Chapter 37

Ventures  North West


Sometime between October 1362 and October 1363 Murad returned to Bursa, laden with treasure, and issued each of his generals with targets to achieve. 2, 16 Murad’s former Tutor – Lala Shahin returned with the army to Thrace and the campaign for the taking of the Balkans had moved a step further – the Ottoman army captured Philippopolis/Plovdiv – one of the large and important cities on the Balkans.  This happened around 1363/4. 1   Plovdiv remained in Ottoman hands for the next 30 years, which gave it stability after the constant wars between the various Christian Kings, which had a negative effect on the city.1 The Ottomans left the Metropolitan of the Bulgarian church Manuel in charge of the city.   

In 1363, Murad signed an agreement with John V Paleologus, which put the Byzantine Empire under the domination of the Ottomans. 3   The treaty John Paleologus signed with Murad, precluded him from attempting to take back any of the land won by the Ottomans so far.  He also promised to not only to refrain from helping the Bulgarians and the Serbians in resisting Ottoman advances, but also to support Murad’s armies in their fights against the other Turkish beyliks. 9, 14


The re-settlement programme – to bring as many Muslim people living in the newly taken lands in Europe was also progressing.  In any new land taken, the akhi fraternity would step in and establish tekkes – bases for the Dervish order and zaviyes – hostels, maintained by the Dervish organisation.  Those often acted as magnets of attraction to the Turkic population, which settled around them.  Trusts were established to support those and it was part of a duty of every good Muslim to give alms in support of those trusts.  The akhi fraternity was also very good at finding local shrines and saints to use for their ethical codes (futuwwas), thus building a bridge between the new culture and the old one. 4

Their role was even more important in towns, where they merged with the already established Christian guilds of traders and artisans.  Soon the leadership of those moved into the hands of the Akhi brotherhood. 


Murad’s next task was to regain Ankara, which he re-captured in July 1364. 16 During the same year the mosque, commissioned previously by Murad in Bilecik was completed. 

On the political front Murad singed a new contract with the Republic of Dubrovnik, which included a trade agreement and stipulated the Ottoman protection of the Republic. 

Murad was undertaking a vast building programme in Bursa – apart from dervish establishments, schools and mosques; he ordered the building of inns, bridges, baths and other municipal buildings.  On hearing that one of the slaves brought from a raid was a capable builder, Murad released him and put him in charge of the building programme in Bursa.  He ordered the building of a large mosque in front of the palace. 6. 16

Back at the siege of Adrianople, fortune again swung in favour of the Ottomans. One night, using the flooded Maritza river, the Byzantine Lord of the city put his family and as much treasure and money he could lay hands on in a boat and sailed away. 5   As no aid arrived, in the morning the citizens of Adrianople handed the city gate keys to the Ottoman leader – the city surrendered in 1365. 4   It can be noted in passing that there is some disagreement on the precise date of the fall of Adrianople.

On his return to Edirne, Murad rewarded Lala Shahin and asked him to develop the centre of Plovdiv.  Lala Shahin used massive amount of personal wealth to do so.  He ordered the building of a wide new bridge over the river Maritza as well as new municipal buildings.  Unfortunately most of this was destroyed at the beginning of the XVth century in the battle between Beyazid’s sons Suleiman Chelebi and Musa Chelebi. 1   The yield from rice, wheat and other crops from the plain around Plovdiv contributed massively to the Ottoman treasury for years. 2

The first international recognition of Murad came in 1365 from the republic of Ragusa.  They were prepared to pay a large sum of money annually to acquire the rights to “unrestricted commercial privileges” in the Ottoman Empire.  This tribute became larger in time.  Murad could not write – it was the Treaty with Ragusa, which he ratified by covering his hand with ink and making an impression of it on the contract, giving birth to the tughraan elaborate drawing in the form of a stylised signature. 13

In 1365, Murad and his family threw a lavish party in Bursa to celebrate the circumcision of the three princes – his sons Beyazid, Jacub and Savci.  The princes received many presents as part of the festivities, all poor people were given a meal. 2  

In 1366, Murad was 40 years old.  In March 1366, he took a new wife – the daughter of the Seyyd Sultan, who was an Ahi.  We have no name or any other details about her, unfortunately.  She was his third consort. 5

The conflicts that divided the Christian world now became a crucial factor in explaining the ease of Ottoman expansion.

After the death of Stephan Dushan, the weakness of Orthodox Serbia enhanced the strength of Hungary under the Catholic Ludovic (the Great) of Anjou (1342 – 1382).   During his time, Hungary increased its territorial size and power and became one of the important states in Central Europe.  Its territory included Bohemia, Moravia, and Transylvania; it extended its boundaries into Walachia, Moldavia, Bulgaria and Croatia.  Ludovic was suzerain over the nobles of Croatia, who had significant influence in Slovenia, Bosnia and part of Dalmatia.   Nevertheless, there was internal unrest in the kingdom – the Orthodox population begrudged the rule of a Catholic dynasty and its accommodation of Catholic priests in the county.  The nobility were doing everything to build up their local power and resist the king. These centrifugal forces meant that Christian resistance against the advance of the Muslim forces from the south became ineffective. 11

In 1366 (30 May), as we saw in Part One, Ludovic Anjou, the Emperor of Hungary, occupied Vidin and the family of Ivan Stratzimir were taken in captivity to Humnic, Croatia, where Ivan Stratzimir and his children were forced to take Catholicism (his wife was already a catholic). 

The simultaneous events referred to in detail in Part 1, just reinforce the conclusion that divisions between Orthodox and Catholic Christians played into Murad’s hands:

  • Ludovic’s invasion of Vidin and his attempt to convert the Orthodox population; 6
  • The Pope’s call for a crusade frustrated by lack of Western support; 13
  • John V Paleologus’s desperate plea for help is met by Ludovic’s condition that the Byzantine Emperor should convert his population in return for Hungarian help against the Turks;  16
  • the imprisonment of the Emperor by the Orthodox Bulgarians; 13, 16
  • the intervention of Count Amadeus of Savoy to free the Emperor from the Bulgarians, which led to significant territorial loss for Bulgaria; 7, 8, 13, 16  John V Paleologus gave Mesembria as an apanage to his younger son Michael Paleologus in 1367. 17
  • the Venetian’s secret pro Ottoman agenda in striving to frustrate Ludovic’s ambitions in former Serbia. 13

The disagreement between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches had a deep effect to the developments in the future.  John Vth had enlisted his cousin Amadeus from April to June 1367 to explore all possible variants for help, which bordered on religious issues.  All variants, including a union between the Orthodox and Catholic churches was considered and John even proposed to travel to Rome to accept the Catholic faith.  Count Amadeus returned to Rome to offer the various suggestions to the Pope – Urban Vth, who rejected all except the visit of the Byzantine emperor. 10

The mutual suspicion between the Orthodox and the Catholic faiths meant that the Bulgarian, Greek, Serb population of the Balkans preferred the Ottoman rule to that of the Hungarians, who were Catholics, as the Ottomans accepted the Orthodox religion, while the Catholics did not. 9


Although the Ottomans were in a difficult situation, as they still lacked a navy and heavy artillery needed to attack well fortified fortresses, they did make some acquisitions – namely the fortresses of Karinova (present day Karnobat), Aydos (Aytos) and Burgaz (Burgas) from the Bulgarians. 6

 In order to create a an empire, which would take over and continue the Byzantine empire, Murad needed to use the Christian citizens of the Balkans, who understood or even had some experience of Government and military organisation. He recognised, in the ruling classes of his new subjects, a sophistication, which was based on their living on the crossroads of several trade routes.  He realised that taking over existing structures, building on local expertise and adapting them to Islam would stabilise the empire faster as he moved towards Europe.  He started to plan aggressive campaigns towards his neighbours. 13

Murad initiated a massive programme of re-settlement, where he forced Turks from Anatolia to be resettled in the Balkans, thus providing soldiers for his advance troops.    He also re-settled many Christians from the Balkans to Anatolia and to the area of Edirne, ensuring the compliance of their relatives back home to his advancing armies. 11

In 1369, Lala Shahin’s forces met and defeated a joint Bulgarian and Byzantine offensive at Sazlidere, south of Adrianople. 2

Murad must have been overjoyed at the Emperor’s weak position. This was confirmed by subsequent events.

 John Paleologus could find no alternative offers for help, especially after the fall of Adrianople, and he went for Rome in search of allies, having left the empire again in the hands of his eldest son Andronicus.   In the Hospital of the Holy Spirit in Rome, on the 17th of October 1369, he accepted the Catholic faith.  This was followed later by a public “spectacle of submission” on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.  The Pope Urban Vth did not lose a moment in promoting the event – he sent letters to all Christian princes to recommend the new Catholic and to the Greek clergy, suggesting that they followed his example. 13, 10  

John soon realized that his sacrifice did not achieve its purpose – his conversion remained a personal issue, there was no union of the two churches and did not return home with grants of money, men and ships to fight the Ottomans.14  His humiliation was further increased when he was apprehended by merchants in Venice for debts owned to them. 

On his way back from Rome, which he left in March 1370, he made his way to Venice, where the Byzantine crown jewels (those, which Empress Anna of Savoy pawned) were still kept, and the Byzantine Government continued to pay annual installments to cover the Venetian’s claims for damages on their property in Constantinople.  Those were calculated to be 25,663 hyperpyra, only 4500 of which had been paid so far. 15  

John had no money, but he offered the island of Tenedos, which the Venetians had desired for a long time.  In turn, the Venetians promised to return the Byzantine crown jewels, supply 6 ships to the Emperor and had him 25,000 gold ducats, 4,000 of which were supposed to come as an advance this July.  Unfortunately, the deal could not go thorough as his eldest son Andronicus, whom he appointed as a Regent in Constantinople, refused to hand over the island, most likely influenced by the Genoese.  The Emperor was placed in a difficult situation – he had no cash and no credit and as a result he was held by the Dodge as a bankrupt debtor.  He turned again to his son Andronicus (the husband of Keratza Maria of Bulgaria – half sister of Tamara) to pay the ransom required only to be told that neither the treasury nor the Church could spare any sums of money to pay this.  It was John’s second son – Manuel, who managed to find and bring the money for his father’s release. 13, 14 

So, after five more months, spent in Rome and practically a year in Venice, John was able to leave Venice in March 1371 with 30,000 ducats and provisions for his voyage home.  He returned to Constantinople in the autumn of 1371 to find the political situation had deteriorated further. 9, 10