The Unknown Story of the Foundation of the Ottoman Empire

I have always been interested in memories / travel books written by foreign travelers, ambassadors or slaves who observed the political and social life of the Ottoman Empire.

Among the most important of these publications  Reinhold Lubenau’s ‘Lubenau Travelbook’ and Stephan Gerlich’s ‘Turkey Diaries’ are known as most the prominent ones for the recent years.

One of the books I bought this weekend was written by Theodoros Spandunis in year 1538. The author of the book is an interesting character because he is a descendant of the Byzantine dynasty Kantakuzenos. Even more interestingly, his great-aunt Mara, who was Sultan Murad’s wife, took him under her wings when his mother passed away.  When Sultan Murat II. died, his son Sultan Mehmet  II. the Conquerer guarantees her stepmother Mara’s life by donating a farm to her in Serres. 

It is a weird irony that the author of the book who is one of the descendants of the Byzantine dynasty Kantakuzenos, grows under the supervision of Fatih’s stepmother after the conquest of Istanbul.

This book, called Ottoman Sultans, which was published by Kitap Publication House, was translated into Turkish by Necdet Balta. it was dedicated to the Henry, king of France, from the Valois dynasty by the book author Theodoros Spandunis.  it summarizes the sultans, killed princes and important events from the foundation date of the Ottoman Empire to times of Sultan Süleyman. There are also two different stories in the book about the history of the Ottoman Empire, which have never been heard before.

The author says at the beginning of this book that the Ottoman Turks were descended from Tatar shepherds of Oguz tribe. Some of the families in this tribe, including the Ottomans, were placed in the region between Konya and Iran by Aleaddin Keykubat, the Anatolian Seljuk sultan at that time.

His first story in the book about foundation of Ottoman Empire is similar to the famous David and Goliath story. According to story, One day when Sultan Aleaddin was in a great battle with the Byzantine emperor Komnenos, one of the Byzantine knights defeats every soldier he calles for one-on-one combat and causes a great fear among the sultan’s soldiers. In spite of the wish of the Sultan, no one dares to jump forward to fight against this knight. But then a shepperd youngster belonging to the Oghuz tribe jumps forward and wants to fight with the knight. Surprisingly, this young man who was ridiculed by his fellow soldiers kills the knight. As a reward for his victory, Sultan Aleaddin bestows upon him a town called Osmancık. As you might expect, the descendants of this young warrior were the family that formed the Ottoman family. Hearing the heroism of this young man and the sultan’s bestowal, other Tatar shepherds comes to Osmancik and joins him. Their numbers grow day by day and become state known as Ottomans

The second story is reminiscent of the attitude of the elite in ancient Greece, who claimed that they were descended from Zeus. The origin of this story is attributed to Sultan Mehmet II. the Conquerer. According to rumors, Sultan Mehmet believed that the first story would not be appropriate for the honor of his family. He believed that his family is originated from the Byzantine sultan Komnenos. This Komnenos is same emperor Komnenos, whom Sultan Aleaddin fought in the first story. According to the second story; A knight from the west, who joined the army of Komnenos, was very useful in battle against Sultan Aleaddin of Seljuks. This warrior from west was so brave and fearless that the Emperor Komnenos orders his nephew Isaikos who was a general in his army to get off from his horse and hand it over to the warrior. Isaikos, who gave his horse to the western knight and whose pride was hurt due to this situation, changed his religion and joined Sultan Aleaddin. Sultan Aleaddin gave him his daughter and granted him several villages and settlements, including a town called Osmancik. As you might expect, the descendants of Isaikos became the family that formed the Ottoman family.

The two stories described above may be fictitious. we can never be sure. On the other hand the important thing is to look at what we do and what we will do instead of looking for a source of pride in our roots. But you can still adapt to whatever story suits you 🙂