WI: Mehmed II Conquered Rome?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by KidCabralista, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. KidCabralista Cape Verde's Unofficial Wikipedia Meister

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    Sultan Mehmed II, the Conquerer



    Suprisingly, there haven't been many threads on this topic, despite seeming like perfect Alternate History fodder. Anyways...


    Sultan Mehmed II, the Great Conqueror, spent a good deal of his life on the warpath. After adding Genoese Crimea to his growing empire, the Sultan turned his gaze to the lands of the Italian city states. Gedik Ahmed Pasha took the city of Otranto before returning to Albania to reinforce it later as a base for further expansion. The Pope prepared to flee Rome, seeing the danger of the full weight of an Ottoman expedition being brought down on the peninsula. Ottomans raided settlements along the coast heavily, preparing for a campaign to begin in earnest. When he died suddenly at the age of 49, the Sultan was already marching with his army to launch a campaign against Southern Italy and Rhodes. The fear surrounding this (and the vast relief when he just keeled over and died) in Italy, plus Mehmed's highly successful career as a campaigner seem to indicate that an Ottoman conquest of Southern Italy was possible and even likely. The Venetians refused to answer the Pope's call to defend Rome - having just finished hammering out an expensive peace with the Sultan that protected them from harm.

    So, what happens if Mehmed II takes Rome? Does he have a big ceremony where he's coronated as the new Roman Emperor - Mehmed was already quite the Romanophile and claimed the title of Caesar. Does he appoint a new Pope in place of Sixtus IV, who has likely fled the city? Is there a new Catholic millet created in the Ottoman Empire? What does this great victory for the Ottomans mean for the rest of Europe? What does Mehmed (who might live for a good deal longer afterwards, being only 49) do after he has taken yet another monumentally important city?

    Edit: Alternately, would it be better for the Ottomans to leave after their conquest, and simply view it as a military ghazwa meant to grab loot from their enemies and raze their cities? This option has the benefit of not requiring them to stay in Italy, while still crippling the Italian city-states and enriching Ottoman coffers for conquest closer to home.

    Tagging resident Ottoman experts, @Koprulu Mustafa Pasha and @Jonathan Edelstein in this, for good measure.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  2. Koprulu Mustafa Pasha Sadrazam of the Roman Empire

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    What happens is that Mehmed II adds the former Kingdom of Naples and Central Italy (without Tuscany and Ravenna) to his own realm. In return, the Northern States are some sort of vassalised. Of course, this is necessary as France was not an ally yet and Italy is in danger to get attacked if the North is not secured. Thus the city states survive as vassals. Another Campaign is needes to secure Sicily. Which is required to safeguard Italy.

    The pope will flee to Avignon most likely. This brings the danger of the Pope being in French influence. Which means more conflict with the Emperor or England etc. The likeliness of National Churches grow. OTL reformations are butterflied or at least, changed. The Ottomans have their own pope for the Catholic Millet. Another division after a century.

    St. Peter is turned into a mosque. Istanbul remains Capital though. Probably no Ottoman Conquest of Hungary or Western Persia. Also a great chance of bigger conflicts with the Iberians. And a stronger Ottoman Navy. More income for the Ottomans. Northern Italy may face the destruction of war. Something a little more than OTL Italian Wars. Depends on how many Soldiers are active in Italy.
     
  3. KidCabralista Cape Verde's Unofficial Wikipedia Meister

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    Thanks for the quality reply, fam.

    What happens to the Venetians, seeing as they helped the Sultan by staying out of the fight? Could they become a favored group in Ottoman Italian administration, like Albanians were elsewhere? They might even be allowed to pick the new Pope (or Anti-Pope, according to the man in Avignion.)


    What are the chances of some sort of state-sponsored reconciliation of the Pope and the Grand Patriarch, now that they rule over both seats of power? I mean, they might just not go to that effort because keeping a separate Catholic millet is easier to manage if the Christians are divided.


    Does this mean that the Ottoman Empire will really be more focused on its lands West of Constantinople than OTL? Certainly, the Ottomans will take on a more European flavor than in our world, seeing as they'll have to administer their new vassals.


    With the massive amount of war loot to be gained from the campaign and the increased tax base, there's probably a lot more money going into the Empire's coffers in Istanbul. As you said, the capture of the Italian city-states, plus the existing Ottoman naval skill probably makes the Ottoman Navy the terror of the Mediterranean for a long time.
     
  4. Viralworld Éirí Amach an Ghealach Donor

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    Is it really plausible for them to hold Italy? It seems to me to do them more harm than good. It’ll be rebellious, a frontier province without firm connections to the Ottoman strongholds in Anatolia and Thrace. I can see a situation similar to the Byzantine enclaves in Italy in the 8th century happening except worse. Territories and towns would slip from Ottoman authority as soon as a weak Sultan takes the throne of the Sublime Porte and the Christian powers to the north consolidate and drive south.

    I just can’t really see the Sultan being able to hold Italy for any extended period considering it’s tricky to supply and it’d be rebellious and the prime target of all the Christian powers in Europe.
     
  5. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

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    Fantastic idea for a thread! Funnily enough I have taken Rome many times as the Ottomans in my Empire Total War campaigns (and also in Medieval 2 Total War, as the Moors and Egyptians, and in Attila TW as the Caliphate of Cordoba). I always build a great big mosque in Rome and convert the population to Islam. :love::extremelyhappy::angel::p

    More seriously, an Ottoman conquest of Rome is possible but may also encounter significant western resistance, if the western powers can gather together in time. I think most factions (I mean states) would see an Ottoman conquest of Rome as a grave threat to the continued existence of Christian Europe. Whether they can get themselves organised to prevent it though, is another question. I think at least some of them will try, if there is enough time.

    Assuming the conquest in fact occurs, it would be a spectacular achievement and would mark the almost total victory of Islam in the Mediterranean. The only remaining Christian powers capable of resisting would be Spain and Portugal, plus France. It would also significantly affect how the reconquista in Spain is seen, making it look much more hollow given that Rome has been lost to the Ottomans. I'm tempted to say we might even get some smaller kingdoms changing allegiance and possibly even switching to Islam. It would also be a tremendous psychological blow to the Christians.

    Looking on a more prosaic level though, the conquest probably wouldn't change the strategic balance of power that much, since Rome wasn't a massive military power, and Naples was IIRC a colony of Spain at the time. It will mean the Venetians are totally at the mercy of the Ottomans, as they can now shut off access to the Adriatic. This means Venice effectively can no longer exercise an independent foreign policy and will have to keep on the Sultan's good side at all times. Expect them to be a reluctant but quiescent vassal most of the time, but possibly to break loose if there is any moment of instability or weak rule in Istanbul.

    Less Ottoman entanglement in Persia might be beneficial for both the Ottomans and Persia, although who knows whether that front will simply stay quiet? I have to conclude that Ottoman naval power and perhaps access to trade routes will enhance, so we can expect a wealthier Ottoman state in this alternate scenario.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  6. KidCabralista Cape Verde's Unofficial Wikipedia Meister

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    Yeah, good points. It would also be a money sink. Would it perhaps be better for Mehmed to storm in, raid the hell out of the place, sack and loot every city he can, and then use the huge stack of money he just gained to further other goals?

    He could also install his new wary Venetian sorta-friends into the smashed power structures and retain influence that way.

    Alternately - what would it take for the Ottomans to hold it for any length of time after Mehmed II's death? Their navy would almost certainly rule the oceans, so that might help hegemony.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
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  7. KidCabralista Cape Verde's Unofficial Wikipedia Meister

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    Interesting observation - Mehmed seems to have been skilled at fending off European resistance, but this would be a whole different level. He'd probably get crusaded, as Pope Sixtus IV tried and failed to get the Venetians to join in on, but how successful that would be is a matter for debate.


    Yeah, the situation in the decades immediately following Mehmed's conquest of Rome would probably be utter despair on the part of Christiendom. The Turk has just proved himself to be nigh unstoppable and even Rome has fallen to his armies. He's probably seen as a new "Scourge of God" in Christian Europe and I have no idea how the church would deal with this propaganda loss.


    The OTL stance of the Venetians seems to have been born out of fear of the Great Eagle's armies, but is there room for them to act as the Ottomans' Johnnies-on-the-spot in the conquered sections of Italy? @Viralworld pointed out that direct Ottoman rule would be costly and tough, but an Ottoman-supported client state would be easier to maintain and more palatable to the locals. Obviously, there's the tendency over time for the clients to want independence, but the system might hold for a good while longer than direct Ottoman control of Italy.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  8. Intransigent Southerner Well-Known Member

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    My two cents.

    The Ottomans were probably capable of taking Rome in the 1480s, but I don't imagine they could hold Italy in the long term. Controlling Rome buys them the enmity of virtually all European powers, and on top of that the Italians are hardly going to be amenable to Ottoman rule. On top of that, Ottoman supply lines are stretched thin, especially in the Tyrrhenian Sea, even assuming the Ottomans are strong enough to conquer Sicily.

    It's not unreasonable to think Ottoman Italy would be even more untenable than Ottoman Azerbaijan, and just as ephemeral.

    Of course, the Papacy has lost immense prestige.
     
  9. KidCabralista Cape Verde's Unofficial Wikipedia Meister

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    Yeah, upon reflection, it seems better if the Ottomans leverage their conquest into a smash-and-grab looting raid. They don't have to worry about staying in Italy, they can go use that money to pound targets closer to home like the Mamluks or Eastern Europe, the city-states are going to need time to rebuild after being razed by Ottoman troops - leaving the Med open to more naval dominance, and they still have the benefit of humiliating Christendom. The only problem would be getting noted Romanophile Mehmed to countenance sacking the city of Rome for loot and leaving.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  10. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

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    Why not hold it? Who is going to take it back? By the time they take Rome, the Ottomans have destroyed or neutralised the only forces in the area capable of resistance. Would Spain be able to land at Rome and take it back? Or possibly a push from France? Other than that, I have a hard time seeing who else has the power to push them back. Why not just hold the city? It is after all a major prestige target. If the Pope is captured, or if the Ottomans install their own Pope, that could be a fantastic opportunity to rule the Christians indirectly, or at the least divide them even further.
     
  11. KidCabralista Cape Verde's Unofficial Wikipedia Meister

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    If Mehmed takes it in his lifetime, I don't think he'd be incapable of holding off anyone trying to take back Rome. It's when a weak Sultan comes along that the Ottomans will have to worry about rebellion and reconquest. Mehmed could still force a capitulated and destroyed Rome to acknowledge him as the Emperor without putting down roots in the region. Though the idea of an Ottoman Rome is very interesting, Mehmed might do better to beat the Romans to a pulp and go conquer the Mamluks under Qaitbay to take the title of Sunni Caliph.
     
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  12. Intransigent Southerner Well-Known Member

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    Louis XI of France had interests in Italy. Matthias Corvinus and Frederick III could very well make a temporary peace to fight back the Ottomans, who have clearly grown far too big for their britches. The Catholic Monarchs in Spain will absolutely intervene. France + Spain alone is quite a challenge for the Ottomans, but with the Black Army threatening their Balkan heartland, the empire's strategic prospects are not looking good.

    The Pope was already making plans to flee. Also, who exactly would recognize an Ottoman-appointed Pope?
     
  13. KidCabralista Cape Verde's Unofficial Wikipedia Meister

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    That begs the question - what would these powers do if Rome has simply been razed instead of occupied after the conquest? The Ottomans would not be nearly so overstretched and any retributive action would have to march into Ottoman territory, not the other way around. I'm not sure how much they could do in that scenario.
     
  14. Koprulu Mustafa Pasha Sadrazam of the Roman Empire

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    Well not holding it for eternity. Hungary was Ottoman land for 150 years and harder to defend against a state who has their main base for operations near. Same with Italy. As long as Italy is 67+% Christian, it is likely that conquest won't last.

    The question is, what happens when the Ottomans do conquer Rome. Not "Can they?".
     
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  15. Koprulu Mustafa Pasha Sadrazam of the Roman Empire

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    In 1480, the biggest threat is Hungary. The threats starts in. The 1490s. By then Matthias is dead. If butterflies don't change much then Hungary is in decline and France is the biggest threat. Francs was not much of a threat in the 1480s and the Granadan War only recently started for the Iberians.

    In OTL, France invaded with 25,000 men. About one third what the Ottomans can field normally. All it matters is if the Ottomans can keep Naval Superiority. That will decided the difficulty.
     
  16. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

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    The Orthodox Christians accepted the Ottoman Patriarch of Constantinople for centuries after 1453. But I suppose it was harder to escape from Constantinople/maybe he felt he should not abandon his people.
     
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  17. Koprulu Mustafa Pasha Sadrazam of the Roman Empire

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    I disagree. Italy as a whole is difficult when you add the North as well. The geography is open and the City States will play off the Emperor, France and the Ottomans against each other. Without the North directly ruled, it becomes easier to control. Let the North Italians do their things as longs as they agree to accept Ottoman supremacy over Italy. Trade wise, it might do them even good. The downside of this is the risk of warfare tearing Northern Italy apart. Worse form than the Italian Wars. Controlling Italy was way better for the Ottomans than Hungary. Italy is easier to defend and easier to supply.

    The only possibility for the Ottomans to control Italy is with a decent Muslim minority. That is, from 33% up. And that is how Egypt remained a part. The risk of getting too autonomous is there like it was with Egypt. But theories aside, Muslim population of mainland Italy would not be more than 15% at best. One could expect 5-15%. Anything less than a third has the risk of losing Italy permanently between 16th and late 18th century in one campaign.
     
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  18. Koprulu Mustafa Pasha Sadrazam of the Roman Empire

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    The situation is different. There was no other Patriarch of Constantinople. No Eastern Orthodox State claimed supremacy. The Ottomabs restored the patruarchs authority within a larger area.
     
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  19. Koprulu Mustafa Pasha Sadrazam of the Roman Empire

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    They won't do much. Enter Rome as victorious leaders and up goes the prestige. But Ottoman reputation is tarnished for another century. Thus why neither Mehmed II nor Bayezid II would do that.
     
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  20. Koprulu Mustafa Pasha Sadrazam of the Roman Empire

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    Venice did not have much choice. They were defeated after 16 years of war. They won't fight for another 10 years. But if they somehow accept Ottoman Rule over Italy they keep their Greek posessions largely or trade them for Ravenna, Bologna etc. Hell, Venics might also assert more influence in the trade with the East. Picking a pope is only possible when they bribe a Grand Vizier or something. There is much risk for choosing a Venetians preference.

    The Pope of Rome will not be superior over the Patriarch. It will alienate the Eastern Orthodox.

    The Ottomans were largely focussed on the West until the Safavids became a lasting threat. Regardless of Ottoman Italy. The borders will be drawn from North in Slovakia to West in Sardinia/Sicily.