Mehmed II 1432–1481 Ottoman Sultan

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Mehmed II
Ottoman sultan

Known as "the Conqueror," Mehmed II led the Ottoman Turks* in their victory over the Byzantine Empire* and in their expansion westward. In 1453 Mehmed's forces captured the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, then went on to conquer Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Greece. This great triumph of Ottoman power came against weak opponents, however, and Mehmed did not succeed in attempts to take over Albania, Montenegro, Crete, or Cyprus. In 1480 he alarmed Christian Europe by landing troops in Italy, but this action did not lead anywhere. Mehmed also seized large areas of land in what are now southern Ukraine and northeastern Turkey.

The significance of Mehmed II rests as much on his internal policies as on his military achievements. He laid the foundation for a stable structure of the Ottoman Empire by reorganizing the existing legal system. He conquered many Christian lands, but he allowed Christians in the empire to practice their faith and to have a fair degree of independence.

(See alsoOttoman Empire. )

* Ottoman Turks

Turkish followers of Islam who founded the Ottoman Empire in the 1300s; the empire eventually included large areas of eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa

* Byzantine Empire

Eastern Christian Empire based in Constantinople (a.d. 476–1453)