with the "Ottoman system," stressing those aspects that became crucial for our area.
When Mehmed I became the uncontested sultan of the Ottoman state in 1413, Manuel II was still ruling in Constantinople, the capable Mircea cel Batrin was still Prince of Wallachia, and Stefan Lazarevic ruled Serbia. Bosnia was still independent, and Albania was in the process of be- coming a unified state. Hungary, with which the Ottomans still had no common border, was a strong state ruled by Sigismund of Luxemburg and had Balkan ambitions of her own, while Venice held territories all around the shores of the Balkan Peninsula. Thus, the final outcome of the question of who would become the master of the Balkans was by no means a foregone conclusion.
Numerous possibilities of combinations and alliances existed. Mehmed realized how precarious the balance of power in Europe was and how unsettled the situation in his own lands was, and he knew that the descendants of Timur could still challenge him at any moment in Anatolia. He therefore became a man of peace after 1413, concentrating on his domestic problems. The only military campaigns he engaged in were forced on him. He had to face the Byzantine-supported challenge by his brother Mustafa who reappeared, probably from the east, after the civil war had been decided. In this war Venice destroyed his fleet near Gallipoli in 1416, but he defeated Mustafa, who sought refuge in Byzantium. In the peace that ensued the sultan promised not to attack Byzantine territory in exchange for Manuel's agreement to hold Mustafa prisoner.
Mehmed also faced the revolt of Seyh Bedreddin, centered mainly in the Dobrudja and supported by Mircea who occupied these rich lands when the revolt was defeated. Mehmed attacked in 1419, and the only European territorial acquisition during his reign, Giurgiu (Yergogu), was the result of this war. Thus, the political situation in the Balkans was much the same when Mehmed I died, in 1421, as it had been when he reunited the empire.
The first years of Murad II's reign were difficult. The Byzantines released his uncle Mustafa who attacked him; numerous Anatolian princes moved against the sultan and backed his brother, whose name was also Mustafa. By 1423, however, the young ruler had re-established order and reigned over all the lands that were Ottoman at his father's death. While he was occupied with revolts, the Hungarians were extending their sway into the Balkans, and the Venetians, as allies of Byzantium, were gaining a strong foothold in the Morea and had received the city of Salonika from the emperor. Byzantium was really not a serious enemy, but the war with Venice continued until 1430 when the Ottomans finally reconquered Salonika.
The major menace to Murad proved to be Hungary. During the Venetian war the Hungarians and Ottomans had agreed, in 1428, to set up a buffer state and jointly recognize Djordje (George) Brankovic as a legitimate and independent ruler of Serbia. Obviously, this was a temporary measure. When the Venetian war ended, Murad returned to the policy of Murad I and Bayezid 1, that of including all lands south of the Danube-Sava line into his state. Hungarian influence in Bosnia, Serbia, and Wallachia had to be eliminated; if this was not-possible, at least the land already in Ottoman hands had to be fully secured. Therefore, Venice had to be pushed out of its remaining Balkan strongholds. Murad constantly tried to expand his rule by raids into the Balkan states and did gain some permanent acquisitions in Greece proper, the Morea, and southern Albania. The various princelings turned to Hungary for protection. After 1432 Murad concentrated his energies on Hungary, conducting raids into Transylvania in that year and continuing to harass that country and its allies whenever he could. He intensified his efforts when Sigismund died in 1437 and attacked Transylvania again. In 1439 he occupied Serbia and made it an Ottoman province. The next year he attacked Belgrade (Beograd, Nandorfehervar), Hungary's main border fortress at the time, but was not successful.
After the attack on Belgrade Murad was forced to return to Asia Minor to deal with an attack by the Karaman principality. The Hungarians, led by their most famous general Janos (John) Hunyadi, took advantage of the situation and attacked the Ottoman forces remaining in Europe. In 1441 and 1442 they penetrated deep into the Balkans, forcing Murad to come to an agreement. The Treaty of Edirne, in 1444, which was extended by the Treaty of Szeged during the same year, re-established Serbia as a buffer state. The Hungarians agreed to leave Bulgarian lands unmolested and not to cross the Danube. Having made peace with the Karamanids during the same year, Murad abdicated, believing that his realm was secure.
Murad's twelve-year-old son, Mehmed II, ascended to the throne, and a power struggle ensued between the grand vezir, Halil Cenederli, the tutor of the new ruler, Zaganos, and the beylerbeyi of the European provinces, ihabeddln. Taking advantage of this situation, a Hungarian-Wallachian army encouraged by the Pope and the Byzantines, and supported by various Balkan princes, of whom the Albanian Scanderbeg (George Kastriote) was the most remarkable, crossed the Danube and marched through Bulgaria toward Edirne. At the critical moment this city was destroyed by a great fire. The Venetian fleet joined the new crusade and closed the Dardanelles, making it impossible to transfer Ottoman troops from Asia Minor to Europe. Murad II came out of retirement to take command of the Ottoman armies and won a great victory at Varna on November 10, 1444. Varna sealed the fate of the Balkans and Constantinople. At this juncture the squabble of the three dignataries began to center around the question of how to handle the imperial city. The grand vezir was opposed to attacking it, the other two argued in favor of this move. In 1446 the grand vezir, backed by the janissaries, staged a coup d'etat and forced Murad to reascend the throne and rule for another five years. The old sultan resumed his former policies and extended Ottoman realm in the Morea, campaigned against Scanderbeg in Albania, and reasserted his rule in Serbia. The success of his policies was assured when he defeated Hunyadi in the second battle at Kosovo in 1448.
Murad's rule represents a watershed in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Brockelmann states that "in many respects Murad's reign meant the end of the ancient culture of the Osmanlis." Inalcik points out that while Murad had intended to fallow his father's policies when he came to the throne, he soon realized that changes were needed, and cites the introduction of new armaments as an example of the reforms introduced by this ruler. Both assertions are correct and indicate the reorganization, finished only during the second reign of Mehmed II and of equal importance to every inhabitant of the empire, was well advanced when Murad died in 1451.
What emerged was the Ottoman synthesis of various Turkish, Muslim, Byzantine, and even western elements into a remarkably well-integrated state structure.