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The Loss of the S. S. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons By Lawrence Beesley Characters: 12829

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Between the years 1376 and 1380 Murad found himself able to turn his attention in the direction of Asia Minor. In the first of these years he induced the Emir of Kermia, doubtless by threats of war, to give a daughter in marriage to Bayezid, his eldest son. She brought with her as dowry a considerable part of Kermia and the fortress of Kutayia, a position of great strategic importance. In 1377 he followed this up by inducing the Emir of Hamid to sell a great portion of his Emirate lying between Tekke, Kermia, and Karamania, including the district of Ak-Sheir. The effect of this acquisition was to make his frontier conterminous with that of Karamania. Again, in 1378, he declared war against the Emir of Tekke, and annexed a part of his territory, leaving to him Adalia.

Murad made no further effort to extend his dominion in Asia till 1387, when he led a large army against Alaeddin, the Emir of Karamania. For this purpose he called upon the Greek Emperor and the Princes of Serbia and Bulgaria as vassals of the Empire to send their contingents. His two sons, Bayezid and Yacoub, commanded the wings of this army. With a view to conciliate the peasantry of the district he passed through, and to ensure full supplies of food to his army, he gave strict orders that there was to be no pillage, and that the lives and property of the country people were to be respected. Among his troops were two thousand Serbians, whom the Prince of Serbia was bound by his recent treaty to supply. These men refused to obey Murad's order, and committed atrocious depredations on the route of the army. Murad inflicted severe punishment on them, and directed many of them to be put to death as a warning to the others. The army then marched to meet the Karamanians. A battle again took place on the plain of Angora. Bayezid especially distinguished himself by the fierceness of his cavalry charges and earned for himself the sobriquet of 'the Thunderbolt.'

There are different versions as to the issue of this battle. Some historians describe it as a great victory for Murad, and claim that he treated the vanquished Emir of Karamania with great generosity, insisting only on a token of submission. Murad, however, was not in the habit of neglecting to take full advantage of any successes of his armies. It is very certain that, in this case, he did not succeed in extending his Empire. Karamania retained its independence for many years to come, and did not even submit to a nominal vassalage. It seems more probable, therefore, that this battle was indecisive, and that Murad withdrew, without having effected his purpose.

Murad, who was now near the age of seventy, would have been glad to end his life in repose, but he was recalled to Europe by an outbreak of the Serbians. It appeared that the Serbian soldiers, on their return to their homes, after the campaign against the Karamanians, told the story of the execution of their comrades by order of Murad. It caused universal indignation among the Serbians. They could not understand a war conducted without the levy of booty from the enemy's country. The whole of Serbia rose in rebellion. An alliance was formed with Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Albania. Assistance was obtained from Hungary and Wallachia. Murad again took the field in command of an Ottoman army, and, crossing the Balkans, captured Schumla and Tirnova, and then marched towards the Danube. Sisman, the King of Bulgaria, shut himself up in Nicopolis, on the Danube, but was soon compelled to come to terms. He agreed to give up Silistria to the Turks, and to pay a tribute in the future.

Lazar, the King of Serbia, in spite of this defection, continued the struggle against the Ottomans, and Sisman himself broke the treaty almost before the ink was dry. He refused to give up Silistria, and sent a contingent in aid of the Serbians. Murad sent part of his army, under Ali Pasha, against Sisman, who was again shut up in Nicopolis. This fortress was captured. Murad was again generous in sparing Sisman's life, but this time he deprived the southern part of Bulgaria of its autonomy, and insisted on its being completely incorporated in the Turkish Empire.

Lazar, the King of Serbia, continued the war. Murad, in spite of his seventy years, led his army, supported, as in Asia Minor, by his two sons. The decisive battle took place on the plain of Kossova, at the point of junction between Serbia and Bulgaria. It was fiercely contested. At a critical point of it a Serbian noble, Milosch Kobilowitch, who on the previous day had been falsely charged in the Serbian camp with disaffection and treason, gave signal proof of his patriotism by riding boldly into the Turkish lines, as though he was a deserter, and claiming that he had a most important message to deliver to the Sultan. He was allowed to approach Murad, and, while kneeling before him, plunged a dagger into his heart, causing a mortal wound. Milosch then made a desperate rush to escape, but in vain. He was captured and brought to the Sultan's tent. Meanwhile Murad, in spite of his approaching death, was able to give orders for the charge of his reserves, which decided the battle in favour of the Ottomans. The Serbians and their allies were completely defeated and routed. Lazar was taken prisoner and was brought to the Sultan's tent. Murad lived long enough to direct the execution in his presence of Lazar and Milosch. He then expired.

To complete the tragedy of the day, Bayezid, on hearing of the death of his father, and his own consequent accession to the throne, gave immediate orders for the murder of his brother Yacoub, who had been his valiant companion in arms in so many battles. This was effected in the presence of the dead body of the father. The brutal deed was justified by a verse from the Koran, "Rebellion is worse than execution." It was assumed by Bayezid that his brother would claim the throne against him. This was the first recorded case of fratricide in the Othman royal race. Thenceforth it became the settled practice for a Sultan of Turkey, on his accession to the throne, immediately to put to death his brothers and other collaterals, lest they should dispute the succession with him. By the law of succession the eldest living male of the reigning family, and not the eldest son of a defunct Sultan, was entitled to the throne. This supplied an additional motive for the practi

ce of fratricide, for the new Sultan, by murdering his brothers and uncles, ensured the succession, after his own death, to his eldest son free from competition. In later times, however, when public opinion would no longer justify fratricide, and when the law of succession of the oldest male in the family was more fully recognized, the Sultan, on his accession to the throne, directed the close confinement of his next heir, generally his brother. It followed from this practice that the heir to the throne, instead of being employed on State affairs, or as a general, and gaining experience, was treated as a prisoner, and was forbidden to take any part in public affairs. It will be seen that this practice of forced seclusion of the heir to the throne during the lifetime of the reigning Sultan was one of the main causes of the degeneracy of the Othman dynasty.

Reverting to Murad, it has been shown how important an epoch his reign was in the growth of the Ottoman Empire. During the twenty-four years of war, in which he led his armies in the field, he never met with a reverse. He extended the Empire for the first time into vast territories inhabited not by Turks or by Byzantines, but by sturdy Christian races, such as the Bulgarians, Serbians, and Bosnians. For the first time also the Turks came into conflict with the Hungarians, and defeated them. The influence of the Empire was extended practically to the Danube. Some of the intervening territory was not treated as conquered country and added to the Empire, but was allowed to retain the position of tributary or vassal States, as in the case of Serbia. Other parts, such as Thrace, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, were fully incorporated in the dominion of the Sultan.

Murad, when not engaged in war, devoted himself to perfecting the organization of his army on the lines laid down by his father, Orchan. He also created a new standing corps of soldiers, recruited from the Christian population of the provinces conquered in Europe. This was the renowned corps of Janissaries-the new army. Von Hammer and other historians following him, and more recently Sir Edwin Pears, give very full details as to the constitution of this corps and the motives of its founder. They state that one thousand lads, between the ages of ten and twelve, were in every year conscripted from amongst the children of Christian parents. The most physically strong and intelligent of them were taken. They were forcibly converted to Islam, and were trained with great care for military careers under the immediate direction of the Sultan. After six years of training they were drafted into a special corps, which reached, after a few years, a maximum of twelve thousand men. The discipline of this corps was very severe. It formed the most efficient and reliable body in the Ottoman army. The men looked on their regiment as their home. Their lives were devoted to it. They were not allowed to own property. What they acquired belonged to the regiment. They were not, till a later period in the history of the Empire, allowed to marry. They formed the backbone of the Ottoman armies in war; and in many a hard-fought battle, when disaster and defeat were imminent, they saved the army by their intrepid and persistent stand against the enemy. The object which Murad aimed at is said to have been not merely the strengthening of his army by a standing force of this kind, but that it should, by its personal devotion to the Sultan, act as a check on his other turbulent forces.5

Sir Edwin Pears says of this force:-

Take a number of children from the most intelligent portion of the community; choose them for their strength and intelligence; instruct them carefully in the art of fighting; bring them up under strict military discipline; teach them to forget their childhood, their parents, and friends; saturate them with the knowledge that all their hope in life depends upon their position in the regiment; make peace irksome and war a delight, with the hope of promotion and relaxation from the hardship and restraints of the barracks; the result will be a weapon in the hands of a leader such as the world has rarely seen. Such a weapon was the army of the Janissaries.6

The levy of children was regarded by the Christians as a blood tax of a terrible kind. The corps thus formed was a most valuable instrument in the hands of Sultans who were strong enough to control it. But later, in the times of degenerate Sultans, it became a kind of Pr?torian Guard. It dictated the deposition of Sultans and the nomination of their successors. It often insisted on a policy of war. In 1648, under Mahomet IV, the restriction of the force to Christian children was removed, and the sons of Janissaries and other Moslems were admitted. Later the levy of Christian children was abandoned, and none but sons of Moslems were admitted to the corps. After the time of Solyman its numbers were greatly increased. It became a danger to the State. It will be seen that in 1826 Mahmoud II took vengeance on it for the humiliations he and previous Sultans had undergone, and extinguished it in ruthless scenes of blood.

There cannot be a doubt, however, that Murad, by creating this corps of Janissaries and recruiting it from the Christian population in Europe, forged a weapon which for two hundred years to come played a dominant part in the aggrandizement of the Ottoman Empire.

Knolles, in his graphic history of the Turkish Empire, sums up the character of Murad in the following sentences, which could not be improved upon:-

Murad was more zealous than any other of the Turkish kings; a man of great courage and in all his attempts fortunate; he made greater slaughter of his enemies than both his father and grandfather; his kingdom in Asia he greatly enlarged by the sword, marriage, and purchase; and using the discord and cowardice of the Grecian princes to his profit, subdued a great part of Thracia, with the territories adjoining thereto, leaving unto the Emperor of Constantinople little or nothing more in Thracia than the imperial city itself, with the bare name of an emperor almost without an empire; he won a great part of Bulgaria and entered into Serbia, Bosnia, and Macedonia; he was liberal and withal severe; of his subjects both beloved and feared; a man of very few words, and one that could dissemble deeply.7

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IV

BAYEZID I

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