Ottoman Interregnum

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Ottoman Interregnum

Late 16th-century depiction of Musa and Süleyman, facing each other
Date20 July 1402 (1402-07-20) – 5 July 1413 (1413-07-05)
(10 years, 11 months, 2 weeks and 1 day)

Victory of Mehmed Çelebi

  • Reunification of the Ottoman state
Mehmed's forces
Serbian Despotate
İsa's forces Süleyman's forces Musa's forces
Commanders and leaders
Mehmed Çelebi
Stefan Lazarević
Imamzade Halil Pasha
İsa Çelebi Executed
Junayd of Aydın[a][1][2]

Süleyman Çelebi 
Çandarlızade Ali Pasha [b]
Vuk Lazarević Executed
Junayd of Aydın[c][3][4]

Orhan Çelebi[d]
Musa Çelebi Executed
Mircea the Elder[6]
Sheikh Bedreddin[7]

The Ottoman Interregnum, or the Ottoman Civil War[8] (Turkish: Fetret devri,[9] lit.'Interregnum period'), was a civil war in the Ottoman Empire between the sons of Sultan Bayezid I following their father's defeat at the hands of Timur in the Battle of Ankara on 20 July 1402. Although Timur confirmed Mehmed Çelebi as sultan, Mehmed's brothers İsa Çelebi, Musa Çelebi, Süleyman Çelebi, and later, Mustafa Çelebi, refused to recognize his authority, each claiming the throne for himself.[10] This resulted in civil war. The Interregnum would last a little under 11 years, culminating in the Battle of Çamurlu on 5 July 1413, when Mehmed Çelebi emerged as victor, crowned himself Sultan Mehmed I, and restored the empire.

Civil war[edit]

Isa and Mehmed[edit]

Civil war broke out among the sons of Sultan Bayezid I upon his death in 1403. His oldest son, Süleyman, with his capital at Edirne, ruled the recently conquered Bulgaria, all of Thrace, Macedonia and northern Greece. The second son, İsa Çelebi, established himself as an independent ruler at Bursa[11] and Mehmed formed a kingdom at Amasya.[12] War broke out between Mehmed and İsa, and following the battles of Ermeni-beli[13] and Ulubad (March–May 1403),[11] Isa fled to Constantinople and Mehmed occupied Bursa.[14] The subsequent battle at Karasi between Mehmed and Isa resulted in a victory for Mehmed and Isa fleeing to Karaman.[13] Isa was later killed in a bath by agents of Mehmed.[15]

Suleyman enters civil war[edit]

Meanwhile, the other surviving son of Bayezid, Musa Çelebi, who was captured at the battle of Ankara, was released by Timur into the custody of Yakub of Germiyan.[16] Mûsa was freed, after Mehmed made a request for his brother's release. Following Isa's death, Süleyman crossed the straits with a large army.[17] Initially, Süleyman was successful. He invaded Anatolia, capturing Bursa (March 1404)[18] and Ankara later that year.

During the stalemate in Anatolia, which lasted from 1405–1410, Mehmed sent Musa across the Black Sea to Thrace with a small force to attack Suleyman's territories in south-eastern Europe. This maneuver soon recalled Suleyman to Thrace, where a short but sanguinary contest between him and Mûsa ensued. At first Suleyman had the advantage, winning the battle of Kosmidion in 1410, but in 1411 his army defected to Mûsa at Edirne. Suleyman was captured, given to Musa's bodyguard, Koyun Musasi, and strangled to death on 17 February 1411.[19][20] Mûsa was now the ruler of the Ottoman dominions in Thrace.

Mehmed and Musa[edit]

Manuel II Palaiologos, the Byzantine emperor, had been the ally of Suleyman; Mûsa therefore besieged Constantinople.[21] Manuel called on Mehmed to protect him, and Mehmed's Ottomans now garrisoned Constantinople against Musa's Ottomans of Thrace. Mehmed made several unsuccessful sallies against his brother's troops, and was obliged to re-cross the Bosporus to quell a revolt that had broken out in his own territories. Mûsa now pressed the siege of Constantinople. Mehmed returned to Thrace, and obtained the assistance of Stefan Lazarevic, the Serbian Despot.

The armies of the rival Ottoman brothers met on the plain of Chamurli (today Samokov, Bulgaria). Hassan, the Agha of the Janissaries of Mehmed, stepped out before the ranks and tried to get the troops to change sides. Mûsa rushed towards Hassan and killed him, but was himself wounded by an officer who had accompanied Hassan. Mûsa's Ottomans fought well, but the battle was won by Mehmed and his allies.[22] Mûsa fled, was later captured and strangled.[23] With Mûsa dead, Mehmed was the sole surviving son of the late Sultan Bayezid I and became Sultan Mehmed I.

The Interregnum was a striking example of the fratricide that would become common in Ottoman successions.

Political titles[edit]

During the Interregnum, only Mehmed minted coins titling himself Sultan. His brother Suleyman's coins called himself, Emir Suleyman b. Bayezid, while Musa's coins stated, Musa b. Bayezid. No coins of Isa's have survived.[24]


  1. ^ Initially
  2. ^ Died of natural causes
  3. ^ Later
  4. ^ After the death of Suleyman Çelebi, Orhan, his very young son attempted to take over the kingdom with the help of certain lords, but his paternal uncle Musa attacked him and, through betrayal rather than battle, ...[5]


  1. ^ Mélikoff 1965, pp. 599–600.
  2. ^ Kastritsis 2007, pp. 50, 80, 109.
  3. ^ Zachariadou 1983, p. 86.
  4. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. 119.
  5. ^ Philippides 2007, p. 73.
  6. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. 140.
  7. ^ "BEDREDDİN SİMÂVÎ Simavna Kadısı Oğlu Şeyh Bedreddin Mahmud (ö. 823/1420) Osmanlı fakih ve mutasavvıfı, önemli bir isyan ve ihtilâl hareketinin başlatıcısı.". TDV Encyclopedia of Islam (44+2 vols.) (in Turkish). Istanbul: Turkiye Diyanet Foundation, Centre for Islamic Studies. 1988–2016.
  8. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. xi.
  9. ^ "FETRET DEVRİ". TDV Encyclopedia of Islam (44+2 vols.) (in Turkish). Istanbul: Turkiye Diyanet Foundation, Centre for Islamic Studies. 1988–2016.
  10. ^ Fine 1994, p. 499.
  11. ^ a b Kastritsis 2007, p. 79.
  12. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. 73.
  13. ^ a b Pitcher 1968, p. 59.
  14. ^ Kastritsis 2007, pp. 90–91.
  15. ^ Kastritsis 2007, pp. 109–110.
  16. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. 85.
  17. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. 110.
  18. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. 112.
  19. ^ Finkel 2006, p. 32.
  20. ^ Kastritsis 2007, pp. 155–156.
  21. ^ Ostrogorsky 1969, p. 557.
  22. ^ Spuler, Bagley & Kissling 1996, p. 14.
  23. ^ Nicol 1972, p. 327.
  24. ^ Kastritsis 2007, p. 198.