Childhood & Early Life
Bayezid I was born on May 10, 1354, in Ottoman Beylik (present-day Turkey) to Sultan Murad I and his first wife Gülçiçek Hatun. He had a full brother, Yahşi Bey, and several half-brothers, including Şehzade Savcı Bey, Şehzade Yakub Çelebi, and Şehzade Ibrahim, and a number of half-sisters, including Nefise Hatun.
As a Şehzade or prince of the Ottoman Empire, Bayezid was appointed governor of Kütahya, which was a city annexed from the Germiyanids. Due to his impulsive temperament as a soldier, he gained the nickname the Thunderbolt.
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Accession & Reign
Murad I was killed either at the Battle of Kosovo on June 15, 1389, or a day later, allegedly by the Serbian Knight Miloš Obilić. Despite the death of their sovereign and near annihilation of their army, the Ottomans ultimately prevailed, and Serbia was subsequently turned into a vassal of the Ottoman Sultanate.
Bayezid ascended the throne immediately after his father’s death and executed his younger brother, Şehzade Yakub Çelebi, to prevent any future intrigue against him.
He wedded Olivera Despina (later known as Despina Hatun), the youngest daughter of Prince Lazar of Serbia. Prince Lazar had perished at the Battle of Kosovo as well. Bayezid appointed Stefan Lazarević, one of the sons of Lazar, as the new Serbian ruler (eventual despot) and allowed him a significant amount of autonomy.
The upper Serbia continued to fight against the Ottomans until forces led by General Pasha Yiğit Bey took control of Skopje in 1391. He subsequently turned the city into a crucial base of operations.
Deciding to bring the entire Anatolia under his domain, Bayezid considered sending his army into Muslim territories but knew that it could ruin the relations between the Ottomans and the gazis, who provided a large portion of warriors against the Christians on the European front.
Because of this, he started acquiring fatwas from Islamic scholars before launching a military campaign against a Muslim ruler. However, he still did not fully trust his Muslim Turkoman followers to attack these leaders and highly depended on his Serbian and Byzantine vassal troops.
In 1390, he launched a massive campaign during which he subjugated the beyliks of Aydin, Saruhan and Menteshe. During this period, one of his most dangerous enemies was Sulayman, the emir of Karaman, who created an alliance that included the ruler of Sivas, Kadi Burhan al-Din and the remaining Turkish beyliks. This failed to stop Bayezid’s advance, and he conquered the rest of the beyliks.
Bayezid I subsequently agreed to the peace proposals that Karaman had sent, believing that further military campaigns would anger his Turkoman followers. After securing peace with Karaman, Bayezid shifted his attention north towards Kastamonu, which had provided asylum to many of his fleeing opponents.
He vanquished Kastamonu, as well as Sinop. The Ottoman expansion in Anatolia was temporarily halted following the Battle of Kırkdilim (July 1391 or 1392) between Bayezid and Burhan al-Din.
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Between 1389 and 1395, Bayezid subjugated Bulgaria and northern Greece. In 1394, he led his forces across the River Danube to invade Wallachia, where Mircea the Elder was the ruler at the time. Following an intense battle at Rovine on October 10, 1394 (or May 17, 1395), in which the Ottomans suffered a defeat despite being superior in fleet size, Bayezid’s progress beyond the Danube was checked.
In 1394, Bayezid I set up a military blockade around the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). The Anadoluhisarı fortress was constructed between 1393 and 1394 on the commission of the sultan, who wanted to use it during the Second Ottoman Siege of Constantinople, which occurred in 1395.
The Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus requested a new crusade to be assembled in order to triumph over Bayezid. The combined Christian forces led by the King of Hungary and future Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund lost to the Ottomans at the Battle of Nicopolis on September 25, 1396. To commemorate this triumph, Bayezid constructed the spectacular Ulu Cami in Bursa.
The blockade of Constantinople did not break until 1402 when Bayezid steered his forces towards the eastern front against the Timurid Empire. At the height of Bayezid’s reign as the Ottoman sultan, he controlled Thrace (except Constantinople), Macedonia, Bulgaria, and parts of Serbia in Europe.
In Asia, his domain had reached to the Taurus Mountains. In 1397, he finally conquered Karaman, after defeating and killing its emir. A year later, he subjugated Djanik emirate and the territory of Burhan al-Din, which broke the peace with Timur.
In 1400, Timur convinced the local Turkic beyliks, who previously had been under the Ottoman rule, to join forces with him. The two most powerful rulers in the Islamic world fought each other at the Battle of Ankara, on July 20, 1402. The Ottoman army was routed, and Bayezid was taken captive.
Marriage & Issue
Bayezid I had numerous wives and concubines, including Sultan Hatun, daughter of Prince Süleyman Şah Çelebi of the Germiyanids; Devlet Hatun; Despina Hatun; Hafsa Hatun, daughter of Prince Fahreddin Isa Bey of the Aydinids; and Maria Hatun, daughter of Louis Fadrique, Count of Salona.
Some of his children were Şehzade Ertuğrul Çelebi (1378-1400); Şehzade Süleyman Çelebi (1377-1411), co-sultan of Rumelia; Şehzade İsa Çelebi (1380-1403), governor of Anatolia; Şehzade Mehmed Çelebi (1382-1421), eventual Sultan Mehmed I; Şehzade Musa Çelebi (1388-1413), co-sultan of Rumelia; Şehzade Mustafa Çelebi (1393 – 1422); Hundi Hatun; and Erhondu Hatun.
Although Bayezid I himself was captured, four of his sons, Süleyman, İsa, Mehmed, and Musa, managed to successfully flee from the battlefield. This meant that there were multiple contenders for the vacant Ottoman throne.
Although Timur named Mehmed as his father’s successor, his brothers declined to accept his sovereignty, each proclaiming themselves as the Sultan. This period of political turmoil and civil war in the empire came to be known as the Ottoman Interregnum.
Mehmed eventually prevailed. However, at this point, another brother, Mustafa, who had been held prisoner by the Timurids along with his father, surfaced and began his struggle to wrest control of the empire from Mehmed. After Mehmed’s passing, he continued to fight against Mehmed’s son, Murat II, until his capture and execution in May 1422.