Post-classical history

Bayezid II (d. 1512)

Ottoman sultan (1481-1512).

On his accession, Bayezid II was faced with discontent caused by the fiscal rule of his father, Mehmed II, and by civil war with his brother Cem (or Djem). Cem, once defeated, fled to the Hospitallers on Rhodes, who later moved him to France and then, in 1489, handed him over to the pope. From 1483 Bayezid paid an annual sum, first to the Hospitallers and then to the pope, to ensure that Cem was kept in safe custody. With Cem in Christian hands, Bayezid was forced to adopt a pacific policy toward the West, ratifying the 1479 treaty with Venice, making a five- year truce in 1482 with King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, and, in 1490, undertaking not to attack the Papal States, Venice, or Rhodes. This was not entirely a period of peace, however. In 1483 the Ottomans annexed Hercegovina, in 1484 invaded Moldavia, and, from 1485 to 1491, were at war with the Mamlûk sultanate.

In 1494 Cem fell into the hands of King Charles VIII of France, who, after his invasion of Italy and capture of Rome, announced a crusade against the Ottomans in January 1485. Cem, however, died in February, and Charles’s crusade came to nothing. From this time Bayezid was freer in his dealings with the West. In 1498 the Ottomans raided into Poland and in 1499 attacked Venetian territories, taking Naupaktos (1499), Modon, Coron and Navarino (1500), and Durrës (1502), all of which remained lost to Venice under the peace treaty of 1503. From that point on, Ottoman attention turned to the east and to the Safavids of Persia.

Bayezid’s reign ended in April 1512 when he was forced to abdicate by his son Selim. Not a warlike man, Bayezid tended to be more conciliatory than his father. He established the Ottomans as a major Mediterranean naval power, introduced a systematic codification of customary law, and instituted fiscal reform.

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