In articles "Timur and Bayazid I. Great generals who did not divide the world" и "Sultan Bayezid I and the Crusaders" a story was started about Timur and Bayazid - generals and sovereigns who called themselves "swords of Islam" and "defenders of the faithful of the whole world." All the surrounding countries were in awe of their name, and fate willed that Timur and Bayazid, having met on the battlefield, found out which of them was the truly great commander of their time.
Probably, many of you asked yourself the question: would Alexander the Great have been able to crush Rome in land battles and Carthage in naval battles if, after the first victories over Darius, he made peace (as Parmenion suggested to him) and sent his army to the west?
How would Suvorov's Italian campaign have developed if he had been opposed by Napoleon Bonaparte, and not by Moreau, MacDonald and Joubert, as in reality?
We will never know the answers to these questions, but we know that the direct clash between Timur and Bayazid almost ended in the death of the growing Ottoman Empire.
Bayazid's authority as a defender of the faith and a fighter against the "giaours" was very high, and Timur could not ignore this circumstance in his plans. However, he managed to find a reason for the war and even put it up as the initiator of Bayezid himself.
At that time, the state of Kara-Koyunlu was located on the territory of Eastern Anatolia, Azerbaijan and Iraq, the capital of which was the city of Van. This state fell as a result of one of Timur's campaigns. Former ruler Kara Muhammad and his son Kara Yusuf fled to Ankara, where they found protection from Sultan Bayazid. Having nothing to do, Kara Yusuf began to amuse himself with plundering caravans of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. And then Bayazid's eldest son, Suleiman, invaded the lands of Kara-Koyunlu, where Tamerlane's henchmen were already sitting.
Timur demanded to withdraw the Ottoman troops from the territory of his new "protectorate", and at the same time to extradite the blasphemer Kara Yusuf. As they say, in the correspondence between him and Bayazid then "all the swear words allowed by Eastern diplomatic forms were exhausted." And Tamerlane managed to provoke Bayezid, who urged his opponent to meet on the battlefield, presumptuously not taking any measures to repel his attack.
You probably formed an opinion of Bayazid as a stern commander who spent all his time on campaigns. This is not entirely true, because this sultan found time both for drunkenness, which was not at all encouraged by Islam, and for the most unbridled debauchery, in which not only girls, but also boys were his partners. And sometimes he suddenly locked himself in a private cell in the Bursa mosque and communicated only with Islamic theologians. In general, the person had a complex character. And he clearly underestimated Timur, who, unlike him, was just a commander who did not leave the saddle, and a very purposeful and prudent person.
Tamerlane. Illustration from the book "Les vrais pourtraits et vies des hommes illustres grecz, latins et payens, recueilliz de leurs tableaux, livres, medalles antiques et modernes" (1584)
And in 1400 the Turkic army entered Asia Minor, where Bayazid's son Suleiman did not dare to fight with it. He led his troops to the European coast of the Bosphorus, and Timur, having captured Sivas, did not pursue him. He went to Syria, friendly to the Ottomans - to Aleppo, Damascus and Baghdad. Having conquered these cities, Tamerlane again led his army to the borders of Asia Minor, where she spent the winter of 1401-1402.
Battle of Ankara
Shaken Bayazid was inactive in the hope that the formidable adversary, content with the rich booty already captured, would return to Samarkand. But in the summer of 1402, Timur moved his army to Ankara. Having stopped the next siege of Constantinople, the Sultan, having gathered all his forces, went to meet him, but their armies missed each other: Bayazid first went to Eastern Anatolia, and then turned to Ankara, and this march tired his soldiers.
Tamerlane's army found itself between the still unconquered fortress of Ankara and the approaching Ottoman troops, but this did not bother him at all. On July 20, the opposing armies entered the battle.
The numerical superiority was on the side of Timur (most often they call the numbers 140 thousand for Timur and 85 thousand for Bayazid), but the battle was not easy.
The flanks of the Turkic army were led by Timur's sons - Miran Shah and Shah Rukh, the vanguard - by his grandson Mirza Mohammed (Mirza Mohammed Sultan). Timur himself commanded the center in this battle. It is curious that in his army then there were 32 elephants, who were put in front of the cavalry.
In the Ottoman army, Bayazid's eldest son, Suleiman, led the right flank, which consisted of Anatolians and Tatars. Another son of the Sultan, Musa, commanded the left flank, where the Rumelians (residents of the European regions) lined up, including the Serbs of Stefan Lazarevich. The reserve units were subordinate to the third son of Bayezid, Mehmed. The sultan with the janissaries took up a position in the center. One more son was with him - Mustafa.
After the betrayal of the Tatars, who went over to the side of their fellow tribesmen, the right flank of the Ottoman army fell and one of its commanders, the Serb Perislav, who had converted to Islam, was killed. However, on the other flank, the Serbs first repelled the blow of the right wing of Tamerlane's army, and then broke through the enemy ranks and joined up with the reserve units of the Turks.
"These rags are fighting like lions," said the surprised Tamerlane and personally led the decisive attack against Bayezid's last troops.
The battle was entering its final phase, and there was no longer any hope of victory. Stefan Lazarevich advised Bayazid to retreat immediately, but he decided to rely on his janissaries, who vowed to fight to the end, protecting their master. Bayazid's sons decided to leave the Sultan. Suleiman, Bayazid's eldest son and heir, pursued by Timur's grandson Mirza Mohammed, went west with the Serbian units: the Serbs themselves believe that Stefan Lazarevich then saved Suleiman from shameful captivity or death. In Bursa (at that time this city was the capital of the Ottoman state) Suleiman boarded a ship, leaving on the shore the treasury of the Sultanate, as well as his father's library and harem. Mehmed, destined to defeat the brothers, retreated with his squad to the mountains - to the northeast. Musa went south. Bayezid remained in place, and the Janissaries loyal to him repelled the attacks of the superior forces of Tamerlane until nightfall. But their strength was already running out, and Bayazid nevertheless decided to flee. During the retreat, his horse fell, and the ruler, before whose name Europe trembled, was captured by the detachment of Sultan-Mahmud - the powerless Chingizid, who at that time was officially considered the khan of the Jagatai ulus, and in his name Tamerlane issued his laws.
"God must have little value in power on earth, since he gave one half of the world to the lame, and the other to the crooked,"
- said Timur, seeing Bayazid, who lost his eye in the battle with the Serbs.
S. Khlebovsky. "Capture of Bayazid by Timur", 1878
The last days of the life of Bayezid I
What did the famous conqueror do with the captured Sultan? Some authors claim that he mocked him, forcing his beloved wife to serve at their feasts in the presence of Bayezid, who got only scraps. They also claim that the winner put Bayezid in an iron cage, which served as a footboard for him when boarding a horse.
Capture of Sultan Bayazid I by Timur. Mughal miniature. Around 1680. London, British Library
But other sources say that Tamerlane, on the contrary, was merciful to his captive. Some historians believe that for the notorious cage, they took a stretcher decorated with a lattice, provided to the sultan, who suffered from gout and, during an exacerbation of this disease, practically could not walk.
Either a cage, or a stretcher of the captured Bayezid, reconstruction
One way or another, Bayazid died in captivity on March 8, 1403 in the Turkish city of Akshehir at the age of 43.
"The human race is not even worth it to have two leaders, it should be ruled by only one, and that is ugly, like me",
- Timur said about this.
According to some reports, Tamerlane intended to continue the war and finish off the Ottoman state. In order to transport his troops to Rumelia, he allegedly demanded ships from the emperor Manuel, as well as from the Venetians and Genoese who were in Constantinople. But so the omnipotent conqueror seemed more terrible than the already defeated Turks, they were playing for time, and therefore Tamerlane left without waiting for these ships. If this is indeed the case, one can only wonder at the shortsightedness of the Byzantines, Venetians and Genoese.
However, at the same time, it is known that after the victory over Ankara, Timur sent a caftan to Bayazid's eldest son Suleiman: according to the Eastern tradition, accepting such a gift meant admitting oneself subordinate. After consulting with those close to him, Suleiman accepted the caftan: he did not have the strength to resist, just as there was no doubt that Timur, having sent this caftan to another brother, would punish him for disobedience. Thus, the Ottoman state became a protectorate of the state of Timur and the conqueror had no reason to continue the war (and he no longer needed ships). And after the victory over Ankara, he had already taken enough loot.
Aftermath of the Battle of Ankara
So, Sultan Bayezid I died in captivity, the Ottoman state fell apart, and his four sons entered into a fierce struggle (the so-called interregnum period, or the period of the empire without a sultan, "Fitret Dodemi", which lasted 11 years: from 1402 to 1413 biennium). In Edirne, with the permission of Timur, Bayazid's eldest son Suleiman proclaimed himself sultan, who relied mainly on the Rumelian (European) part of the empire. Chandarly Ali Pasha, the grand vizier who had been in this post since the time of Murad I. Suleiman also retained control over the janissary corps and the remnants of the army, swore allegiance to him.
But the ruler of Bursa (the capital and region in northwestern Anatolia) Tamerlane appointed Isa, who refused to obey Suleiman. Another son of Bayazid, Musa, was captured by Ankara, but was released after the death of his father in order to bury him in Bursa. Musa had quite significant forces at his disposal, and therefore Isa left the city for some time.
In eastern Anatolia, the youngest of Bayazid's sons, 15-year-old Mehmed, was the only one who remained free from the oath to Timur. The famous Ottoman commander Haji Gazi Evrenos-bey, a participant in the battle of Nikopol, joined Mehmed.
All these sons of Bayazid were nicknamed Chelebi - Noble (but also Educated), and Mehmed was also called Kirishchi - Archer (another translation is the Master of the bowstring).
Bayazid's two sons did not take part in the internecine wars that followed: Mustafa was taken by Timur to Samarkand, and Kasym was still a child.
Ottoman state after the death of Bayezid I
Fitret Donemi on Bayezid I State Map
Since the brothers refused to obey Suleiman, in order to secure the northern borders and free his hands for war with them, he concluded a treaty with Byzantium, according to which she was exempted from paying tribute. He was also forced to temporarily relinquish control over Bulgaria, Central Greece and the coastal territory from Silivri to Varna. As you understand, this did not add to his popularity in the rebellious provinces.
The first of the brothers to fall was Isa, who was killed in 1406, and Bursa was captured by Mehmed. But Suleiman managed to expel Mehmed from Bursa and inflict a number of defeats on him in Anatolia. However, when he returned to Rumelia to begin rebuilding his power in the Balkans, Mehmed returned to his domain. His power was also recognized by Musa, who, by order of his brother, in 1410 crossed with troops to the Balkan Peninsula. After the first setbacks, he nevertheless defeated Suleiman (who tried to flee, but was found and killed), after which he declared himself the ruler of Rumelia. For three and a half years, the Ottoman state was divided into two parts. Mehmed's ally in the battle with the last brother was the Byzantine emperor Manuel II, who provided him with his ships to ferry troops to the European coast of the Bosphorus. The Serbs also fought on the side of Mehmed, and Musa was supported by the Wallachian ruler Mircea I Stary - a participant in the Crusade in 1396 and the battle of Nikopol. In 1413, the war of the brothers ended with the victory of Mehmed, and Musa was killed by the Serb Milos, which was mentioned in the article "Timur and Bayazid I. Great generals who did not divide the world".
Ottoman tradition presents Mehmed I as a kind, meek and just sultan.
Sultan Mehmed I elebi on an Ottoman miniature in a 1590 manuscript, kept in Dresden
However, it was he who defeated all the brothers in this brutal Turkish "game of thrones". In total, during his life, Mehmed took a personal part in 24 battles, in which, according to some sources, he received 40 wounds. He is often referred to as the second founder of the Ottoman Empire. In general, the Ottoman meekness and Turkish kindness of this son of Bayezid simply "rolls over".
Serbian prince Lazar, as we remember, died in the fight against the Ottomans. His son Stephen faithfully served Bayezid - until the defeat of this sultan in 1402. And both of them eventually became saints of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Holy Martyr Prince Lazar, fresco of the monastery monastery of Saints Peter and Paul, Herzegovina
Saint blessed Stefan Lazarevich. Tutor's portrait in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Manasia Monastery (Resava), Serbia, until 1418
Among the people, Stephen was revered as a saint soon after his death, but he was officially canonized only in 1927.
After temporarily leaving the power of the Ottoman sultans, Serbia, headed by Stefan Lazarevich, did not gain independence, becoming a vassal of Hungary. The prince himself then received from the emperor of Byzantium the title of despot of Serbia, which passed to his heirs. It was under Stefan that Belgrade (later part of Hungary) became the capital of Serbia. He died at the age of 50 in 1427.
After the defeat of Bayezid I, the Byzantines managed to get rid of the Ottoman tribute for some time and regain part of the previously lost territories, including the coast of the Sea of Marmara and the city of Thessaloniki. These successes were ephemeral. After 50 years, the ancient empire fell, the last blow to Constantinople was struck in May 1453 by the great-grandson of Bayezid I - Mehmed II Fatih (Conqueror).
Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant. Mehmed II's entry into Constantinople
Tamerlane returned to Central Asia and began to prepare a new campaign against China. But his army did not reach China due to the death of the conqueror on February 19, 1405.
In the next article we will talk about how Sultan Murad II (son of Mehmed елelebi) tried to abandon the throne, about the last crusade against the Ottoman Empire, the big battle at Varna and the death of the King of Poland and Hungary, Vladislav III, who broke his oath on the Gospel.
S. Khlebovsky. Murad II with his retinue at the body of Vladislav III