‘Rise Of Empires: Ottoman’ Season 1: Explained – How Did Sultan Mehmed II Conquer Constantinople?

Netflix has a docuseries called “Rise of Empires: Ottoman” that fairly glorifies the life of Sultan Mehmed II. The story revolves around how Sultan Mehmed II takes over the capital city of Constantinople. He truly has changed the course of history and is a true warrior. The Netflix series gives us insights into what must have happened during the war between the Eastern Romans and Ottomans. Let’s have a look at the story of Sultan Mehmed II. Why did he call himself Caesar of Rome?


What Is The Series About?

The story revolves around the life of Sultan Mehmed II. He grew up in a very toxic climate where he was taught never to cry. He was a Muslim, and during the period he was born, people around him believed a lot in astrology. The series has experts who tell us what a great man Sultan Mehmed II was. In “Rise of Empires: Ottoman” Season 1, we also see reenactments of the battles led by Sultan Mehmed II. Sultan Mehmed II’s life was not at all easy. Even though he was a prince, he had to learn things the hard way. Sultan Mehmed’s father, Ottoman Sultan Murad II, died in 1451, and things went downhill from there. Sultan Mehmed II had all the responsibilities of his dad, and he had something great in mind ever since he was a child. The Ottomans had always had their eyes on the beautiful city of Constantinople. Sultan Mehmed II’s ancestors tried conquering the city for years, but all their efforts went in vain. So, what is Sultan Mehmed II’s story?

What Is Sultan Mehmed II’s Story?

Sultan Mehmed II used to live with his mother when he was a child. Before he could properly reach adolescence, he was called to Adrianople, the Ottoman capital. We see an emotional reenactment in “Rise of Empires: Ottoman” where Sultan Mehmed II’s mother tells him that a sultan does not cry. He was separated from his mother at an early age, which surely affected his childhood badly; he grew up not knowing who his birth mother was. We see him learning different languages in Adrianople, and his teacher was his father’s grand vizier, or the prime minister of the Ottoman capital, Candarli Halil Pasha. He was also the right hand of Sultan Mehmed II’s father, Sultan Murad II.


During his teenage years, Candarli Halil Pasha punished him mercilessly. He used to make his soldiers beat Sultan Mehmed with leashes. There is one thing that catches the eyes of historians: Candarli Halil Pasha was a traitor. He did not want Sultan Mehmed II on the throne. When Sultan Mehmed II’s father gave up the throne and rightfully gave it to Mehmed, Candarli Halil Pasha had a problem with it. He did everything in his power to dethrone Mehmed, and he succeeded in doing so. Within two years, Sultan Mehmed II was dethroned. After getting dethroned, his stepmother, Mara, helped him cope with the fact that he was no longer the king. We see that when Mehmed was a young king, he decided to take over Constantinople, but Candarli Halil Pasha was not in favor of it. But he had his stepmother’s support. We see Mara as one of the most important characters in Sultan Mehmed II’s life. She was from Serbia and was the second wife of Sultan Mehmed’s father, Sultan Murad II. She did not have kids of her own, but ever since she met Sultan Mehmed, she decided to give all her motherly love to him. She treated Sultan Mehmed like her own son. He also regarded her as his mother. Mara always encouraged Mehmed whenever he felt low. In “Rise of Empires: Ottoman” Season 1, after he was dethroned, Mara was the person who came to him and told him that the throne would be his soon.

After Sultan Mehmed II’s father, Sultan Murad II, died in 1451, Mehmed sat on the throne again. He said his ancestor had a dream about Constantinople. He believed whoever conquered the city would be blessed by Allah and that it was Allah’s will to take over the city of Constantinople. In medieval times, everything revolved around religion. We see different aspects of religion in the series; we see the Turks (Ottomans), who were Muslims and Eastern Romans, who were Greek Orthodox Christians. The Eastern Romans believed the Virgin Mary was watching over their beautiful city of Constantinople. So, how did the great emperor, Sultan Mehmed II, conquer the undefeatable city of Constantinople?


What Were Sultan Mehmed II’s Ways To Conquer Constantinople?

When Sultan Mehmed II started his famous siege, he had different plans in mind. He was a man who was extremely intelligent and had a strong army. His army included some Christians who had converted to Islam. We see how conversion worked in ancient times in the series. The experts in “Rise of Empires: Ottoman” say Sultan Mehmed II was trying to make a multi-religion city in Constantinople. His vision was big; he wished to be like Alexander, the great warrior. He was heavily influenced by Caesar and Alexander and kept quoting them throughout the series. 

Sultan Mehmed II had a man from Hungary who built cannons. For the first time in history, giant cannons were built for Sultan Mehmed’s battle in Constantinople. These cannons were gigantic and had the power to take down the walls that protected the city of Constantinople. Now, Constantinople was surrounded by water bodies, and the banks were protected with unbreakable walls and chains. These walls were famous for their strength and had been standing strong for centuries, and no intruder before Sultan Mehmed II had been able to cross the gates of these walls. 


When Sultan Mehmed used the humongous cannons on the walls of Constantinople, the walls surely got weaker; however, the Romans were prepared. At first, Sultan Mehmed offered to let them surrender and give the city to him. Mehmed was there to conquer the city and had an army of 80,000 soldiers. He was very confident and intent on winning. However, Constantine XI was not ready to give up so easily. He had a well-trained army that was led by an Italian mastermind, Giustiniani. Giustiniani trained his men very well, and the Romans were in safe hands as long as he was with them. The Romans also had the support of the West since Christians from the West were in alliance. However, before they could help the Romans and Constantine XI, Sultan Mehmed II had his master plan in front of him. The cannons started weakening the walls, but they were still not enough to break them. The constant skirmishes on the battlefield were also lost by the Sultan’s army. He could not bear the shame, and they tried attacking from the water. The Navy of Mehmed had smaller boats as compared to the Navy of the Romans. The Eastern Roman Empire had a very strong navy that protected the banks of Constantinople. When Mehmed’s army tried to attack them, they met with a shameful defeat again. However, an event worth noting was that Mehmed’s army did not let four ships from the West, who had come to supply food and soldiers to the Romans, go to Constantinople. After weeks of the siege, the Romans were out of food and money. Constantine XI was becoming penniless and had to melt Christian artifacts to make coins. He had no other way to pay his soldiers. 

After the naval battle and firing cannons constantly for weeks, Mehmed’s army tried to sneak into Constantinople by digging an underground tunnel. This was a failed plan because the Romans had an engineer who studied the movement of water with the help of a bucket. With that technique, he always caught his enemies who tried to tunnel underground. The underground tunnel created by the army of the Sultan was destroyed by the Roman army when they caught them digging. Even after failing three times in his attempts to enter Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed did not give up. He was a stubborn man who wanted things his way. He was very aggressive and believed that Allah had sent him to conquer Constantinople; he was not ready to settle down for anything else.

After the effort to enter Constantinople underground, Sultan Mehmed II was devastated to lose so many men. His army was also getting restless, and their supplies were not ample enough. Candarli Halil Pasha tried to convince Mehmed to think about a peaceful way to end the battle. He argued that their army was weak now and that once they offered a truce, they could come back later and attack the Romans with a better strategy. Sultan Mehmed could not sleep for days, and all his thoughts were of a way to enter Constantinople. Weeks into the siege, their efforts were going in vain until Mehmed came up with a master plan.

What Was Sultan Mehmed’s Master Plan?

Sultan Mehmed II came up with a master plan. He planned to attack the weaker front of the Romans. There was an area called Golden Horn, it was less well-guarded and could be attacked easily. Sultan Mehmed planned to take all his ships to Golden Horn through the forests and attack the Eastern Romans from there. For days, Sultan Mehmed’s men cut trees so that the ships could be carried on wooden rollers through the forests. It was a genuinely good plan since the Eastern Romans did not see this coming or even dream about something like this happening.


Sultan Mehmed was a good orator too. He could convince anyone to be on his side with his communication skills. He convinced a governor from a village nearby. The governor was Angelo Lomellini, and he was friends with the Romans too. However, the wrath of Sultan Mehmed kept him quiet about the fact that Mehmed’s army was going to attack the Romans from Golden Horn. When Giustiniani and his men got to know that Angelo Lomellini had betrayed them, he killed him. Now Sultan Mehmed’s army was attacking the Romans from two fronts, and the Romans were short of money and men. The men that the Romans had were either dying or threatening to leave if they were not paid. Constantine XI had no money left, and the help he requested from the West was still weeks away. There was no news of help, and neither did they sight help on the seas.

Did Sultan Mehmed Agree To A Truce?

There was a time when Sultan Mehmed almost agreed to a truce; however, Mara changed his mind. According to Mara, the stars had aligned, and the astrologers predicted that Sultan Mehmed was going to win the battle of Constantinople. She came to the campsite and informed Sultan Mehmed that he should not give up and that it was his time to conquer Constantinople. When Sultan Mehmed heard what the astrologers had said about him, he was convinced of his victory. 


During medieval times, people believed in religion and astrology a lot more than our generation does now. So, Sultan Mehmed went ahead with his final attack after listening to Mara. Sultan Mehmed ordered his men to attack the Romans one last time. The Romans were also prepared to fight until their last breath. Constantine XI could have fled, but he chose to stay and fight the army of Sultan Mehmed. He stayed with his people and died with them, trying to save his beautiful capital. However, the battle was won by Sultan Mehmed, and he entered the gates of Constantinople with pride. After conquering the city of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed changed the capital’s name to Istanbul. On May 29th, 1453, Mehmed entered Constantinople and started calling himself “Kayser i-Rum,” which means the new Caesar of Rome. According to the experts, he did something that other warriors had been trying to do for years. He fulfilled his father’s dreams and also his ancestors’ wishes to conquer the city of Constantinople. 

With “Rise of Empires: Ottoman”, Netflix gives us details on how these amazing warriors fought their battles. Even though Constantine XI lost the battle, he chose not to use his privileges and ran away from his responsibility. On the other hand, even though Sultan Mehmed was constantly discouraged by the grand vizier, he kept on fighting for what he believed in. His highly intellectual mindset was the reason for his victory, and he proved himself in front of everyone who did not believe in him. A lot of people can say that the Netflix series glorified someone who destroyed the beautiful city of Constantinople; however, the reenactments in the series are very subtle and to the point. It was the experts who glorified Sultan Mehmed II and exaggerated a little, but “Rise of Empires: Ottoman” was made from the perspective of Sultan Mehmed II’s conquest, so the experts gave their insights from the point of view of Mehmed. According to them, he dared to make hard decisions and execute his plans in a way that no other warrior could, and that was the reason for his win in the battle of Constantinople.


Tarushi Patali
Tarushi Patali
Tarushi is an English Literature graduate, who is currently doing master's in mass communication from Mumbai. She loves making lists and is an avid reader. Also, she likes judging people by their movie taste. In her leisure time you would find her digging random conspiracy pages on Reddit!

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