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The Loss of the S. S. Titanic: Its Story and Its Lessons By Lawrence Beesley Characters: 19314

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Murad succeeded his father in the Sultanate as second of the name. He reigned for thirty years, including two short periods when he abdicated and retired into private life. But on each occasion he was compelled by the exigencies of the State, and the youth and inexperience of his son and successor, to resume the throne. He much resembled his father in vigour and capacity as a general and in his desire to act justly.

At the very commencement of Murad's reign the Greek Emperor Manuel, by an almost incredible act of folly, hoping to take advantage of Murad's youth and inexperience, let loose from confinement a man who claimed, whether rightly or not was never clearly established, to be Mustapha, the son of Sultan Bayezid, who had disappeared after the battle of Angora. Manuel entered into a treaty with this claimant to the Ottoman throne, by which, in the event of his succeeding in establishing his succession, the city of Gallipoli and all the cities on the shores of the Black Sea, taken from the Greek Empire by the Turks, were to be restored to it.

In spite of this scandalous treachery to Islam, the so-called Mustapha succeeded in raising a large army in Europe, with which he defeated the troops who adhered to Murad. He then crossed the Dardanelles into Asia with his army in vessels supplied by the Emperor Manuel. Murad showed all the vigour and capacity of his race in dealing with this emergency. He won over the greater part of Mustapha's army, who were disaffected. He defeated what remained. Mustapha was driven across the Straits again to Gallipoli, where he was besieged, captured, and hanged, as the best proof, it was said, that he was an impostor.

Murad, having defeated this claimant to his throne, determined to avenge the perfidy of the Emperor Manuel and to put an end to the Greek Empire by the capture of Constantinople. For this purpose he collected an army of veterans. He invested the city, making a long line of great earthworks from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmora. From this he bombarded the city walls by cannon, then for the first time used by the Ottoman army, but which were not as yet very effective. He also used movable towers, from which assaults could be made on the walls of the city. He proclaimed that the great wealth of the capital would be the prize of the soldiers if the assault on it were successful. He made a special promise to a band of five hundred Dervishes, who were to lead the assault, that all the nuns in the city would be given to them as concubines. In spite of these great inducements to victory, the assault was unsuccessful. The Greeks defended the walls of the city with the utmost heroism, assisted, it was said, by a timely apparition of the Holy Virgin, which stimulated their efforts and depressed the assailants. Murad would probably have been successful with the overwhelming forces at his disposal if he had persisted in the siege, but he was compelled to raise it by a diversion cleverly contrived by the Greek Emperor.

A rival to the Sultan was set up in Asia in another Mustapha, a younger brother of Murad, who had not been put to death in pursuance of the fratricidal policy of his family. This new claimant was supported by the Karamanians and Kermians, and with their aid he defeated an Ottoman army in Asia Minor. Murad found it necessary to abandon the siege of Constantinople, and to transfer his main army to Asia Minor for the purpose of dealing with this danger to his throne. He came to close quarters as quickly as possible with Mustapha's army, and defeated it. Mustapha was taken prisoner and was hanged at once by his captors, without giving an opportunity to Murad to exercise his clemency in favour of his brother, had he so willed it. Murad then occupied himself by reducing the Karamanian and other Emirs to complete subjection to his Empire.

Meanwhile the Emperor Manuel died, and was succeeded by John Pal?ologus. Murad, in lieu of renewing the siege of Constantinople, was content to make another treaty with the new Emperor, imposing on him a heavy tribute and stripping him of almost every possession beyond the walls of his capital. The Empire thus obtained a reprieve for a few brief years.

In the case of Salonika, which had been recently sold by the Greek Emperor to the Republic of Venice, now desirous of effecting a lodgment in Macedonia, Murad refused to recognize the right of the Emperor to transfer to a foreign Power a city which at one time had been under Ottoman rule. It had three times in the last hundred years been captured by the Ottomans, and had as often been recaptured by the Greeks. Murad led an army, in 1430, to attack it, and, after a vigorous resistance by the Venetians, captured it by assault, and finally annexed the city and its district to the Turkish Empire. It was thought that Murad showed great clemency in not allowing his soldiers to indulge in a wholesale massacre. The Greek inhabitants, however, were sold into slavery, and their numbers were so great that a good-looking girl was sold for the price of a pair of boots.

The suppression of rebellion in Asia Minor, the subjection of the Greek Emperor to the position of a humble vassal, and the capture of Salonika had occupied Murad for some years. Later he was involved in long struggles with his neighbours, the Hungarians, on the northern boundaries of his Empire. The Ottomans were engaged in constant raids across the Danube, where vast districts were devastated, and thousands of their population were carried off as captives for sale as slaves. There arose about this time in Hungary a national hero, the celebrated Hunyadi, a natural son of the late King Sigismund. He was a born leader of men, not a great general, but a most valiant fighter. He had gained great distinction in war in other directions. He now became the soul of hostility against the Ottomans. He was known as the White Knight, on account of his silver armour, which always shone in the van of the impetuous charges of his cavalry. He was rightly regarded by his countrymen as a patriot and a national hero. None the less, he was a bloodthirsty ruffian. He made a practice of massacring all the prisoners taken in battle. He found pleasure in having this effected, in his presence, at banquets, where the guests were entertained by the shrieks of the dying men.

Hunyadi for twenty years was a terror to the Ottoman armies. His first encounter with them was at Hermannstadt, north of the Danube, which was invested by an army of eighty thousand Ottomans. He led an army of twenty thousand Hungarians against them, in relief of the fortress, and inflicted a severe defeat on them, in despite of great disparity of numbers. Twenty thousand of the Ottomans were killed, including the general. The others were dispersed. Murad sent another army of eighty thousand men against him, under another Pasha. Hunyadi again defeated it with great slaughter at Varsag.

These notable victories roused great enthusiasm in Europe. It was determined to take the offensive against the Ottomans, and to make another effort to drive them out of Europe. A coalition was formed for the purpose between Hungary and Poland, then united under King Ladislaus, and Wallachia and Bosnia. Serbia, which under its king, Stephen Lazariwitch, had been the firm ally of the Ottomans, and had supported them in many campaigns in Asia and Europe, was now induced to abandon this alliance and, under Stephen's successor, George Brancowitch, to join the confederacy against the Ottomans. The Pope, Eugenius, was most active in support of this combination. His legate, Cardinal Julian Cesarini, led an armed force in support of it. Money was raised for the purpose of the war by a great sale of indulgences to the faithful in every part of Europe. A large contingent of French and German knights joined the allied army. It was, in fact, another crusade, prompted by religious zeal on behalf of Christianity against Islam. The allied army was under the nominal command of Ladislaus, but Hunyadi was its real leader.

The Republics of Venice and Genoa gave their support, and as, at this time, the Ottomans had no naval force, it was hoped that these Powers, by means of their numerous and powerful galleys, would prevent the transfer to Europe of Murad's main army, which was again engaged in conflict with the Karamanians in Asia Minor.

The allied army, under these favourable circumstances, crossed the Danube in 1443. It defeated an Ottoman army on the banks of the Masova and again at Nisch. It then crossed the Balkan range in winter-an operation of extreme difficulty, which has since only twice been effected, by General Diebitsch and General Gourko-and again defeated the Turks in a battle at the foot of these mountains. Strange to say, instead of marching onwards to Adrianople, as Diebitsch did in 1829, Hunyadi was content with the laurels already achieved, and returned with his army to Buda, where he displayed his trophies and received a triumph.

Murad, on hearing of the retreat of the Hungarians across the Balkans, determined to come to terms with them, and not to pursue them again across the Danube. With some difficulty, and in spite of the sullen opposition of Cardinal Julian and the French contingent, a treaty was agreed to, at Szegeddin, with Ladislaus, by which Serbia was to be freed from dependence on the Ottoman Empire and Wallachia was to be ceded to Hungary. The treaty was to be in force for ten years. It was solemnly sworn to on the Gospel and the Koran by Ladislaus and Murad.

While this treaty was being negotiated Murad, weary of war, a

nd desirous of spending the remainder of his life in sensual enjoyments which had so long been denied to him, decided to abdicate his throne. He was still in the full vigour of life at the age of forty-one, though he was said to be growing rather fat. He did not propose, like the Emperor Charles V, to retire to a monastery, but rather, like Diocletian the Roman Emperor, to a luxurious palace, surrounded by beautiful gardens, which he had prepared for his retreat at Magnesia. On the ratification of the treaty of Szegeddin, in 1444, he carried out this purpose, and his son Mahomet, at the age of fourteen, was proclaimed Sultan in his place.

When this became known to the Hungarians a revulsion of opinion took place against the recent treaty with the Turks. The Hungarian Diet determined, at the instance of Cardinal Julian, backed up by the Pope, to break the treaty. News had arrived of a fresh outbreak of the Karamanians. The fleets of Genoa, Venice, and Burgundy were masters of the Hellespont and would, it was believed, prevent the Ottoman army in Asia Minor from crossing into Europe. The opportunity for crushing the Turks and driving them out of Europe seemed to be most favourable.

Is it now [said Cardinal Julian to the Hungarian Diet] that you will desert expectations and your own fortunes? Is it to your God and your fellow-Christians that you have pledged your faith? That prior obligation annihilates a rash and sacrilegious oath to the enemies of Christ. His vicar on earth is the Roman Pontiff, without whose sanction you can neither promise nor perform. In his name I absolve your perjury and sanctify your arms. Follow my footsteps in the path of glory and salvation; and, if you still have scruples, devolve on my head the punishment and the sin.

"This mischievous casuistry," says the historian Gibbon, "was seconded by his respectable character and the levity of popular assemblies." The Hungarian Diet resolved on war, and King Ladislaus, in spite of his recent oath, determined to break the treaty. Hunyadi was, in the first instance, strongly opposed to this, but his assent was obtained by the promise of the throne of Bulgaria, in the event of the defeat of the Ottomans and the conquest of that province. The Prince of Serbia, who had regained his independence by the treaty, was persuaded to join with the allies by the promise of an addition to his kingdom.

It was decided to send an army at once against the Ottomans. But it was a much reduced one in comparison with that which had so recently crossed the Balkans. Most of the French and German knights and their attendants had already gone home. Not more than ten thousand remained under Hunyadi. They were joined by five thousand Wallachians. They invaded Bulgaria, and then, instead of crossing the Balkans, descended the Danube to the coast and thence marched to Varna. Meanwhile the Ottomans, in great alarm and fearing the incompetence of the young Mahomet to conduct a great war, induced Murad to emerge again from his retreat. He hastily gathered together an army in Asia Minor. He bribed the Genoese, at the rate of a ducat for each man, to convey it across the Hellespont. He arrived in front of Varna unexpectedly, before the Christian army knew of his intentions. His army greatly outnumbered that of King Ladislaus. In spite of this, the two wings of it were driven back with great slaughter. Murad, in command of the centre of his army, for the moment and for the only time in his life, lost his presence of mind and was disposed to fly. But the Beglerbey of Anatolia laid hold of the bridle of his horse and urged him to fight it out. The battle was renewed. The Janissaries stood firm and successfully repulsed the main body of the Christians. Ladislaus was unhorsed and asked for quarter. But he was put to death on the field. His head was stuck upon a lance and was held up by the side of another lance which bore on high a copy of the violated treaty. The Christians, when they saw the head of their dead king in its soldier's helmet thus held aloft, were struck with panic and fled precipitately. Hunyadi escaped with difficulty. Cardinal Julian expiated by death on the field his sin in advising the breach of the treaty. Two other bishops shared his fate. Never was defeat and disaster more richly deserved. Two-thirds of the Christian army were slain in the battle, and even greater numbers, though a less proportion, of the Ottomans shared their fate.

Murad, having won this great victory, again, a second time, abdicated his throne and returned to his retreat at Magnesia, and again the young Mahomet was invested as Sultan. Though history supplies cases of great kings seeking retirement from the cares of office, and of some of them being induced to resume their thrones, it records no other case of a second abdication and a second resumption. Murad was very soon recalled from his abode of pleasure. A serious outbreak of the Janissaries occurred at Adrianople. They ravaged the city and committed great atrocities. The ministers of the young Sultan were greatly alarmed. They felt that only a strong hand could keep a check on the unruly Janissaries. Murad was again summoned from his retreat. The young Mahomet was induced to go on a hunting expedition. In his absence Murad again made his appearance at Adrianople and resumed power. Mahomet, on his return from hunting, found that his father was again in the saddle. Murad was received by his troops with a great ovation, and even the unruly Janissaries gave in their submission to him. He did not again seek retirement at Magnesia. He reigned for seven more years-another period of almost incessant war. He first made an invasion of the Morea, which the Greek Emperor's brothers had divided between them and governed as petty princes, or despots, as they were called. Murad had no difficulty in storming and capturing the fortification by which the isthmus of Corinth was defended. He compelled the two despots to accept the position of vassals under the Empire.

Murad then again turned his attention to Serbia and Hungary. He defeated the combined forces of Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia, under Hunyadi, on the field of Kossova, where in 1389 Murad I had first subdued the Serbians. As a result of this great battle Serbia lost its independence and was finally incorporated as an integral part of the Ottoman Empire. Bosnia became a tributary State.

Murad was less fortunate in his efforts to subdue the Albanians. These people were under the leadership of George Castriota-commonly called Scanderbeg-who had been brought up at Murad's Court as a Mussulman, and had learned the art of war from him, but who had abjured Islam, with a view to leadership of the Albanians. He carried on a guerrilla war against the Ottoman invaders with great success, and Murad was unable to complete the conquest of the State. This was practically the only failure of Murad's adventurous life. His generals met with many defeats at the hand of Hunyadi, but Murad retrieved them in the two battles in which he came in conflict with the great Hungarian hero. He died of apoplexy in 1451.

Looking back at his career, it does not appear that he made war with ambitious objects to aggrandize his Empire. War was, in almost every case, forced upon him. Three times the Prince of Karamania declared war against him, and three times Murad defeated him, and was content with insisting on the vassalage of the province and not on its extinction and incorporation with the Empire. It has been shown how perfidious was the conduct of the Greek Emperor, and how fully justified Murad was in reducing his territory to the narrowest limits. Murad's attack on Salonika when in the hands of the Venetian Republic was equally justified, for the Greek Emperor had no right to sell it, and thus invite a foreign Power to make a lodgment there. The wars on the northern frontier were forced upon him by the Hungarians and the Christian Powers in alliance with them. They appealed to arms, and victory decided against them. It will be seen that as a net result of Murad's reign the Ottoman Empire was extended during these thirty years by the acquisition of many petty principalities in Asia Minor, by the complete subjection of Serbia and Bosnia, the conquest of Salonika and its district, and by the conversion of the Morea into a tributary State. It was, however, reduced by the loss of Wallachia as a vassal State.

Gibbon, quoting from a Turkish historian, says:-

Murad was a just and valiant prince, of a great soul; patient of labour, learned, merciful, religious, charitable; a lover and encourager of the studious and of all who excelled in any art or science. No man obtained more or greater victories. Belgrade alone withstood his attacks. Under his reign the soldier was ever victorious, the citizen rich and secure. If he subdued any country, his first care was to build mosques and caravansaries, hospitals, and colleges.

Though, more suo, Gibbon suggests doubts whether such praise could be justified in the case of a Sultan "whose virtues are often the vices most useful to himself or most agreeable to his subjects," he admits that

the justice and moderation of Murad are attested by his conduct and acknowledged by Christians themselves, who consider a prosperous reign and a peaceful death as the reward of his singular merits. In the vigour of his age and military power he seldom engaged in war till he was justified by a previous and adequate provocation. In the observance of treaties his word was inviolate and sacred.13

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