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The Loss of the S. S. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons By Lawrence Beesley Characters: 23348

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Othman, on his deathbed, designated as his successor the younger of his two sons, Orchan, aged forty-two, who had been brought up as a soldier under his father's eye, and had shown capacity in many campaigns, and especially in that resulting in the surrender of Brusa. Alaeddin, the elder brother, was not a soldier. He had led a studious life, devoted to religion and law, both founded on the Koran, under the guidance of Idebali.

The Turkish historians agree in stating that Orchan was most unwilling to act on his father's wishes and take precedence over his elder brother, and that he proposed to divide the heritage of state between them, but that Alaeddin declined the offer. Orchan is then reported to have said: "Since, my brother, thou wilt not take the flocks and herds which I offer thee, be the shepherd of my people. Be my Vizier." Alaeddin agreed to this, and devoted himself to the administration of the growing State and to the organization of the army, under the rule of his brother.3

Orchan followed closely the example of his father. He pursued the same method of slow, but sure and persistent, aggrandizement of his State. It will be seen that he succeeded in adding to it a territory nearly three times greater than that which he inherited. Two-thirds of this were in the north-west corner of Asia Minor, along the shore of the Marmora and the Dardanelles, and the remaining third in Europe, where he was the first to make a lodgment for the Ottomans. He made Brusa his capital, and there, after a time, he assumed the title of Sultan. He coined money with the inscription, "May God cause to endure the Empire of Orchan, son of Othman." The phrase must be taken rather as a measure of his ambition than as a description of his existing State, for it was then inferior in size to several of the Turkish Emirates in Asia Minor and to most of the Balkan States. Orchan led a most active and simple life. He was always on the move. When not in the field with his troops, he spent his time in visiting his many petty strongholds, seldom remaining more than a month in any one of them.

The immediate objects of Orchan's ambition, on his accession, were the Greek cities of Nic?a and Nicomedia, with their surrounding districts, the last important possessions of the Byzantine Empire in Asia. Nic?a was then a great city. It had attained greater importance during the sixty years when the Latins were in occupation of Constantinople and the Greek Emperors were relegated to Asia and made it their capital. It was well fortified. It could only be captured, as Brusa had been, by cutting off its communications with Constantinople, and depriving its people of the means of subsistence. The Greek Emperor, Andronicus III, made an effort to relieve it. He hastily raised an army of mercenaries, in 1326, and led them across the Bosphorus. He fought a battle against Orchan at Pelecanon, on the north shore of the Gulf of Nicomedia. According to the Greek historians, the Ottomans had much the worst of it, losing a great number of men, while the losses of the Greeks were trivial. However that may have been, Andronicus decided on a retreat. But a scrimmage occurred in the night between his bodyguard and the enemy, in which the Emperor himself was slightly wounded. He thereupon fled precipitately, and was conveyed in a litter to the Bosphorus and thence to Constantinople. His army, dispirited by this abandonment by their Emperor, was defeated and dispersed. As a result, Nic?a surrendered in the following year, 1327, on favourable terms. The majority of its garrison and citizens followed the example of those of Brusa and adopted Islam. Very few availed themselves of the offer to transfer themselves to Europe. This ill-starred campaign and cowardly flight of Andronicus was the last effort of the Byzantine Emperors to save their possessions in Asia. What remained of them, chiefly the city of Nicomedia, were left to their own resources, without further aid from Europe. Nicomedia was well fortified and was apparently a tough job for the Ottomans, for it held out till 1337, or possibly 1338, and eventually surrendered in the same way, and on the same terms, as Brusa and Nic?a.

In the interval of ten years between the capture of Nic?a and Nicomedia, Orchan was further engaged in extending his State elsewhere in Asia, not towards Angora, in the south, as stated by some historians, but to the north-west, in the ancient Mysia, by the conquest of the Emirate of Karasi, which lay immediately to the north of Sarukhan and with a frontage to the sea opposite to the island of Mytilene. The Emir of this State died in 1333. His two sons disputed the succession. The younger one was favoured by the Ottomans, and when he was put to death by his brother, Orchan sent an army ostensibly to avenge him. The Emir was driven into exile and his State was promptly annexed by Orchan. The same fate befell some other petty Emirates on the southern borders of the Marmora and the Hellespont, rounding off the boundary of the Ottoman State in the north-west corner of Anatolia. The population of Karasi and the smaller States was mainly Turkish, but there must have been many Greeks on the coast who probably adopted Islam, as had the majority of the Greeks of Brusa and Nic?a. After these acquisitions, and that of Nicomedia in 1338, there were no further additions to the Ottoman State in Asia Minor during Orchan's reign.

There followed, after the capture of Nicomedia, a few years of peace, and it may well be that, during this time, Orchan completed the scheme for the organization of his State and his army. Hitherto, when Othman and Orchan were involved in disputes with their neighbours, and it was necessary to use armed force in resistance or attack, an appeal was made for the voluntary service of all the male members of their petty State or clan capable of bearing arms; and the appeal was responded to without question. When the occasion for their service was at an end, the warriors returned to their homes and to their usual vocations. With a rapidly expanding territory and with great ambitions for further conquests, it was evidently thought necessary to constitute a permanent and well-disciplined force, and Orchan, whether adopting, or not, the plans of his brother Alaeddin, determined to effect this. On the one hand, he enrolled a considerable body of infantry for continuous service. They were subject to strict discipline and were well paid, and it will be seen that they could be sent beyond the realm to assist the Greek Emperor or otherwise.4 On the other hand, a large body of horsemen was provided, not under continuous service, but under obligatory service, when occasion arose for calling them out.

For this purpose the country districts were divided into fiefs, the holders of which were bound to serve in the event of war, and to come provided with horses and equipment, or to find substitutes in proportion to the extent of their fiefs. It was, in fact, the adoption of the feudal system, then almost universal in Europe, with this marked difference, that the fiefs were small in extent and were not, as a rule, hereditary. They were given for life as rewards for military service, and on the death of their holders were granted to other soldiers, though in some cases hereditary claims were recognized. When new territories were acquired by conquest from non-Moslems, large parts of them were divided into new fiefs, and were granted to the soldiers who had distinguished themselves in the war. Military service, whether in the new infantry or in the feudal cavalry, was strictly confined to Moslems. Christians, who were thus exempted from military duty, were subjected to a heavy capitation tax from which Moslems were free.

This new organization of the army, commenced by Orchan and extended and perfected by his son Murad, who also, it will be seen, created the famous corps of Janissaries, converted the nascent Ottoman State into a most powerful engine for war, and gave an immense impetus to the conquest of non-Moslem countries. Most splendid rewards were held out to the Moslem soldiers for victory and bravery. In the event of victory they benefited not only from the ordinary booty in money and chattels, on the sack of cities and the pillage of country districts. They also received as their share four-fifths of the proceeds of the sale of captives as slaves, the other fifth being reserved as the share of the Sultan. The captives were not only the enemies' soldiers taken in battle, but in many cases the inhabitants of the conquered districts. The strong and the young of both sexes were carried off and were sold, the men as slaves, the fairer women for wives or concubines, or for harems. The soldiers further received, as has been shown above, a large share of the confiscated lands to be held as military fiefs in reward for bravery in battle. As these fiefs were granted for life only, there was a further distribution among the soldiers of the fiefs held by their comrades who were killed in battle, and often, it is said, the same fiefs changed hands many times in the course of a campaign.

The Moslem inhabitants of a conquered territory were not sold off as slaves, nor were their lands confiscated. These measures were reserved for Christians or non-Moslems. In some cases the Christians were given the option of embracing Islam in order to avoid slavery and the confiscation of their land. But these exceptions were rare in the conquests in Europe, and it is obvious that, to whatever extent they took place, the rewards obtained by the soldiers were reduced.

It has been shown that hitherto in the Ottoman conquests in Asia Minor at the expense of the Byzantine Empire a great proportion of the Christian population embraced Islam; and it may well have been that the spread of Islam and the conversion of infidels to the true faith were in part the incentives for the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. But henceforth, after the organization of the army by Orchan and Murad and the great rewards held out to the soldiers for the conquest of non-Moslem territories, it does not appear that the Ottoman armies were inspired by any missionary zeal for the spread of Islam. The main, if not the sole motives, were loot and plunder, the sale of captives as slaves, and the confiscation of land and its distribution among the soldiers as fiefs; and these objects were attained to a far greater extent by the invasion of Christian States in Europe than by the extension of the Empire over Moslem countries in Asia.

In the year 1354 Orchan, after completing the organization of his army, turned his attention for the first time to Europe. Thenceforth, till his death in 1359, his restless ambition was directed against the Byzantine Empire. Advancing age prevented his taking the field himself at the head of his army. But his eldest son, Solyman, who had all the great qualities of his race, and who was the idol of the army, took his place in command of the invading forces.

It may be well to point out here that, at this time, the middle of the fourteenth century, the Byzantine Empire was already reduced to very insignificant proportions, compared to its ancient grandeur. The territories subject to it, which for centuries had extended to the Danube in Europe, and in Asia over Anatolia and Syria, had been already greatly diminished when the leaders of the fourth Crusade, in 1204, in one of the most disgraceful episodes in history, turned aside from their avowed object of attacking the Moslems in Palestine and, in lieu thereof, attacked and captured Constantinople

, and compelled the Byzantine Emperor to transfer the seat of his government to Nic?a, in Asia Minor. There followed the brief period of the Latin Empire. But in 1261 the Byzantine Greeks reconquered Constantinople, and the ephemeral Latin Empire disappeared from history. The Byzantines were then able to recover a small part only of their old dominions in Europe and Asia. At the time when Orchan, who had driven them from Asia, decided to attack them in Europe, they held there no more than Thrace with Adrianople, a part of Macedonia with Salonika, and the greater part of the Morea in Greece. To the north of them Serbia, under Stephen Dushan, the most eminent of its rulers, had asserted supremacy over the greater half of the Balkan peninsula, was threatening Salonika, and had ambition to possess himself of Constantinople. Bulgaria, though it had lost territory to Serbia, still possessed the smaller half of the Balkans. The Republics of Venice and Genoa owned many commercial ports and islands in the ?gean Sea and Adriatic, and were madly jealous of one another. The position was such as to afford a favourable opportunity to new invaders like the Ottomans, for there was no probability of a combination among these Christian communities to resist them.

The story of the first entry of the Ottomans into Europe, as told by the early Turkish historians and adopted by Von Hammer and others, is shortly this. In the year 1356 Solyman, the son of Orchan, at the head of a small body of Ottoman troops, variously estimated at from seventy-five to three hundred, under the inspiration of a dream, stealthily crept, it is said, across the Hellespont in boats, and succeeded in surprising and overcoming the Greek garrison of the small fortress of Tzympe, on the European side of the Straits, and having thus gained possession of it, increased the invading force to three thousand. Mr. Gibbons, on the other hand, has unravelled from the Byzantine historians a much fuller and more reliable story of the successive entries of Ottoman troops into Europe from 1345 downwards. It may be briefly epitomized as follows, in explanation of the great historic event-the first entry of the Ottomans into Europe-a story which is most discreditable to the Byzantine Greeks:-

On the death, in 1338, of the Greek Emperor Andronicus III, the most feeble and incompetent of the long line of Pal?ologi, his Grand Chancellor, Cantacuzene, was appointed, under his will, guardian of his son, John Pal?ologus, and as co-regent with his widow, the Empress Anna. Cantacuzene, not satisfied with this arrangement, and ambitious to secure supreme power in the Empire, had himself proclaimed Emperor at Nicotika in 1343. This was bitterly resented and opposed by the Empress Anna. Civil war broke out. Both Anna and Cantacuzene appealed to Orchan, their new and powerful neighbour across the Straits, for aid against the other. Cantacuzene offered his young daughter, Theodora, in marriage to Orchan in return for the aid of six thousand Ottoman troops. Orchan apparently thought this a better offer than that of the Empress Anna, whatever that may have been. He was perhaps flattered by the prospect of a family connection with a Byzantine Emperor. He closed with the offer and sent six thousand soldiers into Europe, in 1345, in support of Cantacuzene, who made use of them by investing Constantinople, of which the Empress had obtained possession. After a year's siege, Cantacuzene effected an entry into the city by the aid of his partisans there, who treacherously opened its gates to him. The Empress was thereupon compelled to come to terms. She agreed that Cantacuzene and his wife should be crowned as Emperor and Empress, together with herself and her son. This union was further cemented by the marriage of the young Emperor John, at the age of sixteen, with another daughter of Cantacuzene. Orchan, in pursuance of his agreement with the new Emperor, was married in 1346 at the ripe age of sixty-two to the young Theodora, who was to be allowed to remain a Christian.

It may be assumed that the six thousand soldiers lent to Cantacuzene returned to Asia. But the loan of them soon became a precedent for other transactions of the same kind. In 1349 the Serbians, under Stephen Dushan, were seriously threatening Salonika, and had ultimate designs on Constantinople itself. Orchan was again appealed to for aid by the two Emperors, his father-in-law and brother-in-law, and at their instance he sent twenty thousand soldiers into Europe for the relief of Salonika. With their aid Cantacuzene was able to defeat the Serbians, and to extinguish for ever their hope of replacing the Byzantine Empire at Constantinople. On this occasion, again, it appears that the Ottoman troops, having effected their purpose, returned to Asia. But four years later another opportunity befell Orchan of sending troops across the Straits, and this time of effecting a permanent lodgment in Europe. Cantacuzene, not satisfied with being only a co-Emperor with his son-in-law and the Empress Anna, attempted, in 1353, to usurp the supreme power in the State. His son-in-law, John Pal?ologus, now of full age, strongly opposed this. Civil war again broke out. For a third time Cantacuzene appealed to his son-in-law Orchan for aid. In return for the loan of twenty thousand soldiers he offered to hand over to the Ottomans a fortress on the European side of the Hellespont. Orchan agreed to this. The Ottoman soldiers were sent into Europe, under Solyman, and were employed by Cantacuzene in fighting against his other son-in-law, the co-Emperor John. They were successful in this, and occupied Demotika. Meanwhile the insignificant fortress of Tzympe was handed over to Orchan and was occupied by Ottoman troops with the full consent of Cantacuzene.

Shortly after this an earthquake occurred in the Thracian Chersonese-not an unfrequent event there. It did great damage to many cities, among others to Gallipoli, the most important fortress on the European side of the Hellespont, and at no great distance from Tzympe. Its walls and ramparts were in great part tumbled down and destroyed, so that entrance to it was made easy. The Ottoman troops at the neighbouring Tzympe, under Solyman, when this opportunity was afforded to them of getting possession of such an important fortress, determined to avail themselves of it. The Greek garrison of Gallipoli, under the belief that the earthquake and the tumbling down of the walls indicated the Divine will, made no resistance, and the Ottomans established themselves there without opposition. Cantacuzene complained of this to Orchan as a gross breach of their treaty, and demanded that Gallipoli should be restored to him. He offered also to pay a fair price for Tzympe. Orchan, though willing enough to take money for Tzympe, refused point-blank to give up Gallipoli. "God," he said, "having manifested His will in my favour by causing the ramparts to fall, my troops have taken possession of the city, penetrated with thanks to Allah." It will be seen that Greeks and Turks took the same view of the Divine intervention, the one to excuse their failure to defend the fortress, the other to justify their seizure of it.

This action of Orchan roused great indignation at Constantinople. Cantacuzene now began to see how grave an error he had committed when inviting the Turks into Europe. Public opinion compelled him to declare war against Orchan. He appealed to the Czars of Serbia and Bulgaria to assist him in driving the Ottomans back to Asia. They flatly refused to do so. The Czar of Bulgaria replied: "Three years ago I remonstrated with you for your unholy alliance with the Turks. Now that the storm has burst, let the Byzantines weather it. If the Turks come against me we shall know how to defend ourselves"-a very unfortunate prediction as events ultimately proved! The whole course of history might have been altered if these two Balkan States had joined with the Byzantines in preventing this lodgment of the Turks in Europe. Want of union of the Christian Powers was then, as on many other later occasions, mainly responsible for the extension of the Ottoman Empire in that continent.

Cantacuzene was soon to reap the just reward for his treachery to his country. So far everything had gone well with him. He had ousted the Pal?ologi from the throne, of which, it must be admitted, they were quite unworthy. He had proclaimed his son Matthew as co-Emperor with himself. But when the full effect of his policy of inviting the Turks into Europe was understood there was a revulsion of feeling against him at Constantinople. The Greek Patriarch refused to crown Matthew. A revolution took place in the city. Cantacuzene found himself without friends. He was everywhere accused of having betrayed the Empire to the Turks. He was compelled to abdicate. He became a monk and retired to a monastery in Greece. He spent the remaining thirty years of his life in seclusion there, and in writing a history of his times, which, though very unreliable, tells enough of his own misdeeds to justify the conclusion that, by inviting the Ottomans into Europe, he proved to be a traitor to his country. The Empress Irene, his wife, became a nun.

John Pal?ologus was recalled by the people of Constantinople, and, after defeating Matthew, not without difficulty, was established there as sole Emperor. His reign lasted for fifty years, a period full of misfortune for the Empire. He was no more able to compel or induce the Turks to evacuate Europe and return to Asia than his father-in-law. The twenty thousand soldiers who had been invited to Europe by Cantacuzene remained there as enemies of the State they had come to assist. Under the command of Solyman, they advanced into Thrace and captured Tchorlu, within a few miles of Constantinople. Though the occupation of this city and of Demotika was only temporary, the Ottomans firmly established themselves in the southern part of Thrace. The Emperor John was eventually compelled to sign a treaty with Orchan, which recognized these Ottoman conquests in Thrace. Thenceforth the Byzantine Empire became subservient to, and almost the vassal of, the Ottoman Sultan. Solyman brought over from Asia many colonies of Turks and settled them in the Thracian Chersonese and other parts of Thrace.

In 1358 Solyman, who had shown great capacity when in command of the Ottoman army, met with his death by a fall from his horse when engaged in his favourite sport of falconry. His father, Orchan, died in the following year at the age of seventy-two. He had enormously increased the Ottoman dominions. He had achieved the first great object of his ambition, that of driving the Byzantines from their remaining possessions in Asia. He had rounded off his boundaries in the north-west corner of Anatolia by annexing Mysia. He had invaded Europe and had extended Ottoman rule over a part of Thrace. He had reduced the Byzantine Emperor almost to vassalage. These great results had been achieved not so much by force of arms as a general, for he is not credited with any great victory in the field, or by successful assaults on any great fortresses, as by crafty diplomacy and intrigue, backed up by superior force, and by taking advantage of the feebleness and treachery of the Byzantines. He also forged the military weapon by which his son, Murad, was able to effect far greater territorial conquests, both in Europe and Asia.

London: T. Fisher Unwin. Ltd. Stanford's Geog.l Estab.t London.




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