achievement was short-lived; his army was destroyed at Ankara in
1402 by Timur (Tamerlane), the last of the Mongol invaders to reach
as far west as Anatolia. There followed an eleven-year hiatus between
1402 and 1413, when the Balkan states and the Anatolian emirates
took advantage of the opportunity provided by the Mongol victory
to shake off Ottoman rule, although further Mongol advance ceased
after Timur's death in 1405.
The reconstruction of the Ottoman state by Mehmed
I (1413-21) and the revival of the conquests in the reign of his
son Murad (1421-51) again brought most of eastern and central Anatolia
and the southern and eastern Balkans under direct or indirect Ottoman
control. However, Ottoman rule in the Balkans was far less oppressive
than the system it superseded, in which feudal dues and compulsory
labour services weighed heavily upon the peasantry; in consequence,
the Ottomans were often welcomed as deliverers. The rounding off
of these conquests, and the emergence of the Ottoman state as a
world power, was the work of Mehmed n al-Fatih, The Conqueror (1451-81),
whose conquest of Constantinople in 1453 removed the last major
barrier to expansion into northern Anatolia and enabled the Ottomans
to dominate the Straits and the southern shore of the Black Sea.
Aside from scattered outposts in Greece, all
that remained of the Byzantine Empire was its capital, Constantinople.
Cut off by land since 1365, the city, despite long periods of truce
with the Turks, was supplied and reinforced by Venetian traders
who controlled its commerce by sea. On becoming sultan in 1444,
Mehmet II (r. 1444-46, 1451-81) immediately set out to conquer the
city. The military campaigning season of 1453 commenced with the
fifty-day siege of Constantinople, during which Mehmet II brought
warships overland on greased runners into the Bosporus inlet known
as the Golden Horn to bypass the chain barrage and fortresses that
had blocked the entrance to Constantinople's harbor. On May 29,
the Turks fought their way through the gates of the city and brought
the siege to a successful conclusion.