After striking a blow to the weakened Byzantine Empire in 1356 (it is disputed that the year may have been 1358 due to a change in the Byzantine calendar), (see Suleyman Pasha) which provided it a basis for operations in Europe, the Ottoman Empire started its westward expansion into the European continent in the middle of the 14th century.
Constantinople fell in 1453 after the Battle of Varna and the Second Battle of Kosovo.
All of Greece fell in 1460 (see: Ottoman Greece).
In the latter half of the 14th century the Ottoman Empire proceeded to advance north and west in the Balkans, completely subordinating Thrace and much of Macedonia after the Battle of Maritsa in 1371. Sofia fell in 1382, followed by the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire Tarnovgrad in 1393, and the northwest remnants of the state after the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396.
A significant opponent was the young Serbian Empire, which was worn down by a series of campaigns, notably in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, in which the leaders of both armies were killed, and which gained a central role in Serbian folklore as an epic battle and beginning of bad luck for Serbia. Much of Serbia fell to the Ottomans by 1459, the Kingdom of Hungary made a partial reconquest in 1480, but it fell again by 1499. Territories of Serbian Empire were divided between Ottoman Empire, Republic of Venice and Royal Hungary, with remaining territories being in some sort of a vassal status towards Hungary, until its own conquest.
Growth and Stagnation (1453–1683)
The defeat in 1456 at the Siege of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) held up Ottoman expansion into Catholic Europe for 70 years, though for one year (1480–1481) the Italian port of Otranto was taken, and in 1493 the Ottoman army successfully raided Croatia and Styria.
Wars in Albania
The Ottomans took much of Albania in the 1385 Battle of Savra. The 1444 League of Lezhë briefly restored one part of Albania, until Ottomans captured complete territory of Albania after capture of Shkodër in 1479 and Durrës in 1501.
The Ottomans faced the fiercest resistance from Albanians who gathered around their leader, George Castriot, son of a feudal nobleman, and managed to fend off Ottoman attacks for more than 25 years, culminating at the siege of Shkodra in 1478–79. It has been argued that Albanian resilience halted the Ottoman advance along the Eastern flank of the Western Civilization, saving the Italian peninsula from Ottoman conquest. Sultan Mehmet II died in 1481, merely two years after the collapse of the Albanian resistance and one year after he launched an Italian campaign.
Conquest of Bosnia
Ottoman Empire first reached Bosnia in 1388 where they were defeated by Bosnian forces in the Battle of Bileca and then were forced to retreat. After the fall of Serbia in 1389 Battle of Kosovo, where the Bosnians participated through Vlatko Vuković, the Turks began various offensives against the Kingdom of Bosnia. The Bosnians defended themselves but without much success. Bosnians resisted strongly in the Bosnian Royal castle of Jajce, where the last Bosnian king Stjepan Tomašević tried to repel the Turks. The Ottoman army conquered it after a few months of the siege of Jajce, in 1463, and executed the last King of Bosnia, ending the Medieval Bosnia.
The House of Kosača held Herzegovina until 1482.
Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the Klis Fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, an elite Croatian military faction of Uskoci was formed.
After the fall of the Kingdom of Bosnia into Ottoman hands in 1463, the southern and central parts of the Kingdom of Croatia remained unprotected, the defense of which was left to Croatian gentry who kept smaller troops in the fortified border areas at their own expense. The Ottomans meanwhile reached the river Neretva and having conquered Herzegovina (Rama) in 1482, they encroached upon Croatia, skillfully avoiding the fortified border towns. A decisive Ottoman victory at the Battle of Krbava field shook all of Croatia. However, it did not dissuade the Croats from making persistent attempts at defending themselves against the attacks of the superior Ottoman forces. After almost two hundred years of Croatian resistance against the Ottoman Empire, the victory in the Battle of Sisak marked the end of Ottoman rule and the Hundred Years’ Croatian-Ottoman War. The Viceroy’s army, chasing the fleeing remnants at Petrinja in 1595, sealed the victory.
Conquest of central parts of Hungarian Kingdom
The Kingdom of Hungary, which at the time spanned the area from Croatia in the west to Transylvania in the east, was also gravely threatened by Ottoman advances. The origins of such a deterioration can be traced back to the fall of the Árpád ruling dynasty and their subsequent replacement with the Angevin and Jagiellonian kings. After a series of inconclusive wars over the course of 176 years, the kingdom finally crumbled in the Battle of Mohács of 1526, after which most of it was either conquered or brought under Ottoman suzerainty. (The 150-year Turkish Occupation, as it is called in Hungary, lasted until the late 17th century but parts of the Hungarian Kingdom were under Ottoman rule from 1421 and until 1718.)
Conquest of Serbia/ Vojvodina rebellion
As a result of heavy losses inflicted by the Ottomans in the Battle of Maritsa in 1371, the Serbian Empire had dissolved into several principalities. In the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, Serbian forces were again annihilated. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, constant struggles took place between various Serbian kingdoms on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire on the other. The turning point was the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. In 1459 following the siege, the “temporary” Serbian capital of Smederevo fell. Montenegro was overrun by 1499. Belgrade was the last major Balkan city to endure Ottoman forces. Serbs, Hungarians and European crusaders defeated the Turkish army in the Siege of Belgrade in 1456. After repelling Ottoman attacks for over 70 years, Belgrade finally fell in 1521, along with the greater part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Vojvodina rebellion between 1526/28 saw the proclamation of Second Serbian Empire in Vojvodina, which was among last Serbian territories to resist the Ottomans. The Serbian Despotate fell in 1540, thus marking the two-century-long Ottoman conquest of Serbian principalities.
Ottoman advances resulted in some of the captive Christians being carried deep into Turkish territory.
1463–1503: Wars with Venice
The wars with the Republic of Venice began in 1463, until a favorable peace treaty was signed in 1479 after the lengthy siege of Shkodra (1478–79). In 1480, now no longer hampered by the Venetian fleet, the Ottomans besieged Rhodes and captured Otranto. War with Venice resumed from 1499 to 1503. In 1500, a Spanish-Venetian army commanded by Gonzalo de Córdoba took Kefalonia, temporarily stopping the Ottoman offensive on eastern Venetian territories. Which is resumed after the Ottoman victory of Preveza, fought between an Ottoman fleet and that of a Christian alliance assembled by Pope Paul III in 1538.
1462–1483: Wallachian and Moldavian campaigns
In 1462, Mehmed II was driven back by Wallachian prince Vlad III Dracula at The Night Attack. However, the latter was imprisoned by Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. This caused outrage among many influential Hungarian figures and Western admirers of Vlad’s success in the battle against the Ottoman Empire (and his early recognition of the threat it posed), including high-ranking members of the Vatican. Because of this, Matthias granted him the status of distinguished prisoner. Eventually, Dracula was freed in late 1475 and was sent with an army of Hungarian and Serbian soldiers to recover Bosnia from the Ottomans. He defeated Ottoman Forces and he gained his first victory against the Ottoman Empire. Upon this victory, Ottoman Forces entered Wallachia in 1476 under the command of Mehmed II. During the war, Vlad was killed and, according to some sources, his head was sent to Constantinople to discourage the other rebellions.
Ottoman soldiers in the territory of present-day Hungary
The Turkish advance was temporarily halted after Stephen the Great of Moldavia defeated the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II‘s armies at the Battle of Vaslui in 1475, which was one of the greatest defeats of the Ottoman Empire until that time. Stephen was defeated at Războieni (Battle of Valea Albă) the next year, but the Ottomans had to retreat after they failed to take any significant castle (see siege of Cetatea Neamţului) as a plague started to spread in the Ottoman army. Stephen’s search for European assistance against the Turks met with little success, even though he had “cut off the pagan‘s right hand” – as he put it in a letter.
In 1482, Bosnia was completely added to Ottoman Lands.
1526–1566: Conquest of Hungarian Kingdom
After the Mohács, only the southwestern part of the Hungarian Kingdom was actually conquered, but the Ottoman campaign continued with small campaigns and major summer invasions (troops returned south of the Balkan Mountains before winter) through the land between 1526 and 1556. In 1529, they mounted their first major attack on the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy (with up to 300,000 troops in earlier accounts, 100,000 according to newer research ), attempting to conquer the city of Vienna (Siege of Vienna). In 1532, another attack on Vienna with 60,000 troops in the main army was held up by the small fort (800 defenders) of Kőszeg in western Hungary, fighting a suicidal battle. The invading troops were held up until winter was close and the Habsburg Empire had assembled a force of 80,000 at Vienna. The Ottoman troops returned home through Styria, laying waste to the country.
In the meantime, in 1538, the Ottoman Empire invaded Moldavia. In 1541, another campaign in Hungary took Buda and Pest (which today together form the Hungarian capital Budapest) with a largely bloodless trick: after concluding peace talks with an agreement, troops stormed the open gates of Buda in the night. In retaliation for a failed Austrian counter-attack in 1542, the conquest of the western half of central Hungary was finished in the 1543 campaign that took both the most important royal ex-capital, Székesfehérvár, and the ex-seat of the cardinal, Esztergom. However, the army of 35–40,000 men was not enough for Suleiman to mount another attack on Vienna. A temporary truce was signed between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires in 1547, which was soon disregarded by the Habsburgs.
The Ottoman campaign in Hungary in 1566, Crimean Tatars as vanguard
In the major but moderately successful campaign of 1552, two armies took the eastern part of central Hungary, pushing the borders of the Ottoman Empire to the second (inner) line of northern végvárs (border castles), which Hungary originally built as defence against an expected second Mongol invasion—hence, afterwards, borders on this front changed little. For Hungarians, the 1552 campaign was a series of tragic losses and some heroic (but pyrrhic) victories, which entered folklore—most notably the fall of Drégely (a small fort defended to the last man by just 146 men), and the Siege of Eger. The latter was a major végvár with more than 2,000 men, without outside help. They faced two Ottoman armies (150,000 troops by earlier accounts, 60-75,000 men according to newer research ), which were surprisingly unable to take the castle within five weeks. (The fort was later taken in 1596.) Finally, the 1556 campaign secured Ottoman influence over Transylvania (which had fallen under Habsburg control for a time), while failing to gain any ground on the western front, being tied down in the second (after 1555) unsuccessful siege of the southwestern Hungarian border castle of Szigetvár.
The Ottoman Empire conducted another major war against the Habsburgs and their Hungarian territories between 1566 and 1568. The 1566 Battle of Szigetvar, the third siege in which the fort was finally taken, but the aged Sultan died, deterring that year’s push for Vienna.
1522–1573: Rhodes, Malta and the Holy League
Ottoman forces invaded and captured the island of Rhodes in 1522, after two previous failed attempts (see Siege of Rhodes). The Knights of Rhodes were banished to Malta, which was in turn besieged in 1565.
After a siege of three months, the Ottoman army failed to control all of the Maltese forts. Delaying the Ottomans until bad weather conditions and the arrival of Sicilian reinforcements, made Ottoman commander Kızılahmedli Mustafa Pasha quit the siege. Around 22000 to 48000 Ottoman forces against 6000 to 8500 Maltese forces, the Ottomans failed to conquer Malta, sustaining about 10000 losses, including one of the greatest Muslim corsair generals of the time, Dragut, and were repulsed. Had Malta fallen, Sicily and mainland Italy could have fallen under the threat of an Ottoman invasion. The victory of Malta during this event, which is nowadays known as the Great Siege of Malta, turned the tide and gave Europe hopes and motivation. It also marked the importance of the Knights of Saint John and their relevant presence in Malta to aid Christendom in its defence against the Muslim conquest.
The Ottoman naval victories of this period were in the Battle of Preveza (1538) and the Battle of Djerba (1560).
Battle of Lepanto on 7 October 1571
The Mediterranean campaign, which lasted from 1570 to 1573, resulted in the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus. A Holy League of Venice, the Papal States, Spain, the Knights of Saint John in Malta and initially Portugal was formed against the Ottoman Empire during this period. The League’s victory in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) briefly ended Ottoman predominance at sea.
1570–1571: Conquest of Cyprus
In the summer of 1570, the Turks struck again, but this time with a full-scale invasion rather than a raid. About 60,000 troops, including cavalry and artillery, under the command of Lala Mustafa Pasha landed unopposed near Limassol on July 2, 1570, and laid siege to Nicosia. In an orgy of victory on the day that the city fell—September 9, every public building and palace was looted. Word of the superior Ottoman numbers spread, and a few days later Mustafa took Kyrenia without having to fire a shot. Famagusta, however, resisted and put up a defense that lasted from September 1570 until August 1571.
The fall of Famagusta marked the beginning of the Ottoman period in Cyprus. Two months later, the naval forces of the Holy League, composed mainly of Venetian, Spanish, and Papal ships under the command of Don John of Austria, defeated the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in one of the decisive battles of world history. The victory over the Turks, however, came too late to help Cyprus, and the island remained under Ottoman rule for the next three centuries.
In 1570, the Ottoman Empire first conquered Cyprus, and Lala Mustafa Pasha became the first Ottoman governor of Cyprus, challenging the claims of Venice. Simultaneously, the Pope formed a coalition between the Papal States, Malta, Spain, Venice and several other Italian states, with no real result. In 1573 the Venetians left, removing the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.
1593–1669: Austria, Venice and Wallachia
Turkish Empire, drawn by Hondius, just at the end of the Long War, 1606
Was fought over Moldavia. The Polish army advanced into Moldavia and was defeated in the Battle of Ţuţora. The Next year, the Poles repelled the Turkish invasion in the Battle of Khotyn. Another conflict started in 1633 but was soon settled.
1657–1683 Conclusion of Wars with Habsburgs
In 1657, Transylvania, the Eastern part of the former Hungarian Kingdom that after 1526 gained semi-independence while paying tribute to the Ottoman Empire, felt strong enough to attack the Tatars (then the Empire’s vassals) to the East, and later the Ottoman Empire itself, that came to the Tatars’ defence. The war lasted until 1662, ending in defeat for the Hungarians. The Western part of the Hungarian Kingdom (Partium) was annexed and placed under direct Ottoman control, marking the greatest territorial extent of Ottoman rule in the former Hungarian Kingdom. At the same time, there was another campaign against Austria between 1663 and 1664. However, the Turks were defeated in the Battle of Saint Gotthard on 1 August 1664 by Raimondo Montecuccoli, forcing them to enter the Peace of Vasvár with Austria, which held until 1683.
Battle of Vienna on 12 September 1683
A year after Poland beat back a Tatar invasion, war with Poland 1672–1676, Jan Sobieski distinguishes himself and becomes the King of Poland.
1683–1699: Great Turkish War – Loss of Hungary and the Morea
The Great Turkish War started in 1683, with a grand invasion force of 140,000 men marching on Vienna, supported by Protestant Hungarian noblemen rebelling against Habsburg rule. To stop the invasion, another Holy League was formed, composed of Austria and Poland (notably in the Battle of Vienna), Venetians and the Russian Empire. After winning the Battle of Vienna, the Holy League gained the upper hand, and conducted the re-conquest of Hungary (Buda and Pest were retaken in 1686, the former under the command of a Swiss-born convert to Islam). At the same time, the Venetians launched an expedition into Greece, which conquered the Peloponnese. During the 1687 Venetian attack on the city of Athens (conquered by the Ottomans), the Ottomans turned the ancient Parthenon into an ammunitions storehouse. A Venetian mortar hit the Parthenon, detonating the Ottoman gunpowder stored inside and partially destroying it.
The war ended with the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699. Prince Eugene of Savoy first distinguished himself in 1683 and remained the most important Austrian commander until 1718.
The second Russo-Turkish War took place 1710–1711 near Prut. It was instigated by Charles XII of Sweden after the defeat at the Battle of Poltava, in order to tie down Russia with the Ottoman Empire and gain some breathing space in the increasingly unsuccessful Great Northern War. The Russians were severely beaten but not annihilated, and after the Treaty of Prut was signed the Ottoman Empire disengaged, allowing Russia to refocus its energies on the defeat of Sweden.
Another war with Austria and Venice started in 1714. Austria conquered the remaining areas of the former Hungarian Kingdom, ending with the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718.
Another war with Russia started in 1735. The Austrians joined in 1737; the war ended in 1739 with the Treaty of Belgrade (with Austria) and the Treaty of Niš (with Russia).
The fourth Russo-Turkish War started in 1768 and ended in 1774 with the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji.
Yet another war with Russia and Austria started in 1787; it ended by Austria with the 1791 Treaty of Sistova, and with the 1792 Treaty of Jassy with Russia.
An invasion of Egypt and Syria by Napoleon I of France took place in 1798–99, but ended due to British intervention.
Napoleon’s capture of Malta on his way to Egypt resulted in the unusual alliance of Russia and the Ottomans resulting in a joint naval expedition to the Ionian Islands. Their successful capture of these islands led to the setting up of the Septinsular Republic.
The First Serbian Uprising took place in 1804, followed by the Second Serbian Uprising in 1815; Serbia was fully liberated by 1867. Officially recognized independence followed in 1878.
The sixth Russo-Turkish War began in 1806 and ended in May 1812, just 13 days before Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
Moldavian-Wallachian (Romanian) Uprising (starting simultaneously with the Greek Revolution).
The Greek War of Independence, taking place from 1821 to 1832, in which the Great Powers intervened from 1827, including Russia (seventh Russo–Turkish war, 1828–1829), achieved independence for Greece; the Treaty of Adrianople ended the war.
Ottoman decline (1828–1908)
Ottoman capitulation at Nikopol, 1877
Ottoman Wars with Bosnia 1831–1836, 1836–1837, 1841.
War with Albania 1820-1822, 1830-1835, 1847.
War with Montenegro 1852–1853.
Eighth Russo-Turkish war 1853–1856, Crimean War, in which the United Kingdom and France joined the war on the side of the Ottoman Empire. Ended with the Treaty of Paris.
Second war with Montenegro in 1858–1859.
War with Montenegro, Bosnia and Serbia in 1862.
Cretan Uprising in 1866.
Bulgarian Rebellion in 1876.
The ninth and final Russo–Turkish war started in 1877, the same year the Ottomans withdrew from the Conference of Constantinople. Romania then declared its independence and waged war on Turkey, joined by Serbians and Bulgarians and finally the Russians (see also Russian Foreign Affairs after the Crimean War). Austria occupied Bosnia in 1878. The Russians and the Ottomans signed the Treaty of San Stefano in early 1878. After deliberations at the Congress of Berlin, which was attended by all the Great Powers of the time, the Treaty of Berlin, 1878 recognized several territorial changes.
Eastern Rumelia was granted some autonomy in 1878, rebelled and joined Bulgaria in 1885. Thessalia ceded to Greece in 1881, but after Greece attacked the Ottoman Empire to help the Second Cretan Uprising in 1897, Greece was broken in Thessalia.
Public demonstration in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, 1908
Bulgarian insurrection from 1903. See Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising.
1912–1913: Balkan Wars
Two Balkan Wars, in 1912 and 1913, involved further action against the Ottoman Empire in Europe. The Balkan League first conquered Macedonia and most of Thrace from the Ottoman Empire, and then fell out over the division of the spoils. Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, after several rebellions and uprisings. This reduced Turkey’s possessions in Europe (Rumelia) to their present borders in Eastern Thrace.
World War I
World War I was the ultimate cause of the collapse of the Empire, which was no more. However, during the operations the Empire prevented the British Royal Navy from passing to Istanbul in the famous Battle of Gallipoli. Nevertheless, Turkey lost most of the rest of what it had left in Europe. Leading to the fall of the empire.