G. Shaw-Lefevre (George Shaw-Lefevre) Eversley.

The Turkish empire, its growth and decay online

. (page 1 of 35)
Online LibraryG. Shaw-Lefevre (George Shaw-Lefevre) EversleyThe Turkish empire, its growth and decay → online text (page 1 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

^^f^^SlVf Of CAUFOIWtt



Ex Libris





Demy 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6(1. net.

With 4 Maps and 8 Illustrations.

The Partitions of Poland

(Second Edition)

'•In this volume Lord Eversley gives
us the story of Poland's tragedy with
his usual precision and compression, but
adding the special charm of a delightfully
fresh, sustained, and vivid handling."

Westminster Gazette.

" Thoroughness, dignity, and a calm,
even judgment are the conspicuous char-
acteristics of Lord Eversley's study of
the sufferings and wrongs of Poland
during the last 150 years. ... It was
always Lord Eversley's way to pursue
any theme with complete independence
of judgment, and an assiduous determi-
nation to get back to facts, and this
volume is a meritorious example of its
author's industry and intellectual vigour."
Daily Telegraph.

London : T. Fisher Unwin Ltd.


xll ()l byJndhJii; ruiio-'.iil/'. tUbhil yrl) rii noillj;lj.i(fi i. irioi-l

t> J'jfiioriBl'/i i^d ball/til kijv/ orlv/ .Inillofl ■A'lUi-jO 1«!jij; njii(i:ll

rr.lif 1o tiinjioq r> baJri'iBq Ijrin .08^1 iii .alqoriitnr.l^ri'i')

nrt\yjoUo'J \i^K^/l>J 'jfit rii ■-'• Ji/iTlTjq jfIT


From a medallion in the British Jluseum attributed to the

Italian artist Gentile Bellini, who was invited by Mahomet to

Constantinople, in 1480, and painted a portrait of him.

The portrait is in the La\ard Collection.





Author of "The Partitions of Poland." " Peel and O'Connell,
" Gladstone and Ireland "





First published in iqij
Second Impression IQ18

{All rights resert>ed)


The favour with which, two years ago, my book on The
Partitions of Poland was received by the public has induced
me to devote the interval to a study of the history of another
State which, in modern times, has almost disappeared from
the map of Europe — namely Turkey.

The subject is one in which I have for many years past
taken great interest. In the course of a long' life!, I have
witnessed the greater part of the events which have resulted
in the loss to that State of all its Christian provinces in
Europe and all its Moslem provinces in Africa, leaving
to it only its capital and a small part of Thrace in Europe,
and its still wide possessions in Asia.

So long ago, also, as in 1855 and 1857, I spent some time
at Constantinople and travelled in Bulgaria and Greece, and
was able to appreciate the effects of Turkish rule. As a
result, I gave a full support, in 1876, to Mr. Gladstone in
his efforts to secure the independence of Bulgaria^ and in
1879 was an active member of a committee, presided over
by Lord Rosebery, which hiad for its object the extension
of the kingdom of Greece so as to include the provinces
inhabited by Greeks still suffering under Turkish rule.

In 1887 and 1890 I again visited the East and travelled
over the same ground as thirty years earlier, and was able
to observe the immense improvements which had been
effected in the provinces that had gained independence,
and how little change had taken place at Constantinople.

In view of these experiences and of the further great
changes portended in Turkey after the conclusion of the


present great war, I have thought it may be of use to tell,
in a compact and popular form, the story of the growth and
decay of the Turkish Empire.

History may well be told at many different lengths and
from different points of view. That of the Ottoman Empire,
from the accession of Othman in 1288 to the treaty of
Kainardji in 1774, which secured to Russia a virtual
protectorate in favour of the Christian subjects of Turkey,
has been told at its greatest length by the German professor.
Von Hammer, in eighteen volumes. He is the only historian
who has explored for this long period both Greek and
Turkish annals.

The British historian, KnoUes, writing in 161 o, told
the story of the growth of the Turkish Empire in two
bulky folio volumes, much admired by two such different
authorities as Dr. Johnson and Lord Byron. The work is
based on a few only of the Greek annals. It is very
discursive and imperfect, but it contains many most terse
and striking passages. Gibbon, the historian of the Roman
Empire, and Sir Edwin Pears, in his most interesting book
on the Destruction of the Greek Empire, have also relied
on Greek authorities up to the capture of Constantinople
by the Turks in 1453, before which date there were no
Turkish historians. Very recently, in 191 6, Mr. Herbert
Gibbons, of the Princeton University, published a very
valuable work on the foundations of the Ottoman Empire,
dealing with its first four great Sultans. He has again
examined with very great care the numerous and con-
flicting early Greek authorities, and has thrown much new
light on the subject.

Other historians of Turkey, writing in English and
French, such as Creasy, Lane Poole, La Jonquiere, and
Halil Ganem (a Young Turk), have drawn their facts
mainly from Von Hammer's great work. Their books are
all of interest and value. But these writers, and especially
Sir Edward Creasy, in his otherwise admirable History of
the Ottoman Empire, written at the time of the Crimean


War, to which I have been much indebted, took what
would now be considered too favourable a view of Turkish
rule in modem times, and were over sanguine, as events
have shown, as to the maintenance and regeneration of the
Empire. I have followed their example in basing my
narrative mainly on Von Hammer's work, correcting it in
some important respects from the other sources I have
named, compressing^ it into much smaller compass than
they have done, treating it from a somewhat different
point of view, and bringing* it down to the commencement
of the present great war in 1914.

It would have been easier to tell the story at double the
length, so as to include much other important and interest-
ing matter, but, in such case, the lesson to be drawn from
it would have been obscured by the maze of detail. My
book does not aim at a full history of the long period dealt
with. I have proposed only to explain the process by
which the Turkish Empire was aggregated by its first ten
great Sultans, and has since been, in great part, dis-
membered under their twenty -five degenerate successors,
and to assign causes for these two great historic move-

I will only add that I commenced my recent studies
under the impressions derived in part from some of the
histories to which I have referred and with which I was
familiar, and in part from the common tradition in Western
Europe — dating probably from the time of the Crusaders
— that the Turkish invasions and conquests in Europe were
impelled by religious zeal and fervour and by the desire to
spread Islam. I have ended them with the conviction that
there was no missionary zeal whatever for Islam in the
Turkish armies and their leaders who invaded Europe, and
that their main incentive was the hope of plunder by the sack
of cities, the sale of captives as slaves or for harems, and
the confiscation of land and its distribution amon^ soldiers
as a reward for bravery. I have also concluded that the
4ecay of the military spirit and the shrinkage of Empire


was largely due to the absence of these motives and rewards
when the Turks were on the defensive.

If I have expressed my views freely on this subject, and
on the misrule of the Turks in modern times, I have
endeavoured to state the facts on which they are based with
perfect fairness as between the Crescent and the Cross.

I have purposely refrained from expressing an opinion
as to the future of Turkey, after the conclusion of the exist-
ing great war. The problems which will then have to be
solved are of a different order to those of the past which
have been dealt with in this book. The Turkish Empire,
in the sense of the rule of an alien race over subject races,
has practically ceased to exist in Europe. It survives in
Asia and at its capital, Constantinople, under very different

With respect to the numerous works I have consulted
for the latter part of my book, I desire specially to acknow-
ledge my indebtedness to Mr. Lane Poole's admirable Life
of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe.

I have to thank Lord Bryce, Lord Fitzmaurice, and Sir
Edwin Pears for their valuable suggestions, and Lady Byles
and Mr. Laurence Chubb for their kind help.

June I, 1917.




I. OTHMAN (1288-I326)

II. ORCHAN (1326-59)

III. MURAD I (1359-89)

IV. BAYEZID I (1389- 1 403) .
V. MAHOMET I (14I3-21) .

VI. MURAD II (142I-51)


VIII. BAYEZID II (1481-I512) .

IX. SELIM I (1512-20)
















1 68





XVII. TO THE TREATY OF JASSY (1774-92) . . . 223


XIX. MAHMOUD II (1808-39) ..... 255

XX. THE RULE OF ELCHIS (1839-76) . . . 287

XXI. ABDUL HAMID II (1876-I909) .... 316

XXII. THE YOUNG TURKS (1909-I4) .... 352



INDEX ....... 385



ENTRY OF THE OTTOMANS IN 1353 . Facing page ^I


EXTENT ..... Facing page 148


Facing page 369





Towards the middle of the thirteenth century a small
band or tribe of nomad Turks migrated from Khorassan,
in Central Asia, into Asia Minor. They were part of a
much larger body, variously estimated at from two to four
thousand horsemen, who, with their families, had fled from
their homes in Khorassan under Solyman Shah. They
had been driven thence by an invading horde of Mongols
from farther east. They hoped to find asylum in Asia
Minor. They crossed into Armenia and spent some years
in the neighbourhood of Erzeroum, plundering the natives
there. When the wave of Mongols had spent its force,
they proposed to return to Khorassan. On reaching the
Euphrates River Solyman, when trying, on horseback, to
find a ford, was carried away by the current and drowned.
This was reckoned as a bad omen by many of his followers .
Two of his sons, with a majority of them, either returned
to Central Asia or dispersed on the way there.

Two other sons, Ertoghrul and Dundar, with four hundred
and twenty families, retraced their course, and after spending
siome time again near Erzeroum^, wandered westward into Asia
Minor. They came into a country inhabited by a kindred
race. Successive waves of Turks from the same district in
Central Asia, in the course of the three previous centuries,
had made their way into Asia Minor, and had taken forcible
possession of the greater part of it. They formed there
an Empire, known as that of the Seljukian Turks, with
Konia, the ancient Iconium, as its capital. But this Empire,
by the middle of the thirteenth century, was in a decadent
condition. It was eventually broken up, in part, by assaults
of a fresh swarm of invaders from Central Asia ; and in


part by internal civil strife, fomented by family disputes of

When Ertoghrul's band appeared on the scene, Sultan
Alaeddin ruled at Konia over what remained to him of
the Seljukian State. Other remnants of it survived under
independent Emirs at Karamania, Sarukhan, Mentsche, and
numerous other smaller States. Between them they possessed
nearly the whole of Asia Minor, with the exception of a
few cities in its north-west, such as Brusa, Nicaea, and
Nicomedia and the districts round them, and a belt of
territory along the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmora, and
the Hellespont, to which the Byzantine Emperors, formerly
the owners of nearly the whole of Anatolia, were now
reduced. Two small Christian States also still existed there
— Trebizond, in the north-east, and Little Armenia, in
Cilicia, in the south-east. Though divided among many
independent Emirs, the people of Asia IVIinor, with
the exception of the Greeks and Armenians, were fairly
welded together. The invading Turks had intermixed with
the native population, imposing on them the Turkish
language, and had themselves adopted the religion of
Islam. Ertoghrul and his nomad tribe, before entering
this country, were not Moslems, but they were not strangers
in language. Whatever their religion, it was held lightly.
They were converted to Islam after a short stay in the
country and, as is often the case with neophytes, became
ardent professors of their new faith.

The oft -told story of the first exploit of Ertoghrul and
his four hundred and twenty horsemen, on coming into the
country of the Seljuks, as handed dovm by tradition, though
savouring somewhat of a myth, is as follows : They,
came unexpectedly upon a battle in which one side was
much pressed. They knew nothing of the combatants.
Ertoghrul spoke to his followers : " Friends, we come
straight on a battle. We carry swords at our side. To
flee like women and resume our journey is not manly.
We must help one of the two. Shall we aid those who
are winning or those who are losing ? " Then they said
unto him : " It will be difficult to aid the losers. Our
people are weak in number and the victors are strong ! "
Ertoghrul replied : " This is not the speech of bold men.
The manly part is to aid the vanquished." Thereupon
the whole body of them fell upon the Mongols, who were


the winning side, and drove them into flight. The side
to which they brought aid and victory proved to be that
of Sultan Alaeddin of Konia. In return for this provi-
dential aid, Sultan Alaeddin made a grant of territory to
Ertoghrul to be held as a fief under the Seljuks. It con-
sisted of a district at Sugut, about sixty miles south-east of
Brusa, and a part of the mountain range to the west of it.

Ertoghrul and his horsemen were a welcome support to
Alaeddin 's waning fortunes. In a later encounter with a
small Byzantine force they came ofif victorious, and Alaeddin
made a further addition to their territory on the borders
of his own, over which he had a very nominal sovereignty.
Thenceforth Ertoghrul lived an uneventful pastoral life as
the head of his clan or tribe of Turks in the ceded
territory, till his death in 1288, nearly fifty years from
the date of his leaving Khorassan. His son, Othman, who
was born at Sugut in 1258, was chosen by the clan to
succeed him, and soon commenced a much more ambitious
career than that of his father. When of the age of only
sixteen he had fallen in love with the beautiful daughter
of Sheik Idebali, a holy man of great repute in Karamania.
It is evidence of the small account then held of Ertoghrul
and his son that the Sheik did not think the marriage
good enough for his daughter. It was only after a long
and patient wooing by Othmkn, and as the result of a
dream, which foretold a great future of empire for his
progeny, that Idebali gave consent to the mlarriage.

There were no contemporary Turkish histories of the
early Ottoman Sultans. It was not till many years after
the capture of Constantinople in 1453 that Turkish
historians wrote about the birth of their State. They had
to rely upon traditions, which must be accepted with much
reserve. This, however, is certain, that Othman, in his
thirty-eight years of leadership, increased his dominion
from its very narrow limits at Sugut and Eski-Sheir to
a territory extending thence northward to the Bosphorus
and Black Sea, a distance of about a hundred and twenty
miles by an average breadth of sixty miles, an area of
about seven thousand square miles. There are no means
of estimating its population. It was probably sparse, except
on the coast of the Marmora and Black Sea. It included
only one important city, Brusa, which was surrendered by
its garrison and citizens shortly before the death of Othman


in 1326, after being hemmed in and cut off from com-
munication with Constantinople for many years. Consider-
able as these additions were, the nascent State could
not even yet be considered as important in size. It was
exceeded by several of the larger Turkish Emirates in
Asia Minor, such as Karamania, Sarukhan, and others.

It is notable that Othman, from the outset of his career,
devoted his efforts, not against the Turkish Moslem States
lying to the south and west of him, but against the territory
to the north in possession of the Byzantine Empire, or
which had recently been more or less emancipated from
it, and inhabited chiefly by Christians. It is to be inferred
from this that the motive of Othman was partly a religious
one, to extend Islam. This was not effected by any signal
victories over the armies of the Greek Empire. There
was only one recorded battle against any army of the
Emperor, that at Baphoeon, near Nicomedia, where Othman,
who by this time reckoned four thousand horsemen among
his followers, defeated the inconsiderable body of two
thousand Byzantine troops. In the following year, 1302,
the Greek Emperor, Michael Palaeologus, alarmed at the
progress of Othman, crossed in person into Asia Minor
at the head of a small ar'my of mercenary Slavs. But
he brought no money with him to pay his soldiers. They
would not fight without pay. They dispersed, and Michael
was obliged to return to his capital. This was his last
attempt to defend his remaining territory in that district.
He was hard pressed in other directions by other Turkish
Emirs in Asia Minor, and in the first decade of the four-
teenth century the Greek Empire lost all its possessions
in the islands of the .^gean Sea.

The extensions of territory by Othman, during his long
reign of thirty -eight years, were effected by a slow process
of attrition, by capturing from time to time petty fortresses
and castles and annexing the districts round them. He
acted in this respect, in the earlier stages, as fief of the
Seljuk State ; but later, when that Empire came to an
end, Othman declared his independence, and thenceforth
his accretions of territory were on his own behalf. It
would seem that, as these additions were made, their popu-
lations, or the greater part of them who were Christians,
adopted Islam, not under compulsion — for there is no record
of the massacre of captives or of the sale of them as slaves


— but because they were abandoned by their natural pro-
tectors, the Greeks of Constantinople. The important fact,
clearly shown by Mr. Gibbons in his recent work, is that
the new State thus created by Othman did not consist
purely of Turks. It had a very large mixture of Greeks
and Slavs, who were welded with Turks by the religion
of Islam. They were, from an early period, very distinct
from the people of other Turkish States. They called
themselves Osmanlis. The term ' Turk ' was used by them
rather as a term of contempt for an inferior people, as
compared with themselves . It was only in later years, when
the other Turkish States of Asia Minor were incorporated
in the Empire, that the term ' Turk ' was applied to its
people, in the first instance by outsiders, and eventually
by themselves.

To Othman, therefore, is due the credit of this inception
of a new State and a new and distinct people. He did
not, however, assume the title of Sultan. He was simply
an Emir, like so many other rulers of petty States in
Asia Minor. He was not a great general. He had no
opportunity of conducting a great campaign. He was a
brave soldier and a sagacious leader, who inspired confi-
dence and trust in his followers and subjects. He pursued
with great persistency the policy of enlarging his domain.
He was also a wise and capable administrator, and was
assisted in this by his father-in-law, Idebali, who acted
as his Vizier. He meted out equal justice to all his subjects,
irrespective of race and religion. He was simple and
unostentatious in his habits. There is no record of his
having more than one wife or more than two sons. He did
not amass wealth. He divided the loot of war equally
among his soldiers, setting' apart a portion for the poor
and orphans.

Othman had a vein of cruelty in his character, as had
so many of his descendants, the Ottoman Sultans. When,
on one occasion, he propounded to his war council a scheme
of further aggression on his neighbours, his uncle, Dundar,
a nonogenarian, who had been companion in arms to
Ertoghrul, ventured to raise objection to the policy of
further extension. Othman, instead of arguing the question
with him, took up his cross-bow and shot his imcle dead
on the spot, and in this way closured the discussion and
put down, at the outset, opposition in the council.



Von Hammer, in relating this story, says : —

This murder of the uncle marks with terror the comiiicncemcnt of
the Ottoman dominion, as the brother's murder did that of Rome,
only the former rests on better historical evidence. Idris (the Turkish
historian), who, at the beginning of his work, declares that, passing over
in silence all that is reprehensible, he will only hand down to posterity
the glorious deeds of the royal race of Othman, relates, among the
latter, the murder of Dundar. If then such a murderous slaughter of a
relative be reckoned by the panegyrists of the Osmanlis among their
praiseworthy acts, what are we to think of those which cannot be praised
and of which their history therefore is silent ? '

We must judge of Othman, however, not by the standard
of the present time, but by that of his contemporaries. By
that standard he was reckoned a humane and merciful
sovereign. This view is expressed in the prayer which
has been used in the religious ceremony, on the accession
of every one of his successors to the throne, when he is
girt with the double-edged sword of the founder of the
Empire, " May he be as good as Othman."

In his old age, when Othman was incapable of taking
the field himself, his son, Orchan, took his place as the
leader of the army, and just before the death of Othman
Brusa surrendered to him. It was then, as now, one of
the most important cities in Asia Minor.

When Othman was lon his deathbed, after a reign of
thirty -eight years, his son Orchan, in terms of affection
and lamentation, addressed him : " Oh, Othman ! Thou
fountain of Emperors, Lord of the World, Thou conqueror
and subduer of Nations." The dying king replied : —

Lament not, oh my sons ; delight ! for this my last conflict is the lot
of all human kind, common to young and old, who equally breathe the
air of this malignant world. Whilst I now pass to immortality, live thou
glorious, prosperous, and happy. Since I have thee for successor, I have
no cause to grieve at my departure. I will give thee my last instructions,
to which be attentive. Bury the cares of life in oblivion. I conjure thee,
crowned with felicity, lean not to tyranny, nor so much as look towards
cruelty. On the contrary, cultivate justice and thereby embellish the earth.
Rejoice my departed soul with a beautiful series of victories, and when
thou art become conqueror of the world, propagate religion by thy arms.
Promote the learned to honour, so the divine law shall be established, and
in what place soever thou hearest a learned man, let honour, magnificence.

' Von Hammer, i. p. 28 (French translation).


and clemency attend him. Glory not in thy armies, nor pride thyself in
thy riches. Keep near thy person the learned in the law, and, as justice is
the support of kingdoms, turn from everything repugnant thereto. The
Divine law is our sole arm, and our progress is only in the paths of the
Lord. Embark not in vain undertakings or fruitless contentions. For it
is not our ambition to enjoy the empire of the world, but the propagation
of the faith was my peculiar desire, whicli therefore it becomes thee to

Online LibraryG. Shaw-Lefevre (George Shaw-Lefevre) EversleyThe Turkish empire, its growth and decay → online text (page 1 of 35)