Post-classical history

Bodrum

A Hospitaller castle on the southwestern coast of Anatolia (in mod. Turkey), constructed on the site of the ancient mausoleum of Halikarnassos.

The Order of the Hospital built Bodrum, also known as the castle of St. Peter, after the Mongols destroyed its fortification at Smyrna (mod. Izmir, Turkey) in 1402. The construction of Bodrum began in 1406/1407, with the first phase continuing until the death of Philibert de Naillac, master of the order (1421). Additions and repair of the castle continued through the fifteenth century in response to pressures from the Ottoman Turks and advances in military technology. A new phase of construction began in 1454, following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, and intensifying prior to the siege of Rhodes in 1480. Construction stopped between 1480 and 1489, during the period of truce that existed while the Hospitallers and the papacy held Cem, Sultan Bayezid II’s brother, in custody. The Hospitallers began to fortify Bodrum again in 1494, when King Charles VIII of France planned a crusade to make Cem sultan in place of his brother. They abandoned the castle in 1523, after the loss of Rhodes.

Historians of the order have questioned Bodrum’s military utility as a base in Anatolia, arguing that it was too far from any Turkish center to pose a military threat. In classical times, Halikarnassos had served as a base for attacks upon the island of Rhodes, but there is little archaeological evidence that the Turks had fortified the site. The Hospitaller selection of Bodrum stemmed from the earlier loss of Smyrna. After the Hospitallers participated in the capture of that city in 1344, the papacy made them responsible for its garrisoning and fortification. The order received indulgences for the defense of Smyrna, and its harbor also generated revenues. After its loss, the order sought a new foothold in Anatolia. The site of Bodrum was acquired through an agreement with Sultan Mehmed I, who proposed a location for the new castle within the lands of the emir of Menteshe, outside Ottoman-controlled territory. Bodrum’s construction permitted the order to retain the indulgences granted for the defense of Smyrna, and to sell indulgences for the building of the new castle. The Christian West believed that Bodrum had been captured from the Turks and that it aided Christians escaping the Turks, giving the order ammunition against its critics who wanted it to engage the Turks on the mainland. The Hospitallers, however, considered the castle of Bodrum as part of the fortification system of Rhodes. The convent in Rhodes appointed the castellan of Bodrum, and the castle received its supplies from Rhodes and from Kos. It became a base for Hospitaller naval raids by 1412, and was one of a string of watch castles by the time of the Ottoman siege of Rhodes in 1480.

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