Fatih Sultan Mehmet

Mehmed II (March 30, 1432 – May 3, 1481) (Ottoman Turkish: محمد Meḥmed, Turkish: II. Mehmet), (also known as el-Fātiḥ (الفاتح), "the Conqueror" in Ottoman Turkish, or, in modern Turkish, Fatih Sultan Mehmet; Known as Mahomet II[1][2] in early modern Europe) was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Rûm until the conquest) for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from February 1451 to 1481. At the age of 21, he conquered Constantinople, bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire. Mehmet continued his conquests in Asia, with the Anatolian reunification, and in Europe, as far as Belgrade. Administrative actions of note include amalgamating the old Byzantine administration into the Ottoman state. Beside Turkish, he spoke French, Latin, Greek, Serbian, Persian, Arabic and Hebrew.[3][4]

Early reign

Mehmed II was born in Edirne, the then-capital city of the Ottoman state, on March 30, 1432. His father was Sultan Murad II (1404–51) and his mother Valide Sultan Hüma Hatun, born in Devrekani county of Kastamonu province, was a daughter of Abd'Allah of Hum Although the area of origin of his mother is known, his ethnicity is debatable. Huma meaning a girl/woman from Hum, her fathers name, Abd'Allah, meaning Servant of God, is an anonym that was used in the Ottoman period to describe the Christian males who converted to Islam, indicating most possibly a Greek descendant since that was the origin of the Christian population in the area at the time.

When Mehmed II was eleven years old he was sent to Amasya to govern and thus gain experience, as per the custom of Ottoman rulers before his time. After Murad II made peace with the Karaman Emirate in Anatolia in August 1444, he abdicated the throne to his 12-year-old son Mehmed II. Sultan Murad II had sent him a number of teachers for him to study under, but he was a difficult student and did not complete his studies of the Quran, which was considered of great importance. Sultan requested that Lord Ahmad Bin Ismail Gorani be made a teacher for Mehmed and gave him a rod to beat him if he broke his command. The teacher went to him and entered with the rod in his hand, he said:" I was sent by your father's to educate you and I will beat you if you violate my orders". Mehmed laughed at this speech, in which Gorani then struck and severely beat Mehmed. Thereafter, Mehmed feared his teacher and the finished the Quran easily.[5]

This Islamic education had the greatest impact in composing the personality of Mehmed, and makes him an Muslim believer, committed to the limits of Sharia, restricted commands and prohibitions, venerated it and advocate for the procedures for its application, influenced by scientists, particularly his mentor, Lord Gorani and he followed their approach. the role of Sheikh Aq Shams al-Din became significant in the composition of Muhammad's personality since a young age specially in two things: the Jihad and inspiring Muhammad since he was young that he would be the prince intended in Islamic Hadith to conqueror of Constantinople , he hoped to apply the Hadith of the Prophet of Islam.[6]

In his first reign, he prevented the crusade lead by János Hunyadi and the Hungarian incursions into the country breaking of the conditions of the truce Peace of Szeged. Cardinal Julian Cesarini, the representative of the pope, convinced the king of Hungary that breaking the truce with Muslims is not a betrayal.[7] Srosadi Mehmed II asked his father Murad II to reclaim the throne, but Murad II refused. Enraged at his father, who had long since retired to a contemplative life in southwestern Anatolia, Mehmed II wrote: "If you are the Sultan, come and lead your armies. If I am the Sultan I hereby order you to come and lead my armies." It was upon this letter that Murad II led the Ottoman army and won the Battle of Varna in 1444.

It is said Murad II's return to the throne was forced by Chandarli Khalil Pasha, the grand vizier at the time, who was not fond of Mehmed II's rule, since Mehmed II's teacher was influential on him and did not like Chandarli. Chandarli was later executed by Mehmed II during the siege of Constantinople on the grounds that he had been bribed by or had somehow helped the defenders.

During his early reign he married a Christian Albanian Valide Sultan Amina Gul-Bahar mother of his successor Bayezid II.[8][9]

Conquest of Constantinople

When Mehmed II ascended the throne in 1451 he devoted himself to strengthening the Ottoman navy, and in the same year made preparations for the taking of Constantinople. In the narrow Bosporus Straits, the fortress Anadoluhisarı had been built by his great-grandfather Bayezid I on the Asiatic side; Mehmed erected an even stronger fortress called Rumelihisarı on the European side, and thus having complete control of the strait. Having completed his fortresses, Mehmet proceeded to levy a toll on ships passing within reach of their cannon. A Venetian vessel refusing signals to stop, was sunk with a single shot and all the surviving sailors beheaded.[10]

In 1453 Mehmed commenced the siege of Constantinople with an army between 80,000 to 200,000 troops and a navy of 320 vessels, though the bulk of them were transports and storeships. The city was now surrounded by sea and land; the fleet at the entrance of the Bosphorus was stretched from shore to shore in the form of a crescent, to intercept or repel any assistance from the sea for the besieged.[10]

In early April, the Siege of Constantinople began. After several fruitless assaults, the city's walls held off the Turks with great difficulty, even with the use of the new Orban's bombard, a cannon similar to the Dardanelles Gun. The harbor of the Golden Horn was blocked by a boom chain and defended by twenty-eight warships.

On April 22, Mehmed transported his lighter warships overland, around the Genoese colony of Galata and into the Golden Horn's northern shore; eighty galleys were transported from the Bosphorus after paving a little over one-mile route with wood. Thus the Byzantines stretched their troops over a longer portion of the walls. A little over a month later, Constantinople fell on May 29 following a fifty-seven day siege.[10] After this conquest, Mehmed moved the Ottoman capital from Adrianople to Constantinople.

Reference is made to the prospective conquest of Constantinople in an authentic hadith, attributed to a saying of the Prophet Muhammad. "Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will he be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!"[11] Ten years after the conquest of Constantinople Mehmed II visited the site of Troy and boasted that he had avenged the Trojans by having conquered the Greeks (Byzantines).[12]

When Mehmed stepped into the ruins of the Boukoleon, known to the Ottomans and Persians as the Palace of the Caesars, probably built over a thousand years before by Theodosius II, he uttered the famous lines of Persian poetry:[citation needed]

After the Fall of Constantinople, Mehmed claimed the title of "Caesar" of Rome (Kayser-i Rûm), although this claim was not recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople, or Christian Europe. Mehmed's claim rested with the concept that Constantinople was the seat of the Roman Empire, after the transfer of its capital to Constantinople in 330 AD and the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Mehmed also had a blood lineage to the Byzantine Imperial family, as his predecessors like Sultan Orhan I had married a Byzantine princess. He was not the only ruler to claim such a title, as there was the Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe, whose emperor, Frederick III, traced his titular lineage from Charlemagne who obtained the title of Roman Emperor when he was crowned by Pope Leo III in 800 - although never recognized as such by the Byzantine Empire.

The Byzantine historian Doukas,[13] stated that after the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II ordered the 14-year old son of the Grand Duke Lucas Notaras brought to him "for his pleasure". When the father refused to deliver his son to such a fate he had them both decapitated on the spot.[14] Another contemporary Greek source, Leonard of Chios, professor of theology and Archbishop of Mytilene, tells the same story in his letter to Pope Nicholas. He describes Mehmed II requesting for the 14 year old handsome youth to be brought "for his pleasure".[15]

Some modern scholars[who?] believe that this sources were an attempt to portray Muslims as morally inferior, and point to the story of Saint Pelagius as its probable inspiration.[16]

Conquests in Asia

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

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

Conquests in Europe

After the Fall of Constantinople, Mehmed would also go on to conquer the Despotate of Morea in the Peloponnese in 1460, and the Empire of Trebizond in northeastern Anatolia in 1461. The last two vestiges of Byzantine rule were thus absorbed by the Ottoman Empire. The conquest of Constantinople bestowed immense glory and prestige on the country.

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

In 1463, after a dispute over the tribute paid annually by the Bosnian kingdom, Mehmed invaded Bosnia and conquered it very quickly, executing the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomašević.

He also came into conflict with and was defeated by Prince Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia in 1462 at the Night Attack. Though forced to retreat from Wallachia due to Vlad's scorched earth policies, Mehmed II left Radu Ţepeş, Vlad's brother, with a small force in order to win over the local nobles. Radu also managed to take the control of Wallachia and was honored the title of Bey in the same year. His brother Vlad (the Dracula) lost all his power and escaped from his country to Hungary, where he was imprisoned due to forged documents.

In 1475, the Ottomans suffered a great defeat at the hands of Stephen the Great of Moldavia at the Battle of Vaslui. In 1476, Mehmed won a pyrrhic victory against Stephen at the Battle of Valea Albă. He besieged the capital of Suceava, but could not take it, nor could he take the Castle of Târgu Neamţ. With a plague running in his camp and food and water being very scarce, Mehmed was forced to retreat.

The Albanian resistance in Albania between 1443 and 1468 led by George Kastrioti Skanderbeg (İskender Bey), an Albanian noble and a former member of the Ottoman ruling elite, prevented the Ottoman expansion into the Italian peninsula. Skanderbeg had united the Albanian Principalities in a fight against the Empire in the League of Lezhë in 1444. Mehmed II couldn't subjugate Albania and Skanderbeg while the latter was alive, even though twice (1466 and 1467) he led the Ottoman armies himself against Krujë. After death of Skanderbeg in 1468, Albanians couldn't find a leader to replace him and Mehmed II eventually conquered Krujë and Albania on 1478.

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

Administrative actions

Mehmed II amalgamated the old Byzantine administration into the Ottoman state.[citation needed] He first introduced the word Politics into Arabic "Siyasah" from a book he published and claimed to be the collection of Politics doctrines of the Byzantine Caesars before him. He gathered Italian artists, humanists and Greek scholars at his court, allowed the Byzantine Church to continue functioning, ordered the patriarch to translate Christian doctrine into Turkish, and called Gentile Bellini from Venice to paint his portrait. Mehmed II also tried to get Muslim scientists and artists to his court in Constantinople, started a University, built mosques e.g. the Fatih Mosque, waterways, and the Topkapı Palace.

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

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

Personal life

Mehmed II had several wives: Valide Sultan Amina Gul-Bahar, a Christian Albanian, who died in 1492,[8][9] and Gevher Sultana; Gulshah Hatun; Sitti Mukrime Hatun;[17] Hatun Çiçek; Helene Hatun, who died in 1481, daughter of Demetrios Palaiologos, the Despot of Morea; briefly Anna Hatun, the daughter of the Emperor of Trebizond; and Hatun Alexias, a Byzantine princess. Another son of his was Djem Zizim, who died in 1495.

Mehmed II spoke eight languages (including Turkish, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, French, Latin and Serbian) when he was 21 years old (the age at which he conquered Constantinople).[3][4]


Mehmed died on May 3, 1481, at the age of fifty-three. Mehmed's primary doctor, "Jacob Pasha" an Italian born convert to Islam was suspected of administering poison to Mehmed over a period of time and was executed. Mehmed was buried in a cemetery within the Fatih Mosque Complex [18] established in one of the mosques that was founded in Constantinople.


After the fall of Constantinople, he founded many universities and colleges in the city, some of which are still active. Mehmed II is also recognized as the first Sultan to codify criminal and constitutional law long before Suleiman the Magnificent (also "the Lawmaker" or "Kanuni") and he thus established the classical image of the autocratic Ottoman sultan (padishah). Mehmed II's tomb is located at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul.

During his thirty-one year rule, he waged several wars expanding the Ottoman Empire. The conquest Constantinople, and all the Turkish kingdoms and territories of Asia Minor, Bosnia, Kingdom of Serbia, and Albania. He carried out many internal administrative reforms that put his country on the path to prosperity and paved the way for subsequent sultans to focus on expanding the State and the expansion into new territories. he also put the first principles of civil law and the Penal Code, changed corporal punishment, that was completed through Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent later.[citation needed]

Mehmed left behind an imposing reputation in both the Islamic and Christian worlds. The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge was named after him that straddles the Bosporus Straights in Istanbul in the twentieth century. His name and picture appears on the paper currency of the Turkish thousand Lira note, which was in circulation between 1986 to 1992.[19]

Mehmed II is the eponymous subject of Rossini's 1820 opera Maometto II.

Mehmed II's portrait was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 1000 lira banknotes of 1986-1992.[20]

It is notable that Mehmet II is not considered the first ruler of Constantinople of Turkic origin.[21][22] Before him, the Christian Leo IV the Khazar was a de jure Roman Emperor.

Freedom of the Bosnian Franciscans

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

"I, the Sultan Khan the Conqueror,

hereby declare the whole world that,

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

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

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

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

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

By declaring this firman, I swear on my sword by the holy name of Allah who has created the ground and sky, Allah's prophet Mohammed, and 124,000 former prophets that; no one from my citizens will react or behave the opposite of this firman!"

This oath firman, which has provided independence and tolerance to the ones who are from another religion, belief, and race was declared by Mehmed II the Conqueror and granted to Angjeo Zvizdovic of the Franciscan Catholic Monastery in Fojnica, Bosnia and Herzegovina after the conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 28 of 1463.[23][24] The firman has been recently raised and published by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey for the 700th anniversary of the foundation of the Ottoman State. The edict was issued by the Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror to protect the basic rights of the Bosnian Christians when he conquered that territory in 1463. The original edict is still kept in the Franciscan Catholic Monastery in Fojnica.

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