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The Ottoman Interregnum (also known as the Ottoman Triumvirate; Fetret Devri in Turkish) began in the 15th century, when chaos reigned in the Ottoman Empire following the defeat of Sultan Bayezid I in 1402 by the Mongol warlord Timur (Tamerlane). Although Mehmed Çelebi was confirmed as sultan by Tamerlane, his brothers refused to recognize his authority.

The Interregnum lasted until 1413, when Mehmed Çelebi emerged as victor in the strife, crowned himself sultan, and restored the empire.


Suleyman Çelebi ruled northern Greecemarker, Bulgariamarker and Thrace. His brother, İsa Çelebi, ruled Greece and the westernmost of Anatoliamarker; however, he was overthrown by the younger half-brother Mehmed Çelebi from his capital in Bursamarker in 1404. Suleyman then acquired southern Greece as well, while Mehmed ruled over Anatolia. Mehmed sent his younger brother Mûsa across the Black Seamarker with a large army to attack Suleyman. Mûsa won in Bulgariamarker in 1410 and Suleyman was forced to retreat southwards to Greece.

Mûsa then proclaimed himself sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Mehmed responded by sending a small army after him, but it was defeated near Gallipoli. Mehmed subsequently forged an alliance with the Byzantine Empire, and three years later, with the support of the Serbian Despotate launched a new, successful attack against Mûsa in Kamerlu, Serbiamarker. It was then easy for Mehmed to overthrow his last brother in Greece and become the Ottoman sultan.


The Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Sultanate), which during the fourteenth century had acquired such dimensions and vigor, lay at the beginning of the fifteenth century in apparently irretrievable ruin. Besides the fatal day at Ankara, when its veteran army was destroyed, and it long-victorious sovereign taken captive, calamity after calamity befell the house of Osman. Their ancient rivals in Anatolia, the Seljuk princes of Karamanoğulları, Aydınoğulları (Aidian), Germiyanoğulları (Kermian) and other territories which the three first Ottoman rulers had conquered, were reinstated by Timur in their dominions. In Europe the Byzantine Empire gained, if nothing else, a reprieve from Bayezid's siege of Constantinople. But the heaviest and seemingly the most fatal of afflictions was the civil war which broke out among the sons of Bayezid, and which threaten the utter disintegration and destruction of the relics of the ancestral dominions. At the time of Bayezid’s death, his oldest son, Suleyman, ruled at Adrianople. The second son, İsa, established himself as an independent ruler at Bursa after the Mongols retired from Asia Minor. Mehmed, the youngest and the ablest of the brothers, formed a little kingdom at Amasya. War soon broke out between Mehmed and İsa. In which Mehmed was completely successful. İsa fled to Europe where he sought protection and aid from Suleyman, who forthwith attacked Mehmed, so that Thrace and Anatolian sides were now arrayed against each other.

At first Suleyman was successful. He invaded Anatolia, and captured Bursa and Ankara. Meanwhile the other surviving son of Bayezid, Prince Mûsa, had, after his liberation by Timur, been detained in custody by the Seljuk Prince of Kermian, through whose territories he was passing with the remains of Bayezid, which he was to bury at Bursa. The interposition of Mehmed had put an end to this detention, and Prince Mûsa fought on Mehmeds’s side against Suleyman in Anatolia. After some reverses which they sustained from Suleyman in the first campaign, Mûsa persuaded Mehmed to let him cross over to Thrace with a small force, and effect a diversion in Mehmed's favour by attacking the enemy in his own territories. This maneuver soon recalled Suleyman to Thrace, where a short but sanguinary contest between him and Mûsa ensued. At first Suleyman had the advantage; but the better qualities of this prince were now obscured by the debasing effects of habits of debauchery. He treated his troops with savage cruelty, and heaped the grossest insults on his best generals. The result was that his army passed over to the side of Mûsa, and Suleyman was killed while endeavoring to escape to Constantinople (1410).

Mûsa was now master of the Ottoman dominions in Thrace, and speedily showed that he inherited a full proportion both of the energy and of the strength of his father Bayezid. In an expedition which he undertook against the Serbian Prince, whom he accused of having treacherously aided Suleyman in the civil war, he is said to have not only pursue the male youth for the janissaries, he also developed his army according to fighting three Serbian units and order them to destroy not only the armies but also their generals. Byzantine writer Ducas using his creative writing wrote; “Mûsa caused the carcasses of three Serbian garrisons to be arranged as tables, and a feast to be spread on them, at which he entertained the generals and chief captains of the Ottoman army”.

The Byzantine Emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, had been the ally of Suleyman; Mûsa therefore attacked him, and besieged his capital. Manuel called over Mehmed to protect him, and the Anatolian Ottomans now garrisoned Constantinople against the Ottomans of Thrace. Mehmed made several gallant but 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 the Greek capital; but Mehmed speedily returned to Thrace, and obtained the assistance of Stephan, the Serbian King. The armies of the rival Ottoman bother were at last arrayed for a decisive conflict on the plain of Chamurli, near the southern Serbian frontier. But Mûsa had alienated the loyalty of his soldiers by conduct similar to that by which Suleyman’s desertion and destruction had been caused, while Mehmed was as eminent for justice and kindness towards those who obeyed him, as for valor and skill against those who were his opponent’s. When the two armies were about to close in battle, Hassan, the Aga of the Janissaries on the side of Mehmed, stepped out before the ranks, and exhorted his old comrades, who were the pert of Mûsa, to leave the cause of a madman from whom they met with constant outrage and humiliation, and to range themselves among the followers of the most just and virtuous of the princes of the house of Osman. Enraged at hearing his troops thus addressed, Mûsa rushed against Hassan, and kill him, but was himself wounded by an officer who had accompanied Hassan. Mûsa reeled back bleeding towards his own soldiers, who were seized with a panic, and broke their ranks, and fled in all directions. Mûsa endeavored to escape, but was found by the pursuers lying dead in a marsh near the field where the armies had met. His death ended the war of succession in the Ottoman Empire, for Prince Isa had disappeared some years before, during the hostilities between Suleyman and Mehmed in Anatolia; and Mehmed was now, after Mûsa’s death, the sole known surviving son of Bayezid.


  1. Fine, John Van Antwerp, The Late Medieval Balkans, (University of Michigan Press, 1994), 499.


  • Fine, John Van Antwerp, The Late Medieval Balkans, University of Michigan Press, 1994.

See also

  • Incorporates text from “History of Ottoman Turks” (1878)

Preceded by:

Bayezid I
Ottoman Interregnum
Succeeded by:

Mehmed I

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