Lesser Known Byzantine Empire Facts
Lesser Known Byzantine Empire Facts

Lesser Known Byzantine Empire Facts

Khalid Elhassan - September 11, 2020

Lesser Known Byzantine Empire Facts
Osman I, first of the Ottoman Turk Dynasty. Pintrest

2. The Byzantine Empire’s Final Foe Began as a Religious Order

It would not be the Seljuk Turks who would finally finish off the Byzantine Empire. Instead, that task fell to their successors, the Ottoman Turks. Even as the Seljuks governed a settled empire, other independent Turks continued to roam the Steppe. Allied to other nomads, some of them still pagan, the still-nomadic Turks formed warrior groups that continued to raid into settled lands. They became a constant headache for the Seljuks. Most dominant among them were bands of what came to be known as “Ghazis” – religious orders of holy warriors.

Ghazis were a motley lot of volunteers, many of them vagabonds, malcontents, fugitives, and unemployed seeking subsistence. They assigned themselves the task of fighting infidels – and plundering as much as they could lay their hands on while they were at it. Their chief targets were the Byzantine Empire and the Christian states of the Caucasus. By the late thirteenth century, one Ghazi chieftain, Osman I, a religious leader who founded the Ottoman dynasty, came to rule a territory directly bordering what was left of the Byzantine Empire in Anatolia.

Lesser Known Byzantine Empire Facts
The 1453 Siege of Constantinople. Flickr

1. The Byzantine Empire’s Executioners Burst on the Scene

The fledgling state of Osman I experienced an explosive growth during the fourteenth century. Osman’s son Orhan captured the northwestern Anatolian town of Bursa in 1326, and made it the capital of the Ottoman state. In 1354, an earthquake devastated the Gallipoli Peninsula across the Dardanelles Strait from Anatolia, and wrecked its Byzantine forts. The Ottoman Turks quickly seized and occupied the peninsula, establishing a foothold in Europe.

Lesser Known Byzantine Empire Facts
Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror entering Constantinople in 1453. Wikimedia

In 1387, Ottoman forces seized the city of Thessaloniki in Greece. In 1389, an Ottoman army crushed the Serbs at the Battle of Kosovo, and made the Ottoman Empire the dominant power in the Balkans. In 1396, at the Battle of Nicopolis, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I routed the last large-scale crusade of the Middle Ages, which had set out to halt Ottoman expansion. The Ottoman state suffered a humiliating but short-lived setback in the early fifteenth century, when it was defeated by Tamerlane. The dynasty bounced back quickly, however, and in 1453, made its greatest conquest by capturing Constantinople, the Byzantine capital and final stronghold, bringing that long-lived state to an end.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Akram, A. I. – The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin al Waleed, His Life and Campaigns

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Donation of Constantine

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Justinian’s Plague (541-542 CE)

Ancient Origins – Vikings in Byzantium: The Varangians and Their Fearless Conquests

Blondal, Sigfus – Varangians of Byzantium: An Aspect of Byzantine Military History (1978)

Browning, Robert – The Byzantine Empire (1992)

Catholic Encyclopedia – Donation of Constantine

Commena, Anna – The Alexiad

Davies, Norman – Europe: A History (1996)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Irene, Byzantine Empress

Encyclopedia Britannica – Nika Riots

Freely, John – Istanbul: The Imperial City (1998)

Gibbon, Edward – The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Gloria Romanorum – Constantine’s Execution of Crispus and Fausta

Glubb, John Bagot – The Great Arab Conquests

Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe III (2002)

Kinross, Lord – The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire (1977)

Listverse – 10 Dark Secrets of the Byzantine Empire

Listverse – 10 Scary Facts About the Justinian Plague

McNeil, William H. – Plagues and People (1976)

Medievalists Net – Yersinia Pestis and the Plague of Justinian 541-543 AD: A Genomic Analysis

Order of Medieval Women – Sikelgaita, Heiress of Salerno

ThoughtCo – Irene of Athens: Controversial Byzantine Empress

Wikipedia – Varangian Guard

Wikipedia – Walls of Constantinople

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