Bayezid I was declared sultan following the death of Sultan Murad on the battlefield at Kosovo in 1389. To ensure his uncontested succession to the sultanate, Bayezid had his brother Yakub assassinated; subsequently the practice of fratricide became commonplace among heirs to the Ottoman throne.
To cement Ottoman control over Serbia, Bayezid married a Serbian royal princess. Bayezid immediately embarked on a series of successful military conquests, personally leading his troops throughout Thrace. Under Bayezid’s rule, only the heavily fortified cities on the coast, including Athens and Constantinople, remained outside Ottoman control.
Recognizing the importance of sea power in any attempt to seize Constantinople, the Ottomans began to build up their navy. Fearful of the mounting Ottoman threat, the Hungarian king and later Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund rallied Christian forces in Europe to attack the Ottomans at Nicopolis in 1396.
The Europeans were resoundingly defeated by the Ottoman troops, who were personally led on the battlefield by Bayezid who then conquered virtually all of the Balkans, the Turkoman areas of Karaman, Anatolia, and the eastern Mediterranean. Because of his military prowess, Ottoman troops called Bayezid the “thunderbolt” (yildirim).
However, Bayezid’s love of luxury and increasing arrogance alienated many of his subjects and offended many traditional Muslims. Some amirs (local governors) fled to the court of Timurlane, whose mounting power posed a serious threat to Bayezid’s conquests. In 1402 Ottoman and Mongol forces met on the battlefield at Ankara, where Bayezid was captured.
Brought before Timurlane, Bayezid was initially treated with respect, but after a failed attempt to escape, he was placed in an iron cage; he died several months later. Timurlane went on to conquer the rest of Anatolia but divided his newly gained territories among four of Bayezid’s sons. Although they pledged loyalty to Timurlane, upon his death three years later, they promptly resumed the Ottoman quest for empire.
|Bayezid held by Timurlane|