When he was 21 years of age the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered the unconquerable city: Constantinople. He is known as Mehmed the Conqueror for this reason.
What is less known is that he presented his rule as a continuation of the Empire of Rome instead of a conquest. He named himself Caesar of Rome – Qayser-i Rûm intending his rule to be a continuation of the Roman Civilization that began some 2,206 years before the capital fell to him in 1453. His successors did not continue the practice, but we may say that Mehmed was the last Caesar, the last Emperor of Rome.
When a man who besieged and conquered the greatest city on Earth comes to your pesky little fort in Wallachia you pretty much know that there is little to be gained by hiding behind the walls. This was the astute assessment of Vlad III Dracula known as “The Impaler”. This is how the Night Attack at Targoviste was born.
On June 17th, 1462 the Wallachian Prince threw the dice in a winner takes all gambit. He assembled his knights and launched attack after attack on the Turkish encampment in an attempt to assassinate the Sultan of the Turks. It was a night of confusion and slaughter as the mounted knights made charge after charge into the encampment.
Ultimately the attacks failed because they did not kill Mehmet that night. Ultimately the attacks succeeded because the Ottoman Army withdrew. Faced with such passionate and suicidal bravery Mehmed realised that his life was in very real danger. A number of Pashas; senior officers in Tents very close to the Sultan, had been killed. So the Turks made for home and steered a course south.
On their retreat they encountered a further demonstration of the resolve of the Romanians. They passed through the “Forest of Death” where Vlad had impaled 23,844 turks (he recorded the exact number in a letter to Matthias Corvinus). The Sultan and his troops filed past the corpses of tens of thousands of men, women and children. It was a clear and unequivocal statement of intent from the Romanians to the Turks.
Mehmed II was a poet who wrote under the pen name Avni and many of his poems are dedicated to his lover, a beautiful foreign boy:
The roses of your cheeks, they made my tongue a nightingale.
The locks on your forehead, they made me desire, lose my mind.
If the fruit of love is for lovers, the worry and grief,
thank God, they have many for us, the fruits of your love.
The breeze is powerless to untangle the ends of your locks.
No, it is not easy to resolve the difficulties at all!
What is the relationship came between us, as the nectar from the lips of the beloved,
this poison of grief is halva for me, but for the rival, the poison of assassins?
How many enlightened men became insane by your love!
How many sensible men have gone mad with desire for you!
To what good is the saying: “Let the arrows of his eyelashes murder you!”?
They are brave inexperienced people who hold such remarks.
O Avni! If one day you were on a pilgrimage to the temple of the Magi*
you would have seen the lights of the wine candles illuminating the company!