Muhammad II

Muhammad II

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).
Ala ad-Din Muhammad II (علاءالدين محمد ʿAlā al-Dīn Muḥammad) was the ruler of the Khwarezmid Empire from 1200 to 1220. His father was a Turkic slave who eventually became a viceroy of a small province named Khwarizm. After his father died, Muhammad inherited his father's lands, and it was from there he began expanding outwards. By 1205 he had conquered all of Persia from the Seljuk Turks and in 1212 he defeated Kutluk, the Gur-Khan of the Kara Khitay (Kara-Khitan Khanate). When he had conquered all the lands from the river Jaxartes to the Persian Gulf he declared himself shah and demanded formal recognition from the caliph in Baghdad. When the caliph an-Nasir rejected his claim, Ala ad-Din Muhammad proclaimed one of his nobles caliph and marched towards Baghdad to depose an-Nasir. However, when crossing the Zagros Mountains, the shah's army was caught in a blizzard. Thousands of warriors died and with the army decimated the generals had no choice but to return home.

It was in this situation that, in 1218, Genghis Khan sent his emissaries to the shah in Samarkand. The shah executed the Mongol diplomats and sent back their entourage with their heads shaved in defiance of the emerging great power, and Genghis retaliated with a force of 200,000 men that crossed the Jaxartes in 1220 and sacked the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. Muhammad's capital, Urgench, followed in 1221. Ala ad-Din Muhammad fled and sought refuge throughout Khorasan, but died of pleurisy on an island in the Caspian Sea near the port of Abaskun some weeks later.

References

Neil Blandford & Bruce Jones - The World's Most Evil Men, 1985
Nigel Cawthorne - The World's Worst Atrocities, 1999

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