Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quiz with Chamara Sumanapala. Part 19: Mehmed II the Conqueror

Some of the sultans who led the Ottoman Empire were excellent military leaders known for their exploits in the battlefield. Sultan Mehmed II the best known military leader among them and is known as ‘the conqueror’ for the most important conquest in the history of the Ottoman Empire. It was the capture of the Byzantine capital Constantinople.
Sultan Mehmed II enters Constantinople, painting by Fausto Zonaro

Located in the strategic point at the meeting place of Asia and Europe, it was the nerve center of East-West trade. Also, it was the nerve center of Byzantine Empire, the successor of the Roman Empire. The capture of the city was the dream of Arab rulers in the early days of the Arab Empire and later of the Turks. By the 15th century, the Byzantine Empire and its capital Constantinople were both past its glory. It was besieged by Ottoman forces led by the 21 year old Sultan Mehmed II (Born on March 30, 1432) on April 6. The city fell on May 29.

During the initial years of Mehmed II’s rule, the Ottoman Empire saw rapid expansion into both Asia Minor and Europe. Apart from Constantinople, he captured Morea, Serbia, Bosnia, Wallachia and Trebizond.

1. Arabs attempted to capture the city of Constantinople centuries before the Turks, on two occasions in the 7th and 8th centuries AD. The second attempt was undertaken from August 717, but was thwarted by the military genius of the new Byzantine emperor. He had ascended the Imperial Throne in March 717 and ruled the empire until his death in 741. Who was this emperor?

2. The last emperor of the Byzantine Empire ascended the throne in 1449 and died on May 29, 1453 at the end of the siege of Constantinople. What was his name?

3. Sultan Mehmed II was the son of another famous Ottoman emperor who was known for several successes in battles, including the Second Battle of Kosovo. He ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1421 till 1451, except for a brief period between 1444-1446 when he handed over the throne to his young son and retreated from public life. But Mehmed II forced his father back to rule the empire. It is said that initially his father refused the request by Mehmed II to return to the throne. Angry at his father, Mehmed II had written him a letter stating “If you are the Sultan lead your armies. If I’m the sultan, I order you to lead my armies.” The father had no option but to comply. Who was the father of Mehmed II?

4. The elite forces of the Ottoman Army were trained from a young age. Christian boys were recruited at an age as young as seven or eight and went through rigorous training to transform them into an elite force. They took part in many battles including the fall of Constantinople until they were abolished in 1826. By which name were these elite troops known?

5. Mehmed II also undertook many more military expeditions. He personally led many of his campaigns and relied on artillery unlike any military commander before. Vlad III was a ruler of a region called Wallachia and was known for his extreme cruelty. Several years after the fall of Constantinople, Vlad III unsuccessfully tried to stop Wallachia from being overrun by the Ottomans led by Mehmed II. Vlad III became the basis of the lead character in a novel written by an Irish novelist and published in 1897. Who is this extremely famous fictional character?

Answers to Quiz 18: Football World Cup 1934-38

1. Spain
2. Egypt
3. Oldrich Nejedly
4. Leonidas (Leonidas da Silva)
5. Latvia

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