the ottoman empire lasted for over six centuries and spread across parts of north africa the middle east and europe still even with the might of this powerful kingdom that managed to orchestrate the fall of constantinople they were never able to seize the second center point of christianity in europe rome on the list of factors that played a role in why the ottomans were never able to gain control of the italian peninsula one of the most obvious was geography between turkey and italy stood two paths one over land or the other through the sea the adriatic sea served as an innate obstacle between the ottomans and rome making the land path.
in 1453 and then athens in 1458 the ottomans could have potentially had an easy shot across europe land over to italy if not for an unignorable threat from albania georgi known by the name of skanderbeg was an albanian military commander with a passion for opposing the ottoman empire skanderbeg had previously bested the troops of murad ii father of mechmed the conqueror and served as a direct blockage for any plans by the latter to reach italy by land.
as a result sultan mcmead and his empire missed their prime opportunity to seize power in the peninsula right after both byzantium and greece had fallen into ottoman hands italy was a realm of notable instability back in 1442 alfonso v of aragon gained rulership over the kingdom of naples as well after the king’s death in 1453.
the unity between naples and sicily was called into question by the eruption of war over claims to the throne of naples the strife between the aragonese and engeven factions sent southern italy into chaos leading to what could have been an ideal time for the ottomans to attempt an invasion it is incredibly likely that sultan mehmed actually intended on doing exactly that based.
on a quote he allegedly spoke to the florentine merchant spy benedetto day in 1460 after asking the merchant many questions about current affairs in italy and being purposely misled by benedetto mcmead said to him my florentine i have heard all you have said and i believe it fully but i answer you and say that italy could no longer perform the great deeds it performed.
in the past because in those days when it did wonders the reason was the power of the romans who were then soul masters of italy but today you are 20 states and groups of powers in your country and you are in disagreement among yourselves and bitter enemies and i know many things which will all be of help to me in the plan i have made and seeing that i am young and rich and favored by fortune i intend to surpass caesar and alexander and xerxes by far still no conquest came within the following years.
even if mechmed was ready to take aim at rome and the rest of the italian peninsula he once again faced an obstacle in the form of a man this time it was vlad the third dracula of velocia who would throw a wrench in the sultan’s plans vlad dracula similar to skanderbeg had spent some time as an ottoman hostage when he was a child and had since become an enemy of the empire this entire botched debacle forced the ottomans to shift their focus off any prior plans in order to deal with vlad the impaler and then with stefan the great of moldavia skirmishes.
in the north and bad diplomatic relations with hungary volakia and moldavia shifted the focus the turks wanted peace in those regions to focus again on their expansion finally clearing mcmahon’s schedule a little more so that he could once again look towards italy in 1464 the first ottoman venetian war began after growing pressure from the pope for the europe nations to come together and unleash a new crusade.
this conflict as well as the varna crusade and the other battles and skirmishes across the balkans weakened the ottoman military capabilities and postponed future campaigns in the west although this war was not an official bid by the ottomans to make a run at seizing italy it did mark a rather significant development.
in the level of opportunity to do so skanderbeg who readily fought against the encroaching empire once again fell ill with malaria and died during the span of the warfare without skanderbag the albanians were no longer such a solid obstacle in mechman’s path to italy and the sultan seemed to recognize the situation.
in the summer of 1480 after the treaty of constantinople wrapped up the ottoman venetian war the year prior mehmed launched an invasion into italy through the city of otranto sending a force of 128 ships with the goal of capturing the port city and creating a foothold position in the peninsula the ottomans landed near otranto on july 28 1480.
after a two-week long siege the walls of the city were finally ruptured and the ottoman troops entered otranto destroying homes and besieging the citadel and in total killing roughly twelve thousand citizens and enslaving another five thousand this initial success seemed to be a good sign for mehmed’s italian ambitions and from that secured port a large campaign through italy was about to begin.
but the triumph was short-lived first jadik akhmed pasha the sultan’s commander had to pause his further advances in the fall due to a shortage of supplies and returned to albania with a large portion of his forces not being immediately connected through land with the shores of the empire the italian peninsula was pretty hard to be conquered only about 800 infantrymen and 500 cavalries were left in otranto.
until achmed pasha would be able to return multiple attempts were made by the surrounding kingdoms of sicily and naples to recapture the city but their efforts were in vain for some time it was not until the death of sultan mehmed ii in may of 1481 that the tide began to change as the ottoman empire faced issues concerning the sultan’s successor they failed to send akhmed pasha and his reinforcements back to otranto eventually leading to negotiations with the opposition and ultimately surrender by the ottomans they finally parted from the italian peninsula in september of 1481.
after the recapture of otranto by the christians the ottomans did make several more bids at gaining an upper hand in italy but none brought about fortunate results and the ottomans changed their focus to hungary persia levant and egypt being more and more powerful on the eastern side of the mediterranean basin on the contrary on january 26 1699 the ottomans signed the treaty of carlowwitz finally concluding the strife between the empire and their holy league adversaries of austria russia poland and venice for the time being.
this treasy not only put a halt on ottoman hostility toward the italian peninsula but it also forced the ottomans to give up some of their territories including the entire principality of transylvania italy and even its individual cities proved to be a much more difficult target than mechmed or some of his successors may have imagined especially after having conquered what would seem to be a trickier aspiration with the fall of constantinople.
even when the kingdoms of the peninsula were at odds amongst each other it appears that they were able to come together when needed to repel the turkish invaders overall italy ended up being an unexpected challenge that the ottomans were never able to overcome between the natural geography some strong military leaders in the balkans the wars with christian kingdoms the death of a sultan poor timing and truly a plethora of obstacles the odds were never in favor of an ottoman conquest.
in italy and they didn’t insist so much on this idea despite their momentary success in otranto giving them a year-long foothold in the region the ottoman empire was simply unable to seize momentous power in the peninsula at any point through the centuries potentially had one or a few of the troubling factors been removed from the situation sultan mcmead himself would have had more success in an aim to push on after taking byzantium but either to the fault of the sultan and his timing or poor luck for the ottomans failure was inevitable
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