In the middle of the fourteenth century two powers which had recently sprung into unexpected prominence were closing in upon Constantinople from the west and from the east. But in the race for the stronghold on the Bosphorus the competitor which might have seemed to have the best chances of winning, suddenly fell out. With the death of Stephen Dusan (1356) the ill-consolidated empire of Servia collapsed: his successors were ciphers; whereas Orchan, the Sultan of the Ottomans, handed down a well-disciplined State, built on strong foundations, to a line of eminent princes. Under him the Ottoman Turks won (1358) their first foothold on European soil by the occupation of the fortress of Gallipoli,—somewhat less than a century before Mohammad II captured Constantinople. It was not long before Orchan's son Murad I had crept round and conquered the eastern half of the Balkan peninsula, cutting off Constantinople from Christian Europe. For the first time, since the days of Darius and Xerxes, Thrace passed under the sway of an Asiatic power,—often as the hosts of Sassanid kings and Saracen caliphs had lined the shores of the dividing straits. If the conquest had resembled in character the old Persian conquest, if the inhabitants had been required only to pay tribute to a distant ruler and receive his garrisons in their cities, the lot of these lands would have been light. But they were taken into full possession by their new lords; and oriental nomads of an alien and intolerant religion were planted as the dominant race amid the Christian population. The circumstance that the Ottomans were nomads (they were a clan of the Turkish tribe of Oghuz) gives their empire its significance in the history of mankind. In the perpetual struggle between the herdsmen and the tillers of the soil which has been waged from remote ages on the continents of Europe and Asia, the advance of the Ottomans was a decisive victory for the children of the steppes. This feature of their conquest is of no less fundamental importance than its aspect as a victory for Islam.
How the Ottomans were caught in the tide of the Mongol invasion and their power almost ruined; how they recovered under the prudent guidance of Mohammad I; how the wave of conquest once more rolled on under Murad II, until a seal was set upon their European empire by the capture of Constantinople,—all this has been told by Gibbon. The story is here taken up in 1453.
For a moment it was not clear whether the new lord of Constantinople would be content with a suzerainty over the neighbouring lands which had once been provinces of the Roman empire, or would reduce them to the condition of provinces of the Ottoman realm. The princes of the Peloponnese, the despot of Servia, the lords of some of the island States of the Aegean, forthwith offered their submission. Mohammad soon showed that he would not acquiesce in a system of vassal states paying him tribute as overlord, but aimed at compassing the complete and immediate subjection of the Balkan peninsula. A typical oriental conqueror, he was driven on by the true instinct that it would be fatal to stand still or abandon aggression; he believed that it was the destiny of his people to spread the religion of the Prophet over the whole earth, and the task of his life was to further the accomplishment of this end. His next successors worked with varying vigour in the same direction, and the Ottomans throve so long as they conquered. But it was constant success in war that quickened and strengthened the frame of their State; and the hour in which limits were set to territorial advance marks the beginning of a rapid decline. The nature of their institutions, as we shall see, demanded war.
Mohammad first turned his arms against Servia. This step was determined by Servia's geographical position, lying on the road to Hungary. For Mohammad saw that Hungary was the only country, John Hunyady the only leader, that he had seriously to fear. The two western powers which had the greatest interests at stake in the east and were most gravely affected by the change of masters at Constantinople, were Venice and Genoa. The Genoese were accustomed to dealings with the Ottomans; they were the first Christian power west of the Adriatic that had made a treaty with them, and they had not scrupled to use the alliance of the infidels against their fellow-Christians. The Genoese colony of Galata sent the keys of their walled town to Mohammad on the fall of the City, and the Sultan though he slighted their walls granted them a favourable capitulation securing their liberties and commercial rights. But Genoa was feeble and indifferent; and, feeling herself unequal to new efforts, she transferred, before the fatal year was over, her Pontic settlements to the Genoese Bank of St George, into whose hands the administration of Corsica passed about the same time. But the financial resources of the Bank did not suffice for the task of supporting these colonies, and Genoese trade declined. Venice, on the other hand, was not indifferent; and her first thought was, not to recover the bulwark of Christendom from the hands of the Muslim, but to preserve her own commercial privileges under the rule of the infidel sovereign. She sent an envoy to Mohammad; and a treaty, which formed the basis of all subsequent negociations, was presently concluded. By it she secured freedom of trade for her merchants and the privilege of protecting Venetian settlers on Turkish soil by means of her own officers.
Hungary, then, was the only power that Mohammad, secure on the side of Venice, had immediately to fear. In the first month of 1454 the young and worthless King Ladislaus had assembled a diet at Buda and carried extraordinary measures for organising an army against the Turks. John Hunyady, appointed commander-in-chief, had a host ready to take the field in spring, when George Brankovic, the despot of Servia, arrived, suppliant for help, with the news that the Turk was advancing against his kingdom. Hunyady crossed the Danube and raided Turkish territory, while Mohammad beleaguered the Servian fortresses of Ostroviza and Semendra (Smederevo). He took Ostroviza, but Semendra—a stronghold of capital strategic importance for operations against Servia, Hungary, and Wallachia—was saved by the arrival of the Magyar general, and Mohammad retreated. A large detachment of the retreating army encountered Hunyady near Krusovac. No regular battle was fought; a panic seized the Turks and they were routed with slaughter. Hunyady completed his campaign by descending the Danube and reducing the Ottoman fortress of Widdin to ashes.
In the following year (1455) Mohammad—who claimed Servia through his step-mother, a Servian Princess—won a foothold in the south of the country by the capture of Novoberdo, with its important gold and silver mines; and he spent the next winter in making large and elaborate preparations for besieging Belgrade by land and water. The siege lasted three weeks in July, 1456, and hardly has a more brilliant feat been achieved in the course of the struggles between Europe and the Ottoman Turks than the relief of Belgrade by John Hunyady and his Magyar army. It was the second time that he saved this bulwark at the gates of Hungary. Pope Calixtus III had sent an able legate, Juan de Carvajal, to rally the people round the general in the holy cause; but it is a Minorite brother, John of Capistrano, who shares with Hunyady the glory of the triumph. The eloquence of this preacher, inspired with zeal against the misbeliever, could still move men's hearts to some faint semblance of that crusading fervour which had once strung Europe to madness. The greater part of the host which was collected was a tattered undisciplined rabble; but infinite patience and energy overcame all difficulties. With a few vessels Hunyady broke through the chain of barques by which Mohammad had barred the Save, and entered the besieged city. Though the defenders were far inferior in number and equipment, yet by valour and cunning they defeated all the efforts of the enemy and at last forced the whole army to retreat in confusion, and with tremendous losses, amounting to more than 50,000 killed and wounded, 300 guns, and 27 war-boats. In the first hour of delight the victors overrated the importance of their achievement; they fancied that the Turk was almost crushed and that but little was wanting to drive him from Europe. It could be done, wrote Hunyady in a letter to the Pope, "if Christendom were to rise up against him." But there was no chance of such a rising, and in a few days Christendom lost her ablest champion, Hunyady himself (August, 1456). Hungary, crippled by domestic feuds, without a leader in whom men trusted, receiving no support from Germany in consequence of the hatred between King Wladislav and the Emperor, could not follow up her victory. Presently Wladislav died and Hunyady's son, Matthias Corvinus, a lad of sixteen years, came to the throne (January, 1458).
Meanwhile Mohammad was taking measures for the subjection of Servia. He was helped by its domestic circumstances. After a struggle for the succession to the crown, the government devolved upon a woman, Helena, the widow of the despot George's youngest son; and she took the strange impolitic step of placing the country under the protection and overlordship of Pope Calixtus, who had vowed his energies to the abolition of the Turk. But this act alienated the boyars, who liked the interference of the Catholic no better, or even less, than the rule of the infidel. In 1457 Mahmud Pasha (Beglerbeg, or Governor, of Rumelia) had overcome all Servia; in 1458 Mohammad came himself, captured Semendra by treachery, and received the voluntary submission of many of the boyars. It is said that 200,000 inhabitants were carried from the land, whether to be trained for military service, or to be settled in other parts of the empire.
On the death of Hunyady only a single great warrior was left to fight for the cause of Christendom—"standing almost alone, like a strong wall," said Pope Calixtus;—but it was as much as his strength could compass to defend his own land. This was George Castriotes, the Albanian, whom we are accustomed to designate as Scanderbeg,—a name which always reminds us that he had been brought up in the faith of Islam and held high office under Murad II, before he returned to his own religion and his own people. Beneath the supremacy of his masterful and daring spirit, the Albanian folk, which in the regions of northern Epirus preserved the old Illyrian language, was raised into transient greatness. For a brief space, an united Albanian nation lifted up its voice amid the roar of the world's tide, and admiring Europe applauded. In the warfare on the Illyrian hillsides, Scanderbeg was almost invariably successful; and a defeat which he suffered at the Albanese fortress of Belgrade, through an indiscreet concession (1456), was avenged in the following year by a great victory over Mohammad's able general Hamsa, who was himself taken prisoner. Mohammad was glad to make a truce for a year, and Scanderbeg was persuaded to cross over, a second "Alexander" of Epirus, to Apulia, to help the Spaniard Ferdinand of Naples to drive out the French (1461). On the Albanian chief's return, new discomfitures forced Mohammad, intent on more pressing enterprises, to seek a permanent peace; and the Sultan acknowledged Scanderbeg as the absolute sovereign of Albania (April, 1463).
But the peace was broken before the year was out. It was the Albanian who violated the contract, under the importunate pressure of the Pope and the Venetian Republic. He reopened hostilities by a raid into Macedonia; and in 1464 he won a crushing victory over a Turkish army under Balaban (an Albanian renegade). His successes decided Mohammad to take the field himself at the head of a mighty host and lay siege to Kroja, the Albanian capital (1465). The last exploit of the hero was to render this expedition fruitless. Failing to storm the place, Mohammad retreated, leaving Balaban to starve it out; but before he left the country he massacred some thousands of Albanian families, whom he discovered in their refuge in the valley of Chidna. Having no forces sufficient to relieve Kroja, Scanderbeg visited Rome, hoping to obtain effectual help from Pope Paul II. He obtained a little money and much good will. On his return to Albania he found that some Venetian troops had come to his aid, and he was now able to act. But fortune relieved Kroja. A chance blow wounded Balaban mortally, and the blockading army immediately retreated, leaving Albania in a state of terrible devastation. The "athlete of Christendom," as Scanderbeg was called, died a year later at Alessio, recommending his son and his country to the protection of Venice (January, 1467). For Venice his death was a serious event, as he was the "buffer" between the Ottoman power and her possessions on the lower Adriatic, such as Scodra and Durazzo. Henceforward she would have to do her own work here.
Bosnia, which had borne its part in the fatal battle of Kosovo field (1389), was inevitably drawn into the vortex. The catastrophe of this land received a peculiar character from its religious condition. The mass of the people, high and low, was firmly devoted to the Patarine or Bogomilian tenets, which Catholics and Greeks branded as Manichaeanism. It is one of that series of religions which range from Armenia to Aquitaine, including Albigensians at one extremity and Paulicians at the other, all apparently descended from the ancient "heresies" of Adoptianism. But the Catholics were eager to crush the heresy; Franciscan missionaries worked with all their might in the land; and some of the kings embraced Catholicism. In 1412 the Bogomils threatened to Turcise, and in 1415 they executed the threat, fighting at Usora against Hungary. When King Stephen Thomas embraced Catholicism (1446), the Pope and the King of Hungary hoped that the false doctrines would be extirpated. In the south of the Bosnian kingdom was the large vassal state, practically independent, which had grown up out of the lordship of Chlum. The voivod of this country was Stephen Vukcic, and in 1448 he received from the Emperor the title of "Duke (Herzog) of St Sabas"; whence the complex of his lands derived the name of Herzegovina, the Duchy. His daughter married Stephen the King; but Stephen the Duke remained true to the national faith. He seems to have entered into a sort of vassal relation to Mohammad; for, when he makes peace with his neighbour Ragusa in 1454, we find him undertaking not to attack it, save at the command of the "Great ruler the Sultan of Turkey." On the fall of Constantinople the Bosnian King offered tribute; but Hunyady's feat at Belgrade, and the success of Scanderbeg in the south, raised up King Stephen's drooping hopes and heartened him to refuse the payment (1456). Before, however, any results ensued from his change of attitude, he made peace again (1458); his object was to have his hands free for laying hold of Servia. In the diet of Szegedin the Hungarian King agreed that the despot's son, Stephen Tomasevic, should become despot of Servia and actual ruler of the little northern strip of Servia that was not in Turkish power. The position here depended entirely on holding the key-fortress of Semendra. But the inhabitants of this place were reluctant to submit to the Bosnian prince imposed upon them; and when in the next year Mohammad appeared with an army, they opened their gates to him. A cry of mortification at the fall of this bulwark arose in Hungary and Italy, and the disaster was attributed to the corruption and cowardice of Stephen Tomasevic. The Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus never forgave him; but the evidence seems to show that the surrender was the act of the inhabitants of the town, done in his despite.
Two years later King Stephen Thomas died, hampered in his struggle with the Turk by his feuds with his vassal and father-in-law, the ruler of Herzegovina, and with the Ban of Croatia, and above all by the estrangement in religion between himself and his folk. The storm broke upon his son Stephen, who, having apparently convinced Pope Pius II of his innocence in the loss of Semendra, was crowned by the Pope's Legate, and reconciled with the Hungarian monarch. Meanwhile the anti-national policy of the kings was producing its effect. The oppressive measures adopted by them, at the instigation of the Pope and Hungary, towards the Patarenes, alienated many of that sect, who fled into Turkey or remaining in the country acted as spies for the Sultan, while some actually embraced Islam. Mohammad resolved to reduce Bosnia to complete subjection. When he sent an embassy to demand tribute, King Stephen, taking the envoy into a treasure-chamber, said, "Here is the tribute; but I have no mind to send it to the Sultan." "It is a fine treasure to keep," replied the envoy, "but I know not whether it will bring you luck; I fear, the reverse." When however Stephen failed to gain any aid from Venice or from Ragusa (itself trembling at the danger of a Turkish attack), and heard of the equipment of a great Turkish army, he repented his boldness, and sent to Mohammad to offer the tribute and ask for a truce for fifteen years. His ambassadors found the Sultan at Hadrianople. The historian of the Bosnian war, Michael Konstantinovic, who was in the service of the Turks, was there at the time; and, hidden behind a chest, he overheard the conversation of two pashas who were in the confidence of Mohammad. They arranged that the demands of the Bosnian King should be granted, and the envoys dismissed on the Saturday; but on the following Wednesday the army was to start and overwhelm Bosnia, before any aid from Hungary or elsewhere could reach it. So it came to pass; and though Michael privately informed the Bosnian ambassadors of the perfidious intentions of the Sultan, they would not believe him. Having occupied the district of Podrinje, Mohammad attacked the royal residence, the mighty fortress of Bobovac; and here again the special condition of Bosnia affected the course of events. The defender, Prince Radak, was secretly a Patarine, though he had feigned to accept Catholicism; and he betrayed the town to the Turk. The Turk rewarded him by decapitation;—a strange policy on the part of a conqueror whose interest it was to encourage such treacheries. Jajce in the west of the land capitulated, and the King, who had fled to Kliuc, surrendered to Mahmud Pasha, receiving from him a written guarantee for his life and freedom. The lands directly under the Bosnian Crown were soon subdued, Stephen commanding the captains of his castles to yield; and Mohammad marched southward to subdue the Duchy and Ragusa. But in this difficult country he made little way; and, on failing to take the capital, Blagaj, he abandoned the enterprise. It was the Sultan's policy to put to death all rulers whom he dethroned; and, in order to release him from the obligation of keeping a promise which he had not authorised, a learned Persian mufti with his own hand beheaded the Bosnian King. It is said that Mohammad carried off 30,000 boys to be made into Janissaries, besides 100,000 other captives. The Catholics who were left fled from the country; and to prevent its utter dispeoplement, Mohammad gave the Franciscans a safeguard, allowing the Christians free exercise of their religion. Henceforward the Franciscan influence was predominant.
King Matthias Corvinus made a vigorous attempt to rescue Bosnia; and in the year 1463 he drove many of the Ottoman garrisons out. But he had not made timely preparations for encountering the return of Mohammad, who in the next spring (1464) came to recover Jajce, the most important stronghold of all. The hard-pressed place was relieved by a Hungarian force; but at the end of the year Matthias, who was besieging another fort, was constrained by Mahmud Pasha to retreat. Nothing more was done for Bosnia. A strip in the north, with a few fortresses including Jajce, remained in the power of Hungary, and gave the title of "King of Bosnia" to the voivod of Transylvania; but the land as a whole had passed under Muslim rule. Herzegovina was made fully subject nearly twenty years later (1483). All the Slavonic powers of the Balkan peninsula were thus gathered into the Asiatic empire, except the tributary republic of Ragusa and a part of the principality of Montenegro, whose recesses afforded a refuge to many of those who saved themselves from the wreckage of the neighbouring countries. Stephen Crnoievic, the maker of Montenegro, had spent his life in defending his country against Mohammad's father, Murad, and had fought hand in hand with Scanderbeg. He died in 1466. His son Ivan the Black continued the struggle with indomitable spirit, though the waves seemed to be closing over his head, when to south of him Albania was thrown open to the Turk by the death of Castriotes and Bosnia was conquered in the north. When the Venetians abandoned Scodra to Mohammad (1479), the very key of Montenegro seemed to have been surrendered; and so desperate appeared the outlook that Ivan burned Žabljak, the city which his father had founded, near the upper end of the lake of Scodra, and went up to lofty Cetinje, which has ever since remained the capital of the only Slavonic princes of the peninsula who never bowed the knee to Asiatic lords. Ivan the Black was more than a heroic patriot. To him belongs the distinction of having established (at Obod) the first Slavonic printing press, from which the earliest books in Cyrillic character were issued (1493).
Meanwhile Greece had been conquered, except a few forts which still remained to Venice. The Duchy of Athens, which had passed in the previous century to the Florentine merchant family of the Acciajoli, was won; the last Duke, Franco, surrendered the Acropolis to Omar son of Turakhan in 1456. When Mohammad visited the city, two years later, he was amazed at the beauty of its buildings and the handsome quays of the Piraeus, and cried: "Islam owes a debt to the son of Turakhan." Subsequently Franco was privately strangled, on account of a plot of some Athenians to restore him. But, on the whole, Athens had reason to be pleased with the change from the rule of Catholic princes to that of the unbelievers. The administration of justice and the collection of the tribute were assigned to local officers, and the only new burden was the tribute of children.
The Peloponnesus was misgoverned by the two brothers of the last Roman Emperor, Thomas and Demetrius, worthless and greedy despots, whose rule was worse than the worst Turkish tyranny. Thomas, notorious for his cruelty, resided at Patras, and oppressed the western part of the peninsula; Demetrius, distinguished by his luxury, ruled over the east, and his seat was in the rocky fortress of Mistra, at the foot of Mount Taygetus, three miles west of Sparta. The court officials, who were the ministers of their oppression, were detested throughout the land, which was further distracted by the hatred between the Greek inhabitants and the Albanian shepherds, who had come down and settled here in the previous century after the fall of the Servian empire. The invasion of the Turks in 1452 had desolated the land and given the Albanian herds a wider range; the Greek peasants overcrowded the towns, and the most thriving traders began to emigrate. The Albanians deemed that the right moment had come for making the Morea an Albanian state; perhaps they were encouraged by the fame and success of Scanderbeg. But there was no Scanderbeg among them to unite and keep them together; they could not agree upon a leader of their own race; and they selected Manuel Cantacuzenus (a noble, of the family which had given an emperor to the East-Roman throne) who was now ruling informally over the hillsmen of Maina in Taygetus. He adopted the Albanian name of Ghin, and placed himself at the head of the insurgents. By themselves the despots would have been unable to hold out in their strong places; but they appealed to Mohammad, to whom after the fall of Constantinople they had become tributary; and, when the governor of Thessaly marched into the peninsula, the rebels sued for peace (1454). The Albanians received favourable terms; for it was Ottoman policy to preserve them as a make-weight to the Greeks. But the Morea was far from being tranquillised. Four years later Mohammad in person led an army thither to restore order, and captured and garrisoned the Aero-Corinth. The enmity of the two brothers Palaeologus led to new miseries. They took up arms against one another, Thomas posing as the champion of Christendom against the Turks; and Mohammad decided that an end must be made of Greek rule in the Peloponnese. In 1460 he descended for the second time, and he did not hold his hand when policy urged cruelty. Thus when the indwellers of Leondari (a place on the northern extremity of Taygetus, overlooking Megalopolis) abandoned their town and took refuge in the hills in the citadel of Gardiki—an ill-omened place where thirty-seven years before Turakhan had built pyramids of Albanian heads (1423)—Mohammad followed the luckless people to this sequestered fort, and on their surrender they were all gathered together and slain, six thousand of them. At Calavryta a renegade Albanian chief who had been in Turkish service was sawn in two. Here and elsewhere thousands were reduced to slavery. Demetrius had submitted without a blow at Mistra; Thomas fled to Corfu and ended his life at Rome as a pensioner of the Pope. It was thus that the Morea became perhaps the most miserable province in the Turkish realm; nor can there be any doubt but that Mohammad deliberately intended this to be its fate. He unpeopled and desolated it, so that it might present no allurements to a foreign invader and have no spirit to be restless. Six maritime places still belonged to Venice:—Argos, Nauplia and Thermisi in the east, and Coron, Modon and Navarino in the west, to which we must add Aegina. The little town of Monemvasia, which Frankish speech corrupted to Malvoisy, on the rocky east coast of Laconia, held out for four years, in the name of Thomas Palaeologus, and then placed itself under the protection of Venice (1464).
The withdrawal of Genoa from the field, and the conquest of the Morea and Bosnia, followed by the death of Scanderbeg, devolved the whole defence of the coasts of the Illyrian peninsula and the Aegean upon the republic of St Mark. New Phocaea and the northern islands (Lemnos, Imbros, Samothrace, Thasos) had been successively conquered (1456-7); and in 1462 Lesbos, which had become a very nest of pirates from Spain and Sicily, was annexed to the Turkish dominion. Its last Genoese Lord, Nicolò Gattilusio, was strangled; one-third of the inhabitants were enslaved, one-third deported to augment the population of Constantinople, and the rest, the poorest and the worst, were left to till the land and gather in the vintage. As bases for maritime war in the Aegean, Venice still possessed Negroponte, Candia, together with Nauplia ("Romanian Naples"), and had command of the islands composing the Duchy of Naxos.
The inevitable war broke out in 1463, and its first scene was the Morea. Singlehanded, Venice was scarcely equal to the work, and the delay of ten years made the task more arduous.
Never was there a moment at which a common effort of the Christian powers of Europe was more imperatively needed; never a moment at which such an effort was less feasible. The monarchs were not blind to the menace of the new and deadly ecumenical force which was hurled within range of their kingdoms; they discerned and owned the peril; but internal policy and the consolidation of their power at home so wholly absorbed their interest, that nothing less than a Turkish advance to the Upper Danube or the Rhine would have availed to stir them into action. The Emperor Frederick III had not remained unmoved by the fall of Constantinople, but his strained relations with Hungary as well as the affairs of the Empire hindered him from stretching a hand to save Servia. Yet at his side was a man who fully realised the jeopardy and conceived the project, to which he devoted himself heart and soul, of stirring up the princes of Europe to wage a holy war against the infidel. This was Aeneas Sylvius, bishop of Siena. He utters his idea immediately after the fall of the City in a letter to Pope Nicholas V: "Mohammad is among us; the sabre of the Turks waves over our head; the Black Sea is shut to our ships; the foe possess Wallachia, whence they will pass into Hungary—and Germany. And we meanwhile live in strife and enmity among ourselves. The Kings of France and England are at war; the princes of Germany have leapt to arms against one another; Spain is seldom at peace, Italy never wins repose from conflicts for alien lordship. How much better to turn our arms against the enemies of our faith! It devolves upon you, Holy Father, to unite the kings and princes, and urge them to gather together to take counsel for the safety of the Christian world."
A vain idea, inappropriate to the conditions of the age, but which was to hover in the air for many years to come and inspire abundance of useless talk and empty negotiations! The urgent words of Aeneas and a letter of the Emperor roused the Pope to an action which neither of them had contemplated; he issued a bull imposing a tithe for a war against the infidel,—thus, as Aeneas himself owned, seeking to cure one evil by another.
The chief interest perhaps of the efforts made by Nicholas and his successors to bring about an European peace, for the sake of driving back the Turk and recovering Constantinople, lies in the measure which they suggest of the distance which the world had travelled since the age of the Crusades. In the eleventh and in the twelfth, even in the thirteenth century, a religious sentiment could stir the princes and the peoples of Europe to go forth, not to avert a danger, but to rescue a holy place of pilgrimage. But in the fifteenth, though the unbeliever had won his way into Europe, had reached the Danube and threatened the Adriatic, the imminent danger to Christendom left Christendom lukewarm. Except religious zeal, there was no force which could compel an European effort. With the growth of "humanism" the old kind of religious enthusiasm had passed away. Pope Nicholas himself illustrated the change of things since the days of Urban II, when, at the very time of his proclaiming a Crusade, he privately sent agents to the East, to rescue from the deluge all Greek manuscripts they could lay hands on.
There were however special reasons, besides the general lukewarmness, that accounted for the failure of the first papal efforts. Nothing could be effectually done without the co-operation of Venice; and Venice, as we saw, made on her own account an advantageous treaty with Mohammad. The Emperor, who professed to support the idea of a Crusade, was hindered from energetic action by his ill relations with Hungary. The demand for money, which might have enabled the Pope to organise an armament, was highly unpopular. And not the least serious impediment was the intolerance which divided the Catholics from the Greek Church, and prevented them from feeling any true pity for the forlorn prospects of their fellow-Christians in Greece and Servia, or any sincere desire to save them. It was futile for Aeneas Sylvius to say that the Greeks were not heretics, but only schismatics; they were generally regarded as worse than infidels. The only prince who might have been ready to make sacrifices, if any common action had been organised, was Duke Philip of Burgundy. In the spring of 1454 a diet was held at Ratisbon, but the essential business was deferred to a second diet at Frankfort in the autumn; and it came to a third at Wienerisch-Neustadt (February, 1455). Aeneas Sylvius was persuasive and eloquent; but the meetings had no result. At the two later diets the appeals of John of Capistrano produced a sensation from which much was hoped. Like Peter the Hermit, he possessed the faculty of stirring the common folk in open-air assemblies. On the death of Pope Nicholas, the papal chair was filled by a Spaniard, Calixtus III (March, 1455), who seemed to have no less burning zeal for the holy war than John of Capistrano and Aeneas himself. He made a solemn vow to dedicate all his strength to the recovery of Constantinople and to the extermination of the "devilish sect" of Mohammad. For three and a half years he wrought and hoped, but with all his efforts could do no more than send a few ducats to Scanderbeg, or float a few galleys to harass the shores of the eastern Aegean. He was succeeded by Aeneas Sylvius, under the name of Pius II (August, 1458). While the West had been talking, Mohammad had been advancing; and in a great Council, assembled with much trouble at Mantua (1459), Pius said: "Each of his victories is the path to a new victory; he will conquer the kings of the West, abolish the Gospel, and ultimately impose the law of Mohammad on all peoples." The insincere attitude of the Venetians frustrated any results that might have been brought about by the assembly at Mantua. These fruitless diets and councils are a dull and dead page in history; but they represent the efforts of the European states to discuss the same Eastern Question which we have seen them deal with in our own day at the Congress of Berlin.
One of the most obvious policies for the western enemies of Mohammad was to enter into communication with his enemies in the orient and attempt to concert some common action. Such negotiations had been set on foot by Popes Nicholas and Calixtus. The last two sovereigns of the dynasty of the Grand Comneni of Trebizond, who were now the representatives of the Roman Empire, John IV and David, had endeavoured to organise an alliance of the principalities of Asia Minor and Armenia, and to gain the support of Persia. It was upon Uzun Hasan, prince of the Turcomans of the White Sheep, that they above all relied. In 1459 David wrote to the Duke of Burgundy announcing the conclusion of such a league, and expressing the conviction that, if east and west were to strike together now, the Ottoman could be abolished from the earth. But the league availed not David, when two years later Mohammad came to destroy the empire of Trebizond (1461), and Uzun Hasan left him in the lurch. He surrendered on the offer of favourable treatment; but he was not more fortunate than the King of Bosnia; he and his family were afterwards put to death. At the same time Mohammad seized Genoese Amastris, and likewise Sinope, an independent Seljuk state; and thus he became master of the whole southern board of the Pontic sea.
It was about this time (1460) that Pope Pius indited a most curious letter to Mohammad, proposing that the Sultan should embrace Christianity, and become, under the patronage of the Roman see, "Emperor of the Greeks and the East." A little thing, he wrote, only a drop of water, will make you the greatest of mortals; be baptised, and without money, arms, or fleet, you will win the greatest lordship in Christendom. Had this chimerical proposal been seriously meant, it would argue in Aeneas an almost incredibly fanciful and unpractical mind; but, when we find that he himself composed Mohammad's answer, we may infer that the letter was written as a rhetorical exercise, and never intended to be sent.
The prospect looked brighter in 1463, when the breach at length came between Venice and the Sultan. An offensive and defensive alliance was concluded between the Pope, Venice, and the King of Hungary; the Duke of Burgundy joined it. The co-operation of Venice seemed a security that business was meant at last. The Pope, though he was advanced in years, resolved to lead the Crusade himself; Ancona was appointed as the mustering-place; and thither streamed from all countries bands of poor and ill-furnished people, drawn by the hope of booty (1464). But neither the Venetian vessels which were to transport them to Greece, nor the princes who were to lead them, appeared; and Ancona and the whole country round about groaned under their excesses. When Pius arrived in June, he found but the remnant of a disbanded rabble; and, overcome with disappointment, this victim of an idea out of season fell ill and died.
Venice, unlike the Pope, was in contact with realities. The war had broken out in Greece by the Turkish capture of Argos, which a Greek priest betrayed. The Venetians laid siege to Corinth, and built a wall—the old "Six-mile" wall—across the Isthmus; and had they been directed by a brave and competent commander, they would have captured the key of the Morea. But, disheartened by defeat in some small engagements with Omar Pasha who had marched up from the south of the peninsula to raise the siege, they abandoned the defence of the Isthmus, before Mahmud Pasha, the grand vezir, arrived with an army from the north (1463). Their failure at this favourable tide put a term to their chances of recovering ground in the Peloponnesus. An ineffectual maritime war was prosecuted for the next six years (1464-9); and then the great blow to Venetian power was struck. At the beginning of June 1470 a fleet of 108 large galleys and nearly 200 small sail, commanded by Mahmud, set sail for the Euripus, and by land Mohammad himself led an army probably numbering about 80,000. The usual size of his armies seems to have been from 80,000 to 100,000, though they are generally set at far larger figures by the vanity of his defeated foes. The Sultan had resolved to rob Venice of her most valuable station, the strong fort of Chalcis or Egripos (which the Latins further corrupted to Negroponte, with an allusion to the bridge which connected it with the mainland). Against this great double armament Venice had nothing ready to oppose but the strength of the well-provisioned city's walls, the resolution of the inhabitants, and thirty-five galleys which were in the Aegean under Nicolò da Canale. This captain could not venture to guard the Straits against the far superior squadron; but, had he remained hard by, he might, it was thought, have effectually impeded Mohammad's construction of a bridge of boats from the mainland to the shore of the island. But he sailed away to beat up reinforcements in Crete. The siege operations lasted for four weeks. In a final storm Mohammad, apparently aided by treachery, took the city in the teeth of a desperate defence (July 12). All the Italians who survived the conflict were executed; the Greeks were enslaved. At this crisis Canale covered himself with shame. He had returned to the Euripus; his small squadron was within sight of the city; the garrison was signalling to him; and he made no effort to save the place. If he had broken the boat-bridge, as Hunyady had done at Belgrade, he would probably have rescued Negroponte; it was his plainest duty to try, and Venice punished him for his fainéance. After the fall of its bulwark, the whole island passed into Turkish hands.
The event created in the West little less consternation than the fall of Constantinople itself. Pope Paul II and old Cardinal Bessarion were fluttered; and Sixtus IV (who succeeded in 1471), in conjunction with Ferdinand of Naples, accomplished something more considerable than the western powers had yet done. They sent a number of galleys to join Pietro Mocenigo, an able seaman whom Venice had chosen captain of her fleet. At Samos in 1472 Mocenigo commanded 85 vessels, of which 48 were furnished by Venice and her dependencies, 18 by the Pope, 17 by Ferdinand, and 2 by Rhodes: an armament notable as the greatest that the combination of Christian powers at this time achieved. The Venetian admiral who had taken on board a number of Albanian stradioti conducted a war of raids with skill, swooping down and plundering Passagio, a trading-town over against Chios; burning Smyrna; pillaging the quays of Satalia, then a mart of the oriental spice-trade; helping the royal house of Cyprus. One brilliant feat was wrought by a Sicilian, who venturing into the Dardanelles with six companions fired the Turkish arsenal of Gallipoli, and expiated his daring by a cruel death. Such warfare was highly agreeable to the mercenaries who were paid on the system of receiving a part of the booty; but it was hopelessly ineffectual, and Venice recognised that war must be waged by land. The scene was shifted to Albania, where Scanderbeg's legacy had fallen to Venice. Here all turned on the possession of Scodra (Scutari), the key of Albania, which had the same kind of strategic significance as Negroponte or Acrocorinth. The Sultan was determined to secure it, and Sulayman, governor of Rumelia, laid siege to it in 1474. He was repelled by its brave defender Antonio Loredano; and the stress of need which the inhabitants endured was shown, the moment the siege was raised, by their general rush for the gates to quench their thirst in the waters of the Bojana. In 1477 the Turks renewed their designs in this quarter by besieging Kroja, and at the same time their light cavalry (akindje) harassed Venice in the north by overrunning Friuli. The garrison of Kroja, reduced to eating their dogs and receiving no aid from Venice, submitted in the ensuing year, and Mohammad advanced to the second siege of Scodra. The Venetian republic was hard pressed. In these days its yearly revenue did not touch 100,000 ducats; nor could the Venetians at this moment expect aid from other powers; Ferdinand of Naples was actually intriguing with the Turk, and Friuli was exposed to the inroads of the infidels from Bosnia; the plague was raging in the lagoons. Unable to relieve Scodra, Venice resolved to make peace and consented to hard conditions, resigning Scodra and Kroja, Negroponte, Lemnos and the Mainote district in Laconia. She agreed to pay a yearly sum of 10,000 ducats for free commerce in the Ottoman dominions, and recovered the right of keeping as before a Bailo (consul) at Constantinople (January, 1479).
This peace was agreeable neither to the Pope nor to Hungary. King Matthias Corvinus fancied that he was born and trained to be a champion against the infidel. But other occupations prevented this remarkable ruler from achieving much in this direction. His greatest feat was the capture of Szabacs, a fortress on the Save built by Mohammad (1476). He was fain to follow up this success, but wars with the Elector Albrecht of Brandenburg distracted him during the next years, and nothing further was effected until in 1479 his generals inflicted a crushing defeat upon a Turkish army in Transylvania.
Venice now held nothing on the Albanian coast but Durazzo, Antivari, and Butrinto; while the Turks, in possession of Albania, began to push forward to the Ionian Islands and Italy. Zante, Cephalonia, and Santa Maura belonged to the Neapolitan family of Tocco, with the title of "Count of Cephalonia and Duke of Leucadia." Mohammad seized these three islands (1479); but an agreement in 1485 gave Zante to Venice, who paid a tribute for it to the Porte.
The condition of Italy at this juncture allured Mohammad across the Adriatic. The King of Naples was at war with Florence and was nursing ambitious designs of making himself lord of all Italy, and Venice watched his proceedings with the deepest suspicion. It is a disputed question whether Venice urged the Ottoman Sultan (as successor to the Byzantine emperors) to lay claim to southern Italy; but at all events in 1480 Mohammad sent an armament under Kedyk Ahmad, and Otranto fell at once. The commandant and the archbishop were sawn in two—the favourite Ottoman mode of intimidation at this time. From the surrounding land some people were transported as slaves to Albania. But the Turks made no progress. Want of provisions hampered them, and presently Ferdinand arrived with an army and confined the invaders to Otranto. But help was urgently needed; for it was known that the Sultan would come himself next year with an overwhelming force. Except a few troops and galleys sent from Spain by Ferdinand the Catholic, no help came. The situation was, however, unexpectedly saved. Mohammad's attention was diverted by the more pressing necessity of conquering Rhodes; and then his sudden death delivered Rhodes and Italy alike.
Throughout the years of the Venetian war Mohammad had been busy and fortunate elsewhere, in the east and in the north. Of the small principalities which had sprung up after the collapse of the Seljuk power in Asia Minor, only that of Caramania (Lycaonia and Isauria with parts of Galatia, Cappadocia, and Cilicia) still remained independent. The death of its lord, Ibrahim (1463), was followed by a war among his sons, which gave Mohammad an opportunity. The capture of Konia (Iconium) and Caraman (Laranda) secured him the rule of the whole land except Seleucia on the south-eastern coast, and he assigned this important province, which he systematically dispeopled, to his youngest son Mustafa. This conquest, following upon that of Trebizond, brought on the inevitable struggle with the rival oriental monarch, Uzun Hasan the Turcoman. He had extended his sovereignty from the Oxus to the limits of Caramania, and a large part of Persia was under his dominion. Caramania was a useful "buffer-State." Uzun Hasan wrote to Mohammad demanding the cession of Trebizond and Cappadocia, and complaining of the execution of King David Comnenus. Mohammad promised to meet him at the head of an army. The Turcoman invaded Caramania to restore the dethroned princes and took Tokat (1471); but in the next year Mustafa defeated him in a hard-fought battle by the shores of Lake Caralis. The decisive battle was fought in 1473 (July 26) on the banks of the Euphrates near Terdshan. Mustafa and his brother Bayazid led each a wing of their father's army, and were opposed respectively to the two sons of Uzun Hasan. The strife swayed long, before it was decided by the Ottoman artillery. Mohammad wrote himself: "the fight was bloody, costing me the bravest of my pashas and many soldiers; without my artillery, which terrified the Persian horses, the issue would have been longer doubtful." The significance of this victory, of which Mohammad probably thought more than of all his achievements except the capture of Constantinople, lay in its securing Caramania and Asia Minor. He was now free to follow out his schemes of conquest in Europe.
The Roumanians north of the Danube had long ago been entangled in the ecumenical struggle. Mirtschea the Great, prince of Wallachia, who by astute diplomacy steered his way between Hungary and Poland, had fought for Christendom in the disastrous battles of Kosovo (1389) and Nicopolis (1396), but was obliged to submit to the suzerainty of Mohammad I (1412). After his death civil wars between pretenders desolated and demoralised the principality for forty years, until (1456) a strong man came to the helm in the person of Vlad IV. The princes of Wallachia and of Moldavia were elected by the people out of the princely families; but they had unlimited power, being the supreme judges, with control over the life and death of their subjects, and the complete disposal of the public revenue. Thus only a steely-hearted, resolute man was wanted to restore order; and Vlad accomplished this by a policy of relentless severity which has handed him down to history under the name of the Devil or the Impaler. Having assured his throne and established friendly relations with his neighbours Moldavia and Hungary, he defied the Turk by refusing the tribute of children which Wallachia paid like other subject-lands. Mohammad sent an envoy, Hamza Pasha, accompanied by 2000 men, with secret instructions to seize Vlad's person. But the Wallachian overreached them, and impaled them all; then crossing the Danube, he laid waste the Turkish territory. In 1462 Mohammad arrived at the head of an army, bringing with him Radu, Vlad's brother, to take the place of the latter. Like Darius, he sent a fleet of transports to the Danube to carry the army across. Vlad withdrew his forces into the deep oak-forests, which formed a natural fortification. One night he penetrated in disguise into the Turkish camp, hoping to slay Mohammad; but he mistook the tent of a general for that of the Sultan. By his address and boldness he seems to have inflicted a serious repulse on the invaders; but he was presently attacked on the other side by Stephen, the prince of Moldavia. After his divided army had sustained a double defeat, he fled to Hungary, and his brother Radu was enthroned by the Turks.
The stress of the struggle now devolved upon the northern principality of Moldavia, and there too a strong man had arisen. In 1456 Peter Aron gave tribute to the Turk, but this prince was overthrown in the following year by Stephen the Great. At first Stephen did not rise to his role of a champion against the unbelievers. He set his desire on securing the fortress of Kilia (near the mouth of the Danube) which belonged to Hungary and Wallachia in common, and he actually urged Mohammad's invasion. But he failed to win Kilia at this moment, and his capture of it three years later, when Wallachia belonged to the Turk, was an act of hostility to Mohammad. Five years later he invaded Wallachia, dethroned Radu, and set up in his stead La'iot, a member of the Bassarab family which has given its name to Bessarabia. At this time Mohammad was occupied with other things, but the conflict would come sooner or later, and Stephen stirred himself to knit alliances and form combinations to east and to west. He was in communication with Venice, with the Pope, with Uzun Hasan. The victory of Terdshan left Mohammad free to throw an army into Moldavia under the command of Sulayman Pasha. Stephen, reinforced by contingents sent by the Kings of Poland and Hungary, gained at Racova (on the Birlad stream) a great victory—the glory of his reign—which entitles him to a place near Hunyady and Scanderbeg (1475). But a new element was brought into the situation in the same year by the simultaneous expedition which was sent against the Genoese settlements of the Crimea. Caffa capitulated—40,000 inhabitants were sent to Constantinople; and its fall was followed by the surrender of Tana (Azov) and the other stations. Mohammad could now launch the Tartars of this region against Moldavia on the flank; and next year (1476) this befell. Unassisted by Poland or Hungary, who were each suspicious of his relations with the other; attacked by the Wallachian prince whom he had himself enthroned; assailed on the other side by the Tartars,—Stephen was worsted with great loss by a Turkish army led by the Sultan, who had come to avenge the shame of Racova, in a forest glade which is called the Place of Battles (Rasboieni). But he rallied, and Mohammad retired without subduing the country. Eight years after this the Turks seized the two fortress-keys of Moldavia—Kilia and Tschetatea Alba (1484). Before his death, Stephen made a vain attempt to form an East-European league against the infidel—embracing Moscow and Lithuania, Poland and Hungary. But his experience convinced him that the struggle was hopeless, and on his death-bed (1504) the advice which he gave to his son Bogdan was to submit to the Turkish power. On the accession of the Sultan Selim (1512) Moldavia submitted, paying a yearly sum to the Porte, but keeping the right of freely electing her own princes.
The war with Venice and the struggle with Uzun Hasan had hindered Mohammad from concentrating his forces upon the subjugation of Rhodes, where the Knights of St John maintained an outpost of Christendom. On the conclusion of the Venetian peace he began preparations for a serious attack on Rhodes, and in 1480 Masih Pasha sailed with a considerable fleet and laid siege to the town. The whole of Europe had been aware that the blow was coming, and much had been done to meet it. The defence devolved upon the Grand-Master of the Order, Peter d'Aubusson, a man "endued with a martial soul," who had learned "the mappes, the mathematicks," as well as the art of war, "but history was his principal study." The Turks were aided by the local knowledge of a German renegade, and their guns, of immense size for that age, created a sensation. They had sixteen bombards, 64 inches long, throwing stone shot 9 and 11 inches in diameter. But the siege lasted two months, before they forced an entry into the outer parts of the city. In the terrible mellay which ensued the valour of the knights pressed the Turks backward, and at this moment, when the chance of success depended on heartening the troops to recover their lost ground, Masih Pasha, in foolish confidence that the day was won, issued an order that no soldier should touch the booty, since the treasures belonged to the Sultan. Thus deprived of a motive for fighting, the Turks fled to their camp, and their general raised the leaguer. But, after this shame dealt to his arms, Mohammad could not let the island continue to defy him. He equipped another armament and resolved to lead it in person. But even as he started he fell sick and death overtook him (May 3, 1481): an event which, as it proved, meant a respite of forty years to the Latin lords of Rhodes. The deeds of Mohammad show best what manner of man he was: a conqueror who saw in conquest the highest statesmanship, but who also knew how to consolidate and organise, and how to adapt the principles of Islam to political dealings with Christian States. We have portraits of him painted both by pen and brush. Contrary to the precepts of his religion, he had his picture painted by Gentile Bellini, and is the first great Mohammadan sovereign of whose outward appearance we have such evidence. The pale, bearded face, set on a short, thick neck, was marked by a broad forehead, raised eyebrows, and an eagle nose.
The situation and prospects of the Ottoman empire seemed changed on the death of the conqueror. The prosperity and growth of that empire depended wholly on the personality of the autocrat who ruled it; and the two sons whom Mohammad left behind were made in a different mould from their vigorous father. Bayazid the elder, who was governor of the province of Amasia, was a man of mild nature who cared for the arts of peace, and would have been well contented to rest upon the conquests which had been already achieved, and to enjoy the fruits of the labours of his fathers. Jem, governor of Caramania, was a bright, clever youth, endowed with a distinguished poetical talent; he might easily have been lured into a career of military ambition, but perhaps he hardly possessed the strength and steadfastness necessary for success. When Bayazid reached Constantinople, on the news of his father's death, he found that the Janissaries had begun a reign of terror in the city. They had slain the Grand Vezir, who, being disposed to espouse the cause of Jem, had, according to a common practice in such cases, concealed the Sultan's death; and they had plundered the habitations of the Jews and Christians. They favoured the claims of Bayazid, and were tranquillised when they had exacted from him a pardon for their outbreak and an increase of their pay. Meanwhile Jem—who claimed the throne on the ground that, though the younger, he was born in the purple—had advanced to Brusa, and was there proclaimed Sultan. But he was willing to compromise. Through his great-aunt he made a proposal to Bayazid that they should divide the empire—Bayazid to rule in Europe, and he in Asia. The question at stake was not merely a personal one, the extent of Bayazid's sovereignty, but the integrity and power of the Ottoman empire. Moreover, it involved a direct violation of one of the fundamental canons of Islam: that there shall be only one supreme Imam. Bayazid's decision accordingly influenced the history of the world. He refused to accept Jem's offer; "the empire," he said, "is the bride of one lord." The rival claims were settled by the award of battle in the plains of Yenishehr, where the treachery of some of Jem's troops gave the victory to Bayazid. The defeated brother fled to Cairo, and his attempt in the following year to seize Caramania in conjunction with an exiled prince of that country was repelled. Then he sought refuge at Rhodes; his chances of success lay in the help of the Christian powers of Europe.
Jem arrived at Rhodes under a safe-conduct from the Grand-Master and the Council of the Knights, permitting him and his suite to remain in the island and leave it at their will. But it was soon felt that it was not safe to keep the precious person of the prince at Rhodes, so near the realm of Bayazid, who was ready to resort to any foul means of seizing or destroying him; and Jem and the Grand-Master agreed that France would be the best retreat, pending the efforts which they hoped would be made to restore him. To France, accordingly, Jem sailed (September, 1482). After his departure, the Knights concluded first a treaty of peace with Bayazid for the Sultan's lifetime, and secondly a contract by which he agreed to pay them 45,000 ducats a year, in return for which the Grand-Master undertook to maintain and guard Jem in such a way as to cause no inconvenience to the Sultan. In an age when the violation of engagements was regarded as justifiable, and was even in certain cases recommended by the heads of the Church, there is no more shameless instance of perfidy than this. D'Aubusson had guaranteed Jem his freedom, and undertaken to espouse his cause; he now took Bayazid's money to be Jem's jailor. His conduct could not even be defended on the plea of the interests of religion, which in those days were often furthered by dishonesty and bad faith; on the contrary, it was a treachery to the cause of Christendom, to which Jem's ambitions—according to the letters which D'Aubusson himself wrote to the western powers—furnished so unique an opportunity against its foe. For six years Jem was kept a prisoner in France, being constantly removed from one castle to another by his Rhodian guards, and making repeated attempts to escape which were always frustrated; while the Pope, the King of Naples, and the King of Hungary were each seeking to induce D'Aubusson to deliver the prince into his hands. At length Innocent VIII came to an arrangement. The concession of various privileges, and a cardinal's hat for D'Aubusson, persuaded the Knights, who were already anxious to rid themselves of a charge which involved them in troublesome relations with both Bayazid and the Sultan of Egypt. Another series of negotiations was required to obtain from Charles VIII permission for Jem to leave France; and not till March 1489 did the Turkish prince arrive at Rome. Pope Alexander VI, who succeeded Innocent in 1492, and who was threatened by the invasion of Charles VIII, affected the most friendly relations with Bayazid and had recourse to him for money and other support. In 1494 the document containing this Pope's instructions to his envoy, together with letters from Bayazid, was intercepted at Sinigaglia, in the possession of Turkish envoys who had landed at Ancona and were on their way to Rome. The compromising papers were taken to Charles VIII at Florence, and the Pope's treachery to Christendom was exposed. One of the Sultan's communications to the Pope is significant. Considering—wrote Bayazid in Latin, a language with which he was well acquainted—that sooner or later Jem must die, it would be well, for the tranquillity of his Holiness and the satisfaction of the Sultan, to hasten a death which for him would be life; and therefore he implored the Pope to remove Jem from the vexations of this life and send him to a better world. For the dead body of the prince he promised 300,000 ducats, with which the Pope might buy estates for his sons. Charles VIII advanced to Rome, and the terms which he made with Alexander VI comprised the transference of Jem into his own power. Jem accompanied the King southward, but he was in ailing health, and at Capua became so ill that he could go no further. He was taken in a litter to Naples, and died there in high fever (February, 1495). The Venetians, who were the first to inform the Sultan of his brother's end, wrote in a pointed way that he had died a natural death; but, as it was their policy at this moment to keep on good terms with the Pope, this testimony does not weigh much in deciding the question whether, as was certainly believed at the time, Jem's health was undermined by a deliberate system of intoxication. The insufficiency of our material compels us to leave the question open; but the circumstances are at least suspicious, and in any case the French were innocent.
Thus for thirteen years the western powers held Jem as a menace over the head of the Turkish Sultan; but this singular episode did not affect the course of Turkish history. A second ruler like Bayazid, Machiavelli thought, would have rendered the Ottoman power innocuous to Europe. The temper of the man was displayed at once not only by the abandonment of the Rhodian expedition, but by a reduction of tribute granted to Ragusa, and by a modification in Venice's favour of the treaty which had recently been concluded with that republic (1482). His reign was marked indeed by raids on Croatia and the Dalmatian coast, by intermittent hostilities with Hungary, by incursions into Moldavia and even into Poland; but the only serious war was with Venice, which broke out in 1499 after twenty years of peace. In that interval the republic had acquired the island of Cyprus (1489) and extended her influence in the Aegean, and the Sultan at last deemed it time to check her course. Active naval preparations in the Turkish arsenals stirred the alarm of Venice; but the Porte lulled her suspicions by furnishing her envoy, Andrea Zancani, with a document which renewed and confirmed the peace. An experienced Venetian resident at Constantinople, Andrea Gritti by name, well acquainted with Turkish methods, pointed out to Zancani that the document was drawn up in Latin, not in Turkish, and was therefore not considered binding by the Porte; but Zancani, unable to induce the Porte to give him a new deed in Turkish, omitted to explain the matter to the authorities at home. Gritti's surmises were true. Suddenly the Sultan threw him and all the other Venetians at Constantinople into prison, and presently sent forth a fleet of 270 sail. Its destination was Lepanto. It was intercepted by a Venetian squadron of about half that strength, hastily got together, off the coast of Messenia; but the brave seaman Antonio Loredano failed in his attack and perished himself. Besieged by land and sea, Lepanto fell; and, after its fall, the Turks made a terrible incursion, through Carniola and Friuli, into the Venetian territory, advancing as far as Vicenza. The next object of Bayazid was to drive Venice out of the Morea; and when she sued for peace he demanded the cession of Modon, Coron, and Nauplia. To this she would not consent; but in the following year Modon was besieged by Bayazid himself, and the garrison, seeing that they could not hold out, set the place on fire and perished in the flames. Hereupon Coron, Navarino, and Aegina capitulated, and nothing was left to the republic but Nauplia, which boldly and successfully defied the foe. But the Venetian fleet suddenly bestirred itself, recaptured Aegina, and, reinforced by a Spanish armament under the greatest captain of the day, Gonzalo of Cordova, conquered Cephalonia. These successes were followed up by neither side in 1501; and when Venice conquered Santa Maura in 1502, a peace ensued. Santa Maura was given back; Cephalonia remained to Venice; Lepanto and the places captured in the Morea were kept by Turkey. In the same year in which this peace was concluded (1503) a treaty for seven years was made between the Porte and Hungary; this was intended to include all the powers of Europe—France and England, Spain, Portugal, and Naples, the Pope and the various States of Italy, Rhodes and Chios, Poland, and Moldavia.
From this moment for the next seventeen years Europe had some respite from the Eastern Question. There was incessant fear of what the Turk might do next, incessant talk of resisting him, incessant negotiations against him; but there was no actual war; almost no Christian territory was won for Islam, and no Christian territory won back for Europe. The attention of the Sultan was drawn eastward; where he had to reckon with a new power; for the lordship of Persia had once more changed hands. The decline of the Turcomans of the White Sheep was clearly shown in the circumstance that on the death of Uzun Hasan nine dynasts (not to speak of rival claimants) succeeded in twenty-four years. Murad, the last of these, succumbed to the power of Ismail, a sheikh of Ardabil, who traced his descent to the Prophet. The decisive battle was fought at Shurur in 1502; and, from his new-won capital at Tavriz, Ismail advanced to the conquest of Persia and Khorasan. The history of modern Persia begins with Ismail, the first Shah—the first of the Safavid dynasty which endured till the middle of the eighteenth century (1736). He called himself a Safavi, from Safi, an ancestor illustrious for piety; and hence to contemporary Europe he was known as the Sofi.
A collision between the new Persian power and the Turks was rendered inevitable by religious fanaticism. To orthodox Sunnites like the Ottomans, the heresy of the Shiites is more obnoxious than the infidelity of the Giaours, who are altogether outside the pale; and, when Bayazid discovered that the Shiite doctrines were being propagated and taking root in certain parts of his Asiatic dominion, he took steps to check the evil by transporting suspected persons to Greece. The Shah Ismail then came forward as the protector of the Shiites, and called upon the Turkish Sultan to allow adherents of that belief to leave his realm. But, though the Shah is said to have insulted the Sultan by giving the name of Bayazid to a fattened swine, war did not break out in Bayazid's days. The Persian monarch showed his anticipation of trouble by entering into negotiations with the western powers, as Uzun Hasan had done before; and a Persian embassy was welcomed at Venice though the Signory openly declared that there was no intention of breaking the peace: two years before they had given up Alessio in Albania, in order to avoid a breach.
On the side of the south too, Bayazid's dominions had been threatened. The Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, Sayf ad-Din (1468-95), had espoused the cause of Jem, to whose mother he had given an asylum; had interfered in the affairs of Sulkadr, a small Turcoman lordship in Cappadocia; and had asserted authority in the regions of Lesser Armenia,—even as in ancient days the Ptolemies had thrown out an arm to grasp Cilicia. Tarsus, Adana, and other places passed under Egyptian rule, and in 1485 war openly broke out between the Mamluk and the Ottoman Sultans. An important victory was won by the Egyptian in 1488; but a peace was patched up in 1491, and lasted during the rest of Bayazid's reign.
The tremendous earthquake which sent a thrill through the world in 1509 laid Constantinople in ruins; the Sultan himself fled to Hadrianople. But an oriental autocrat in those days could rebuild quickly; and with a host of workmen, worthy of a Pharaoh or a Babylonian King, Bayazid restored the city in a few months. The last days of the old Sultan were embittered by the rebellion and rivalry of his sons, Ahmad, Corcud, and Selim. He destined Ahmad as his successor, and thought of abdicating the throne in his favour; but Selim, a man of action and resolution, was determined that this should not be. From the province of Trebizond of which he was the governor, he marched to Europe at the head of an army, and appearing at the gates of Hadrianople, demanded to be assigned an European province. He wished to be near the scene of action when the moment came. He demanded too that his father should not abdicate in favour of Ahmad. Both demands were agreed to. But at this juncture news arrived that Corcud had revolted; and thereupon Selim seized Hadrianople. This was too much. His sire took the field and defeated him in a battle; and he fled for refuge to the Crimea. But the cause of Ahmad was not won. The Janissaries, whose hearts had been captivated by the bold stroke of Selim, broke out in mutiny and riot when Ahmad drew nigh to take possession of the throne, and were pacified only by a pledge from Bayazid that this design should not be carried out. Ahmad thereupon sought to get Asia Minor into his power; Corcud intrigued at the same time for his own hand; and finally, in the spring of 1512, Selim advanced from the Crimea to the Danube, and, supported by the Janissaries who would brook no opposition, forced Bayazid to abdicate (April 25). A month later the old Sultan died, poisoned, it can hardly be questioned, by order of his son. It was not to be expected that Ahmad would submit; he seized Brusa; but Selim crossed over to Asia, drove him eastward, and deprived him of the governorship of Amasia. Next year Ahmad made another attempt, but was defeated in battle at Yenishehr and executed. Corcud had not dared to take the field; but in consequence of his intrigues he was likewise put to death. The next victims were the Sultan's nephews, children of other brothers who had died in the lifetime of their father. Thus Selim put into practice a ruthless law which had been enacted by the policy of Mohammad II, that it was lawful for a Sultan, in the interests of the unity of the realm, which was the first condition of its prosperity, to do his brothers and their children to death.
The spirit of Selim I was very different from that of his father. He was resolved to resume the old paths of forward policy from which the studious temper of Bayazid had digressed, and to follow in the way of Mohammad the Conqueror. Yet he was also unlike his grandfather. He revelled in war and death; all his deeds seem prompted rather by instinct than by policy. Mohammad seems almost genial beside this gloomy and restless soul. Selim the Grim delighted in cruelty, but he was extremely moderate in pleasure; like his father and uncle he was highly cultivated. He raised the pay of the Janissaries,—this was the meed of their support; but he soon showed that he was resolved to be their master. The truth is that the Janissaries were an institution ill compatible with a peace policy; amenable to the discipline of war, they were a perpetual danger for a pacific ruler.
The collisions with Persia and Egypt, which menaced the reign of Bayazid, actually came to pass after the accession of Selim. The Shah, Ismail, had given an asylum to the sons of Ahmad, and had made an incursion into the eastern districts of the Ottoman Empire (1513). But the fundamental cause of the Persian war was religious antagonism; it was a struggle between the great Sunnite and the great Shiite power. It was stamped with this character by a sweeping act of persecution on the part of Selim, who, seizing 40,000 Shiites, killed some and imprisoned others; and the mutual attitude of the rival superstitions was shown in a high-flown letter which Selim, when he took the field (1514), indited to his enemy. He marched into the dominions of Ismail, and the decisive battle was fought in the plain of Chaldiran, lying further east than the field which had seen the struggle of Mohammad with Uzun Hasan. The Ottomans were again successful; on this occasion too their superiority in artillery told; and Tavriz fell into the hands of Selim. In the following year Sulkadr was annexed; and in 1516 Northern Mesopotamia (including among other cities Amida, Nisibis, Dara, and Edessa) was conquered and became a province of the Ottoman Empire.
This conquest led to designs on Syria and Egypt, a sufficient pretext being found in the alliance between the old Mamluk Sultan Kansuh Ghuri and the Shah Ismail. The Mamluk army awaited the invader at Aleppo; and Selim, here again conspicuously superior in artillery, won a victory which decided the fate of Syria (1516). The old Sultan's successor Tumanbeg was defeated in an equally disastrous battle at Reydaniya near Cairo (January, 1517). Thus Syria and Egypt were brought once more under the authority of the lords of Constantinople, to remain so actually or formally till the present day. The conquest of Egypt was followed by the submission of Arabia to the Sultan's sway.
The same year which saw the conquest of the Nile country witnessed an important exaltation of the dignity of the Ottoman ruler. The Ottoman princes had been originally Emirs under the Seljuks, and, even after they had become the strongest power of the Mohammadan world, though they might demean themselves as Caliphs, they had no legal claim to be considered its heads. It is one of the fundamental principles of Islam that all Muslims shall be governed by a single Imam, and that Imam must be a member of the Koreish, the tribe of the Prophet. At this time the Imamship was in the hands of a shadow, Mohammad Abu Jafar of the race of Hashim, who kept up the semblance of a court at Cairo. The last of the Caliphs of the Abbasid line, he resigned the caliphate to the Sultan Selim. This formal transference is the basis of the claims of the Sultans of Turkey to be the Imams or supreme rulers of Islam, though they have not a drop of Koreish blood in their veins. The translation of the Caliphate was confirmed by the recognition which Selim received at the same time from the Sherif of Mecca, who sent him the keys of the Kaaba, thus designating him as the protector of the Holy Places.
The Imam, according to the Ottoman code of Mohammadan law, has authority to watch over the maintenance of the laws and the execution of punishments; to defend the frontier and repress rebels; to raise armies and levy tribute; to celebrate public prayer on Fridays and in Bairam; to judge the people; to marry minors of both sexes who have no natural guardians; and to divide the spoils of war. He is thus supreme legislator and judge, the religious head of the State, the commander-in-chief, and he possesses absolute control of the finances. His ecumenical authority rests on a verse of the Koran: whoever dies without acknowledging the authority of the Imam of his day is dead in ignorance. The Imam must be visible to men; he cannot lurk in a cave like the Mahdi, for whose coming the heretical Shiites look. It is discreetly provided that the Imam need not be just or virtuous, or the most eminent man of his time; it is requisite only that he should be able to enforce the law, defend the frontiers, and sustain the oppressed. Moreover the wickedness and tyranny of an Imam would not necessitate or justify his deposition.
The brilliant conquests of Selim in the East alarmed the powers of the West; "returning powerful and proud," such a monarch as he was a terrible menace to Europe. Leo X had thrown himself with zeal into the project of a Crusade; for the experience of sixty years of futilities had not killed that idea. In 1517 he issued a bull imposing a truce of five years on Christendom, in order that the princes of Europe might march against the Infidels. His hopes rested chiefly on the young French King, Francis I, who, after the victory of Marignano, had met him at Bologna and discussed with him the Eastern Question. A letter of Francis, written soon after that interview, breathes the spirit of a knight-errant dedicating his youth and strength to a holy war. But though Francis was in earnest, religious enthusiasm was not his moving inspiration or his guiding idea. His project was that the three great powers of Europe—the Empire, France, and Spain—should conquer the Turkish realm and divide it amongst them in three equal parts. Thus the Eastern Question began to enter upon its modern phase—assuming a political rather than a religious aspect; and the significance of the oriental policy of Francis I was that he definitely formulated the doctrine, now a commonplace of politics, that Turkey is a spoil to be parted among the great powers of Europe. The new conception of the French King was indeed more likely to lead to practical results than had been the arguments of Aeneas Sylvius and his successors; and the Emperor Maximilian composed a memoir of suggestions on the conduct of the proposed war. But his death in 1519 changed the situation, disconcerting the plan of the European powers; and the favourable hour for a common enterprise against the Turk had passed. Men were indeed still painfully afraid of the designs of the formidable Sultan. The logic of geography determined that after the acquisition of Egypt the next enterprise of Selim should be the conquest of Rhodes, which lay right in the track of communication between Egypt and Constantinople. He made preparations accordingly for the destruction of the "dogs" of Rhodes. But when his fleet and army were ready, he was smitten down by the plague (September 21, 1520), having in his short reign done as much as any of the Sultans for the extension and prestige of the Ottoman empire.
On his death Europe, full of apprehensions for the fate of Rhodes, breathed securely; but the feeling of relief was premature. The rumour had spread that his son and successor was, in complete contrast to his father, of a quiet unaggressive nature, and might prove another Bayazid. But these auguries were ill-based; for the youth who mounted the throne was Solyman (Sulayman) the Lawgiver—known to the West as Solyman the Magnificent, in whose reign Turkey climbed to the summit of its power and glory. He was as strong as his father, a soldier as well as a statesman; but his mind was well balanced; he felt none of Selim's grim delight in war and butchery. Perhaps no contemporary sovereign in Christendom was so unfeignedly desirous or so sincerely resolute to administer evenhanded justice as Solyman. His reign began without bloodshed; he was lucky enough to have no brother or nephew to remove; the only trouble was a rebellion in Syria, which was promptly crushed.
The wave which had flowed eastward under Selim turns westward again under Solyman. He had been viceroy in Europe during his father's absence in the orient, and he had occasion to observe the intolerable situation on the north-western frontier, where there was continuous friction with the Hungarian kingdom. On this side he could not feel safe, so long as the key-fortresses of Belgrade and Szabacs were in the hands of the Hungarians; these places must be captured whether as a base for further advance or as the bulwarks of a permanent frontier. Envoys were sent to King Louis demanding tribute; he replied by murdering the envoys. When this news arrived, the Sultan's thought was to march straight on Buda; but his military advisers pointed out that he could not leave Szabacs in his rear. The operations on the Save were protracted during the whole summer (1521). Szabacs was taken under the eye of the Sultan himself, and a few days later Semlin was captured by his generals. But Solyman was compelled to recognise that Belgrade must also be secured, and after a difficult siege it was taken, through treachery. Solyman kept a diary of the campaign so that we can read his doings day by day. Other fortresses, such as Slankamen and Mitrovic, fell into his hands; and thus the gates of Hungary were fully unlocked, whenever he chose to pass in. As yet he did not press on to Buda. A more urgent task lay before him in another quarter,—the conquest of Rhodes.
Where Mohammad had failed, his great-grandson was to succeed. Belgrade had fallen, Rhodes was now to fall. The pirate-ships of the Rhodian Knights were a pest to the eastern waters of the archipelago and the Asiatic coasts; and not only was it imperative for the Sultan that his line of communication with Egypt should be cleared of the corsair nest, but it was in the interest of public order that the island should be annexed to the Turkish realm. The lords of Rhodes had to depend entirely on themselves, without aid from the west. The first principle of Venetian policy at this time was to keep on good terms with the Turk. The Signory had congratulated Selim on his conquests, and had transferred to him the tribute for Cyprus previously paid by them to the Sultan of Egypt. They had congratulated Solyman on his accession, and of all foreigners they had the most advantageous commercial position in the Ottoman realm. They were therefore careful to lend no countenance to Rhodes. In summer 1522 the main army of the Turks under Solyman himself marched across Asia Minor to the Carian coast, and a fleet of about 300 ships carried select troops. In all, the Turkish army was about 200,000 strong, including 60,000 miners from Wallachia and Bosnia. The Grand-Master, L'Isle Adam, had made all possible preparations. An iron chain locked the harbour; and outside it a boom of timber floated from the windmill tower at the north-east point of the harbour to Fort St Nicholas, which stood at the end of a mole on the north-west side. The houses beyond the walls were demolished, to deprive the foe of shelter and supply stones for new defences. The precaution was taken of removing the slaves from the powdermills; freemen were set to work there day and night. The first great assault (in September) was repelled with such enormous loss, that Solyman resigned himself to the tactics of wearying the garrison out. In December, as the ammunition of the besieged was failing, the Grand-Master agreed to surrender. Free departure within ten days was conceded to all the Latin Knights; any who chose to remain in the island were to be free from taxes for five years, were not to be subject to the child-tribute, and were to enjoy free exercise of their religion. Hostages were exchanged, and Solyman withdrew his army some miles from the walls to allow the garrison to depart in peace. But it was hard to keep the Turkish troops under control, and on Christmas-day a body of soldiers burst in and sacked the city. The majority of the Knights sought refuge in Crete, to find eight years later an abiding home in Malta.
By the capture of the two bulwarks of Christendom which had defied the conqueror of Constantinople, the young Sultan established his fame. Belgrade and Rhodes fallen, as Pope Adrian wrote, "the passages to Hungary, Sicily, and Italy lie open to him." There was as much cause for alarm in the west as there had been on the captures of Negroponte and Scodra. But the conqueror could not immediately follow up his victories. Now, as often, events in the eastern dominions of the Sultan procured a respite for his western neighbours. A revolt in Egypt and disquiet in Asia Minor claimed Solyman's attention, and not till the fourth year after the fall of Rhodes could he march on Buda, "to pluck up" in the words of a Turkish historian "the strong-rooted tree of evil unbelief from its place beside the rose-bed of Islam." Sooner or later, this expedition was inevitable; but it may have been hastened by a year or two through the action of one of the Christian powers.
After the sudden disaster of Pavia (February, 1525) Francis I, a captive in his enemy's hands, looked abroad for succour, and the only European power he could discern strong enough to bear effectual help was the Turk, to whose extirpation he had devoted himself some years before. No scruple was felt in appealing to the common foe. The French King's mother dispatched an ambassador to Solyman with rich presents; but in passing through Bosnia he and his companions were slain and robbed by the sanjak-beg. A second envoy, with a letter written by the King himself in his captivity at Madrid, suggesting that the Sultan should attack the King of Hungary, arrived safely at Constantinople. Without committing himself Solyman returned a gracious answer in this style:
"I who am the Sultan of Sultans, the Sovereign of Sovereigns, the distributor of crowns to the monarchs of the surface of the globe, the shadow of God on the earth, the Sultan and Padishah of the White Sea, the Black Sea, Rumelia, Anatolia, Caramania, Rum, Sulkadr, Diarbekr, Kurdistan, Azerbijan, Persia, Damascus, Aleppo, Cairo, Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, all Arabia, Yemen, and other countries which my noble ancestors (may God brighten their tombs) conquered and which my august majesty has likewise conquered with my flaming sword, Sultan Sulayman Khan, son of Sultan Selim, son of Sultan Bayazid; you who are Francis, King of France, you have sent a letter to my Porte the refuge of sovereigns"; then he heartens the captive, and observes, "night and day our horse is saddled, and our sword girt on."
This was the first embassy of a French King to the Porte, the beginning of France's oriental politics. It was naturally the interest of the Sultan to cultivate friendly relations with the western neighbours of Germany and the Empire. But Francis hardly looked beyond the immediate emergency; and at the beginning of 1526, when he won his freedom by the treaty of Madrid, he undertook to help the Emperor in an expedition against the Turks. The efforts of the Popes meanwhile to organise a Crusade had failed, as before. Adrian had proclaimed a holy truce for three years; the Minorites had dreamed of an army of crusaders furnished by all the monasteries of Europe "for the confusion and destruction of the Turks." The Reformation reacted on the Eastern Question. The mere fact that the Roman See continuously and consistently exhorted to a Crusade was to the adherents of the new religious movement an argument against a Turkish war. Luther himself announced the principle, that to resist the Turks was to resist God, who had sent them as a visitation. At a safe distance, this was a comfortable doctrine. But some years later, when the visitation drew nigh to the heart of Germany itself, the Reformer was somewhat embarrassed to explain away his earlier utterances.
The diffusion of the doctrine of the Reformers seems to have been one of the causes which slackened and weakened the resistance of Hungary to the Ottoman invasion. But the main cause was that King Louis was not competent as ruler or as leader; he had not the trust of his kingdom, and he was unable to cope with the opposition and dilatoriness of the Diet. The transactions of the Diet during the crisis are a melancholy comedy: the King and the councillors severally disclaiming any responsibility for consequences of the coming invasion and the safety of the realm. Help from his neighbours Louis could not expect. Venice had congratulated Solyman on the capture of Rhodes, and was still on most friendly terms with him; Poland had just concluded a peace with him. The distant kingdoms of England and Portugal promised subsidies, but it was on his brother-in-law Charles V that Louis depended. Charles sent reinforcements, but they came too late, two days after the decision of the campaign. The most competent general the Hungarians could have chosen would have been John Zapolya, the voivod of Transylvania, but he was not trusted. The command devolved upon Louis himself in default of a better man; and at the start want of money rendered it difficult to mobilise. It was decided to defend the line of the Save, but when it came to the point the lukewarmness of the magnates caused this plan to be abandoned. The only really energetic man in the land was Archbishop Tomory, who did what he could to make defensible Peterwardein, the chief fortress of the Danube between the mouths of the Drave and the Save.
The Sultan set out towards the end of April with an army of 100,000 and 300 cannons; and his diary chronicles the heavy rainfalls which made his advance painful and slow, so that he did not reach Belgrade till July 9, when he was joined by his infantry (the Janissaries) which had been transported up the Danube by a flotilla. Ibrahim, the Grand Vezir, had been sent forward to take Peterwardein, and it was in Turkish hands before the end of July. After the fall of this bulwark, a bloody sword was carried, according to custom, throughout the Hungarian land, summoning men to help their country in the hour of her utmost jeopardy. Zapolya was waiting uncertain what to do. Receiving a command from the King to join the army he obeyed slowly, but only reached Szegedin on the Theiss where he remained. There is not the least proof that he was acting in collusion with the Turk; the most that can be said is that he was secretly pleased at the embarrassing situation of King Louis. The Hungarian army advanced to Tolna, and all told they were perhaps fewer than 30,000. It was now a question whether the line of the Drave should be held; but while the Hungarians were deliberating, the Turks had crossed that river at Essek (August 20-21). The Chancellor Broderith gave the counsel to fall back to Buda, but messages from Tomory (at Neusatz) urged the King to give battle in the plain of Mohacs (south of Tolna) where he had taken up a position. On August 29 the Turks were known to be not far off, and the Hungarians spread out their two lines—a long thin line of foot in front, flanked by cavalry, and a rear line mainly of cavalry. The plan was that the foot should open the attack all along the line, and when their attack began to tell the horse should charge. In the afternoon the Rumelians who formed the vaward of the Turks became visible; they had no intention of fighting that day, and were about to camp. The Hungarian centre and left attacked and dispersed them; the cavalry then struck in, and rode forward stimulated by the first easy success. But nothing save a freak of chance could have averted the discomfiture of the Christian army; for the battle was controlled by no commander, and the divisions acted independently. The cavalry were beaten back by the steady fire of the enemy; and the Hungarian right wing, when the Turks spread out leftwards and rounded on its flank, retired towards the Danube. Twenty thousand of the Hungarian army were killed. The King escaped from the field, but in crossing a brook his horse slipped on the bank and he was drowned. The Sultan advanced and took possession of Buda, but he did not leave a garrison; he was not yet prepared to annex Hungary. His army was somewhat demoralised, and grave news came of troubles in Asia Minor.
John Zapolya was crowned King, November 10, supported by a large party; and his rivalry with Ferdinand, the late King's brother-in-law, who claimed the throne, determined the course of the following events. At first things looked ill for Zapolya. Ferdinand drove him out of Buda back to Transylvania, and was himself crowned at Stuhlweissenburg (November, 1527). Then Zapolya turned for help to the Sultan; who after protracted parleys concluded a treaty of alliance with him (February, 1528). Ferdinand also sent ambassadors; but they pleaded in vain, and were even detained under arrest at the suggestion of some Venetian envoys. On the other hand Francis I concluded a treaty with Zapolya, who promised that if he died without male heir the crown of Hungary should descend to the French King's son, the Duke of Orleans. No French prince was destined ever to sit on the Hungarian throne; but before half a century had passed a grandson of Francis was to wear the crown of Poland, and the political idea was the same.
One of the results of the victory of Mohacs was the consolidation of Ottoman rule in the north-western countries, Bosnia and Croatia. Jajce, which had so long defied the Sultans, was at last taken (1528), and many other fortresses of less note. Early in 1529 it was known that Solyman was preparing for a grand expedition northwards in that year. Germany was alive to the danger. Luther changed his attitude and acknowledged the necessity of war against the Turks, while he insisted that all the disasters which had befallen Christendom from Varna to Mohacs had been due to the interference of Popes and bishops—language which the deeds of Archbishop Paul Tomory of Kalocsa, the defender of southern Hungary, might have been held to belie.
Solyman marched northwards—we can again follow his movements in his own diary—at the head of an immense army, set at 250,000 men, an exaggerated figure. King John met him on the field of Mohacs, and the crown of St Stephen on this occasion passed for safe keeping into the possession of Solyman, who never gave it back. Buda was easily taken, and the host advanced up the Danube, avoiding Pressburg, against Vienna. The garrison numbered 22,000; the walls were not strong; and Charles V, who ought to have hastened to the defence of the eastern mark, was in Italy. Ferdinand waited in terrible anxiety at Linz. He believed that it was the purpose of Solyman to winter in Vienna and spend three years in the subjugation of Germany. The garrison of Vienna in the meanwhile made suitable arrangements for encountering the storm. The houses outside the walls were levelled, the streets within torn up, buildings unroofed. The city was surrounded on September 26 and the operations began with mining. But the difficulty of procuring provisions and the approach of winter rendered the army impatient; and, when successive attempts at storming had been repelled with grave loss (October 9-12), it was decided to retreat after one more effort—especially as help was approaching, about 60,000 men from Bohemia, Moravia, and Germany. A half-hearted attack closed the episode of the first siege of Vienna, and at midnight the signal was given for a retreat which was marked by every horror. On December 16 Solyman records, he returned "fortunately" to Stambul. He had failed in Austria, but Hungary lay at his feet, and John Zapolya, though not a tributary, was absolutely dependent on his support.
The Ottoman State is marked off from the rest of Europe by a legal and political system which is based entirely on religious foundations. In Christian countries religion has frequently modified the principles of secular law; but in Turkey the problem of legislators has been to relax or adjust the interpretation of the canons of Islam, so as to permit it to take its place among European States, and to establish a modus vivendi with neighbouring unbelievers. Under Mohammad II a general code of law called "the Pearl" was drawn up by the Molla Khusrev in 1470; but this was superseded by Ibrahim Haleby of Aleppo, who in the reign of Solyman compiled a code which he named "the Confluence of the Seas" (Multeka-ul-ubhar). The sources from which these codes were compiled are four: the Koran; the Sunnas (the sayings of the Prophet which depend on early tradition, and inferences from his actions and his silences); the "apostolic laws" (explanations and decisions given by the Prophet's apostles and chief disciples in theological and moral matters); and the Kiyas (canonical decisions of "the four great Imams," who lived in the eighth and ninth centuries).
One of the universal duties of Islam on which the code of Ibrahim does not fail to insist was the conquest of the unbelievers; they must be converted to Islam, subjected to tribute, or destroyed by the sword. The fulfilment of this religious duty was the end and purpose of the Ottoman power, to which its institutions were designed and excellently adapted. Under the autocratic will of one man, possessing religious as well as secular supremacy, and holding a sovereignty which the Sacred Book forbade to be divided, the whole forces of the State could be directed to the execution of his policy. And these forces were organised in such a way that they could move swiftly and promptly at his command. The two features of this organisation were a feudal system of a peculiar kind, and the slave tribute.
The main part of the Turkish army was the feudal levy of cavalry ( the sipahis). When a new country was conquered, it was parcelled out into a number of larger fiefs called ziamets and smaller called timars, which were assigned to Ottoman horse-soldiers in reward for military service in the past and with the obligation of military service in the future. The holder of each fief was bound to supply one or more mounted soldiers, according to the amount of its value. In the time of Solyman the total number of the levy of the sipahis is said to have amounted to 130,000. A number of districts or "sabres" was constituted as a sanjak or "standard," under the authority of a sanjakbeg ("sanjak lord"); and sanjaks were combined into larger districts (eyalayets) under beglerbegs ("lords of lords"). All these governors were subject to the two great beglerbegs of Europe and Asia (Rumelia and Anatolia), military and administrative powers being combined. When the word of the Sultan flew forth to summon the army to war, there was no delay; the horse of the sipahi was always ready at a moment's notice; all the sabres rallied round the sanjak; the sanjaks gathered to the mustering place appointed by the beglerbeg, and there awaited further orders. The feudal system of the Turks, founded by Othman, remodelled by Murad I (1375), differed from the feudal systems of the West in this one important respect, that the fief of the father did not necessarily descend to the son; each man had to win a right to a fief by his own valour. But on the other hand, only the son of a feudal tenant could become a feudal tenant. This provision was a safeguard of the military effectiveness of the system; and it must also be remembered that the Ottoman tenants were still nomads in spirit, and had not developed the instincts of a settled agricultural population.
Such a levy was almost equivalent to a standing army; but there was also a standing army in a precise sense,—an establishment of paid troops, recruited from captive children who were robbed from hostile or subject Christian countries and educated in Islam. A strict, but not cruel, discipline trained some of them to be foot-soldiers; while others, under an equally severe regime, served in the seraglio; thence rising gradually to offices of state, or being drafted into the brilliant corps of the paid mounted soldiery who were the bodyguard of the Sultan. The Turks had one enlightened principle of education: they observed carefully the particular qualifications of the individual youth, and adapted his work to his powers. Those of the Christian children—taken every five years or oftener as a tribute from the subject population—who had not the finer qualities which marked them out for service in the palace, were set to all kinds of hard work; but their stern discipline seems to have been compatible with acts of petulance and outrage in the city. In this preliminary stage they were called ajami oghlanlars. At the age of about twenty-five they were enrolled among the yani chari (new soldiery), whose name we have corrupted into Janissaries. The Janissaries, organised by the great Sultan Orchan, constituted the infantry of the Ottoman army, and at the beginning of Solyman's reign they numbered only about 12,000; yet this small body often decided battles; they had won Kosovo and Varna, and had never been known to flee. All except men of Christian birth, thus trained from childhood, were jealously excluded from the corps, which was under the command of the Aga of the Janissaries, one of the highest officers of the realm. The fundamental laws which regulated their discipline were absolute obedience to the commanders, abstinence from luxury, modest attire, fulfilment of the duties of Islam. They were unable to marry or exercise any trade, or leave their camp. It is clear that the existence of such a body of warriors was in itself a constant incentive or even compulsion to warlike enterprises; and peacefully inclined sultans like Bayazid II were unpopular with the Janissaries who were more fanatical in fighting for Islam even than men of Muslim race. Without any bonds of family or country, they were the creatures of the Sultan, in turn imposing their yoke on him. Scanderbeg's tenacious devotion to the memory of his father and the Albanian mountains was an isolated exception.
Against an army thus disciplined and organised, propelled by the single will of an able ruler, Europe without unity could do nothing. The sipahis were still the restless herdsmen of the waste, impatient of tillage, eager to go forth where there was fighting and plunder; only standing forces of mercenary troops could have availed against them, and such forces would have cost enormous sums of money which were not to be raised. The fanaticism of the Mohammadan faith, though not so tempestuous as in the first century of the Hijra, could still kindle and incite; and it was habitual; the Turks needed no John of Capistrano for the preaching of a holy war. The insidious doctrine of fatalism, which holds the minds of oriental nations, fosters some of the qualities which make a soldier a useful instrument; but it is worthy of notice that though kismet pervades the Turkish spirit it is not an article of Mohammadan belief. The doctrine of predestination applies only to the spiritual state and the future life,—a point at which Islam and Calvinism meet; but it does not apply to secular and political matters, in which freewill has full play. But notwithstanding the true doctrine, the Turkish nation believes in kismet, and regards murmurs of discontent against existing circumstances as irreligious; and this attitude of mind, which sustains the soldier in the hour of jeopardy, has helped to keep the Ottomans far behind in the march of civilisation—hindering them, for instance, from taking the ordinary precautions against plague or fire.
But an organisation admirably designed for its purpose was useless without brains to wield it. Everything depended on the strength and capacity of the Sultan; and, if there had been any means of securing a series of successors equal in ability to the Murads and Mohammads, to Selim I and Solyman the lawgiver, the Ottoman State need not have declined. The succession of exceptionally great rulers lasted in the Ottoman line longer than such successions usually last; but after Solyman their character changed; and even in his reign the first symptoms of decline appeared, and those inherent vices in the organisation which demanded constant precautions began to emerge. The discipline of the Janissaries was undermined, when the law which forbade their marrying was relaxed; and the feudal system was corrupted by the assignation of fiefs to others than the sons of feudal tenants, who had served in war. But this decline lies outside our present range.
In the theoretical morality of Islam nothing is of higher importance than justice and the protection of the oppressed; and it is probable that under the early Ottoman rulers the administration of justice was better in Turkey than in any European land; the Mohammadan subjects of the Sultans were more orderly than most Christian communities and crimes were rarer. Under Mohammad II there were two supreme cadiaskers, or military judges, one for Europe and one for Asia (the conquests of Selim added a third for Syria and Egypt); all the cadis (judges) of the empire were subordinate to them. From the sentences of the judges men could always appeal to the mufti or sheikh-ul-Islam, who was the religious oracle and interpreter of the law; holding the position of head of the Ulema (that is, all the litterati). But he was not a religious authority independent of the caliph; the caliph could depose him. He had no executive power; he could not enforce his pronouncements (fetvas); but their authority was recognised as morally binding, and the mufti took care not to endanger his position by issuing sentences which would run counter to the Sultan's known will.
It was Mohammad II who defined the position of the Grand Vezir as the Sultan's representative and regent. The Grand Vezir received the right of using the Sultan's seal and of holding a divan or State council in his own palace, which was called the High Porte. It was a position of which the political importance necessarily varied according to the character of the ruler. But it is not till the reign of Solyman that the Grand Vezir attains the plenitude of his power. In 1523 Solyman raised to the Grand Vezirate his friend Ibrahim, a Greek who had been captured by corsairs, and in the following year married him to his own sister. Ibrahim associated with his master more as a friend and equal than any Vezir with any Sultan; they were bound together by youthful friendship and common tastes. Ibrahim, says a contemporary Venetian report, is "the heart and breath" of the Padishah, who does nothing without consulting him; he is learned, fond of reading, and knows his law well. In 1529, before setting out for Hungary, Solyman increased his salary to 60,000 ducats and made him commander-in-chief (serasker) of the army: "all that he says is to be regarded as proceeding from my own pearl-raining mouth." This delegation of supreme military command is an innovation not in the spirit of Orchan or Mohammad, and is a premonition of the new paths along which the empire is about to travel. It is a significant fact, that no sooner has the Vezirate reached a high elevation, than the influence of the harem begins to make itself felt for the first time in Ottoman history,—and as an influence hostile to the Vezir.
The income of the Ottoman State at the beginning of the sixteenth century was probably about four million ducats; and it went on increasing with new conquests till, towards the middle of the century, it seems to have approached ten millions. The head of the financial administration was the Defterdar of Rumelia, to whom those of Anatolia and, afterwards, of Aleppo, were subordinate. About three-fifths of the revenue were produced by the kharaj or capitation tax, levied on all unbelieving subjects with the exception of priests, old men, and children under ten. It does not seem to have been oppressive, it was generally paid with docility; and the duties on exports and imports were so reasonable that commerce, which was mainly in the hands of Christians, was in a flourishing condition. The worst feature in the fiscal system of the Turks was the stupid method employed in levying the land-tax (incident on all landowners without distinction of creed), which might amount to much more than a tithe of the produce. The farmer was not allowed to begin the harvest, until the tax-gatherer was on the spot to watch over the interests of the treasury, and he was forbidden to collect the produce until the fiscal portion was set aside. Apart from the incidental waste of time and injury to the crops, the inevitable consequence of this system has been that agriculture has never improved; certain primitive methods of work are prescribed by the law, and these and no others must be followed under the tax-officer's eye. Another weak point in the financial system has been the depreciation of the coinage, a process which had set in at least as early as the beginning of the sixteenth century.
Until the empire began to decline and the system became established of leaving the provinces to be exploited by officials who had paid heavy sums for their posts, the condition of the subject Christian population as a whole was perhaps more prosperous under Turkish rule than it had been before. The great oppression was the tribute of children, but even this was thought to have some compensations. Greeks, Albanians, and Servians rose to the highest positions in the State. Christians and Jews were, as a matter of policy, suffered to exercise their religions freely—a toleration which might indeed at any moment be withdrawn. In nothing had Mohammad shown astuter statesmanship than in his dealings with the Greek Church. He knew the "Romaic" language well, and had sounded the nature of the Greeks of that age; he was well aware how they were absorbed in narrow theological interests, utterly divorced from the principles of honour and rectitude, which they were always willing to sacrifice in order to gain a victory for their own religious party. He saw that the Greek Church under a Patriarch appointed by the Sultan would be a valuable engine of government, placing in the Sultan's hands a considerable indirect influence over the laity. It was, further, his policy to favour the Greek Church, in view of the crusading plans of the Latin powers; for, though the Roman pontiffs of this period showed themselves able to rise to the higher conception of the unity of Christendom, the bigoted hatred existing between the Latin and Greek Churches went far towards paralysing the sympathies of the Catholic countries. Mohammad aimed at fostering this ill-feeling, and he was thoroughly successful; the supremacy of the infidel Sultan seemed more tolerable than the supremacy of the heretical Pope. Naturally Mohammad chose for the Patriarchate one of those who were opposed to the union of the Greek and Latin Churches: George Scholarios, a man of learning and bigotry, who had thrown whatsoever obstacles he could in the way of the Emperor Constantine's forlorn defence of Constantinople. On his election George took the name of Gennadios. A church in the city was assigned to him, and the Sultan guaranteed that he and his bishops should be exempt from tribute and enjoy their former revenues. But the internal dissensions and intrigues of the Greek clergy and laity rendered the position of the Patriarch so difficult, that in a few years Gennadios resigned. His successors were equally helpless; and after the fall of Trebizond (1461) the struggle between the Trapezuntine and the Constantinopolitan Greeks, each anxious to secure the Patriarchate for a man of their own, made matters worse. A wealthy Trapezuntine, named Simeon, compassed his own election by paying a thousand ducats to the Sultan; and this was the beginning of a system of unveiled simony which has lasted in the Greek Church to our own times. This payment was increased at subsequent elections; afterwards a yearly contribution to the treasury was promised; but it is important to observe that these tributes were not originally imposed by the Sultans, but were voluntarily offered by the intriguing Greeks. The policy of Mohammad, who was solicitous to repeople Constantinople, had the effect of gathering thither a multitude of Greek families of the better class, who might otherwise have sought refuge in foreign lands. Settled in the quarter of the Phanar, in the north of the city, they were known as Phanariots, and came to be reputed a class of clever, unprincipled intriguers.
We have followed the expansion of Turkey up to the eve of its greatest splendour and widest extent. Subsequent pages will tell how the Ottomans advanced westwards by sea, and how the Austro-Spanish monarchy set limits to their expansion both in the north and in the south.