Muhammad II (Ottoman sultan)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Muhammad II (Ottoman sultan)

Muhammad II or Mehmet II (Muhammad the Conqueror), 1429–81, Ottoman sultan (1451–81), son and successor of Murad II. He is considered the true founder of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). He completed the conquest of the Byzantine Empire by successfully storming (1453) Constantinople after a 50-day siege, for which he constructed the largest cannons the world had yet known. Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI fell in its defense. Muhammad moved his capital from Adrianople to Constantinople and restored the greatness of that city by settling there the populations of other conquered towns. To Greek and Armenian citizens of Constantinople he granted the privileges that they were to enjoy throughout Ottoman rule, including the freedom to practice Orthodox Eastern Christianity. The Church of Hagia Sophia became a mosque. Muhammad then conquered the Balkan Peninsula, taking Greece, Bosnia, and several Venetian possessions in the Aegean islands. The khan of Crimea became his ally and vassal. However, his further advance was checked at Belgrade by John Hunyadi, in Albania by Scanderbeg until 1478, and in Rhodes by the Knights Hospitalers under Aubusson. In Asia, Muhammad annexed the empire of Trebizond, ended most independent Turkish dynasties, and subdued the emirate of Karamania, putting to death its ruling family, who were Seljuk Turks. In 1480 he captured Otranto, in Italy, but the expedition had no results. Muhammad was a patron of learning and an accomplished linguist as well as a great commander. His son, Beyazid II, succeeded him. For a contemporary account of Muhammad II, see Kritoboulos, A History of Mehmed the Conqueror (tr. 1954).

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