Updated: Oct 5, 2020
The Ottoman Interregnum was actually a civil war between 1402 and 1413, just over a century after the beginning of the Ottoman Empire, which went down in history as the first civil war in the empire. It took place between the sons of Sultan Bayezid I. (see picture) after the defeat of their father in the Battle of Ankara on July 20, 1402.
Bayezid's sons İsa Çelebi, Musa Çelebi, Süleyman Çelebi (see below) Mustafa Çelebi and Muhammad (Mehmed) Çelebi, fought each other in this interregnum, which lasted a little less than 11 years.
Muhammad Çelebi (Mehmed I) (see below) emerged victorious in the battle of Çamurlu on July 5, 1413, and crowned himself Sultan. He restored the empire and renewed its power and strength. During the interregnum only Muhammad Çelebi minted coins with the title Sultan.
His eldest brother, Süleyman, had the capital of his empire in Edirne (Adrianople), ruled Bulgaria, all Thrace and northern Greece.
The second son, İsa Çelebi, established himself as an independent ruler in Bursa, and Mohammad formed a kingdom in Amasya. These two brothers fought each other until Mohammad occupied Bursa and Isa was killed by agents of Mohammad after his escape.
After Isa's death, Süleyman intervened in the war and was initially successful. He invaded Anatolia and conquered Bursa in March 1404 and Ankara later that year.
Muhammad applied for the release of his brother Musa Çelebi, who had been captured by Timur in the battle of Ankara. Timur released him and Muhammad sent Musa with a small force across the Black Sea to Thrace to attack the Suleyman's areas in south-eastern Europe.
This manoeuvre soon reminded Süleyman of Thrace again, where a short but bloody competition between him and Musa arose. At first, Süleyman had an advantage when he won the Battle of Kosmidion in 1410, but in 1411 his army defected to Musa at Edirne, and Süleyman was executed on Musa's orders. Musa was now the Ottoman ruler in Thrace (see Musa vs. Suleyman below).
Because the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos had been Süleyman's ally, Musa laid siege to Constantinople. Manuel called upon Muhammad to protect him and made several unsuccessful salvos against his brother's troops. He was forced to cross the Bosporus again to quell a revolt that had broken out in his own territories. Musa now pressed for the siege of Constantinople. Mohammad returned to Thrace and received support from the Serbian despot Stefan Lazarevic.
The armies of the rival Ottoman brothers met in the plain of Chamurli (today Samokov in Bulgaria). Although Musa’s Ottomans fought well, the battle was won by Muhammad and his allies. Musa fled, was later captured and strangled. Thus Muhammad was the only surviving son of the late Sultan Bayezid I and became Sultan Muhammad I (Mehmed I). The interregnum was a striking example of the fratricide that was to become common in the future Ottoman Empire!
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To find out more about the Ottoman Empire and this chaotic period of Ottoman history, have a look at the Rise of the Ottoman Empire course here: