February 3rd

mehmed-the-conquerorOn this day in 1451, Mehmed bin Murad Khan took the throne of Sultan for the second time at the head of the Ottoman Empire. Mehmed II would go on to conqueror vast swathes of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, leading to its ultimate demise, and do ultimately what many before him had failed by capturing Constantinople.

In the aftermath of the failed military coup attempted in Turkey and the subsequent consolidation of powers that the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has initiated, it seems appropriate to reflect on another of Turkey’s infamous rulers.

Mehmed initially took the throne aged just 12, but returned it to his father aged 14 who had simply retired following his initial successes. When Murad II died in 1451, Mehmed reclaimed the title and went on to become notorious for his strength, bravery and victories.

Nowhere is this clearer than in his assault on Constantinople.

Constantinople had stood for centuries, bridging East and West; with all the technological and social developments which that brought with it. However, by the middle of the 15th century it had been entirely encircle within the Ottoman Empire. Mehmed chose it as an early target for his forces, knowing that it’s conquering would cement his legacy.

In 1453 he had amassed between 80,000 and 200,000 soldiers, seventy large artillery pieces and over 300 naval vessels. The siege lasted 53 days, but the city’s fall signalled the end of the Byzantine Empire and the earned the son of the Murad II the title of Mehmed the Conqueror.

Mehmed’s ascension to the throne put an end to the nearly 1,500 year history of Constantinople and forever changed world history in the process. Mehmed would go on to conqueror Serbia, Wallachia and Crimea, setting the ground for the future expansion of the Empire, which would go on to include parts of Egypt, Syria and Algeria.


The territorial extent of the Ottoman Empire on Mehmed’s death in 1481


The dark green shows the extent of the Ottoman Empire on Mehmed’s ascension in 1451


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