Have you ever wondered how many Ottoman sultans ruled their empire from Edirne? This northwestern Turkish city was the capital of the Ottoman Empire for almost a century, from the mid-1300s until Mehmed the Conqueror relocated the capital to Constantinople in 1453. During this time, Edirne witnessed the reigns of no less than six sultans.
In this article, you'll discover the storied history of Edirne as an imperial capital and get to know the formidable rulers who helped transform a tiny principality into a formidable empire that controlled much of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and North Africa.
Edirne was central to the early rise and expansion of Ottoman power under a succession of ambitious sultans from Orhan Gazi to Murad II. By the end of this read, you'll have a new appreciation for Edirne's pivotal role in shaping the destiny of one of history's greatest empires.
Introducing Edirne: The European Capital of the Ottoman Empire
Edirne is a city in present-day Turkey that was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire for almost a century, from 1369 to 1453. During this period, six empire rulers oversaw the city's governance.
First came Murad I, who conquered Edirne and moved the capital from Bursa. Under his reign, the Ottomans gained control of most of the Balkans. His son Bayezid I, known as the "Thunderbolt", continued expansion into Europe. After Timur defeated Bayezid, his son Mehmed I restored stability as sultan.
Mehmed I's son Murad II further expanded the empire, conquering Thessaloniki and unsuccessfully besieging Constantinople. Murad II abdicated twice for his son Mehmed II before retaking the throne. Mehmed II would go on to conquer Constantinople in 1453, but by then had moved the capital back to Edirne.
Edirne was a cultural hub in its heyday, home to mosques, madrasas and markets. The Selimiye Mosque, built in the 16th century, still stands as a crowning architectural achievement.
Edirne served as the beating heart of a burgeoning empire for nearly a century. Under six sultans, the Ottomans gained territory, built architectural marvels, and established themselves as a dominant force in Europe and the Islamic world before moving on to their most fabulous prize, Constantinople. Edirne remains an often overlooked but pivotal chapter in the early history of the Ottoman dynasty.
Why Did the Ottomans Choose Edirne as Their Capital?
The Ottomans chose Edirne as their capital for several reasons. First, Edirne was centrally located within the Ottoman Empire, making it an ideal hub for the administration and control of their European territories. Built along significant trade routes, Edirne connected the empire's Asian and European lands, allowing for quick communication and movement of goods and armies.
Second, Edirne had a strategic position near the borders of rival powers like the Byzantines and Bulgarians. The Ottomans wanted their capital in a location that allowed them to defend against potential attacks and launch their own military campaigns. Edirne's location gave them a tactical advantage over their enemies.
Finally, Edirne was a thoroughly developed city with infrastructure to support a large population. It had amenities like water systems, roads, and sanitation that the Ottomans required in an imperial capital. The city also had various architectural styles that demonstrated the Ottomans' prestige.
In summary, the Ottomans chose Edirne as their first European capital due to its central location within their empire, strategic position along the borders of rival states, and advanced infrastructure that could sustain a large population. For over 90 years, Edirne served as an important administrative and cultural centre of the Ottoman Empire in Europe.
The First Sultans to Rule From Edirne: Murad I and Bayezid I
The first sultans to rule the Ottoman Empire from Edirne were Murad I and his son Bayezid I. Murad I conquered Edirne from the Byzantines in 1361, moving the Ottoman capital from Bursa to Edirne. This strategic move gave the Ottomans control of important trade routes between the Balkans and Anatolia.
Under Murad I's reign, the Ottomans expanded their empire into Bulgaria and Serbia. Murad led his forces to many victories, gaining territory in Rumelia (the Balkan Peninsula) and solidifying Ottoman rule in the region. After Murad died in 1389, his son Bayezid I became sultan. Known as Yıldırım Bayezid or "Bayezid the Thunderbolt", he continued the expansion of the empire through military conquests into Wallachia, Bosnia and Croatia.
Bayezid also sought to conquer Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. He laid siege to the city in 1391 and again in 1395-1396 but was ultimately unsuccessful in capturing it. Bayezid's forces clashed with the armies of the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, defeating them in the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. This victory gave the Ottomans control over most of the Balkans.
The early years of Ottoman rule from Edirne were marked by military success and territorial expansion. Under the leadership of Murad I and Bayezid I, the empire increased, gaining land in Rumelia and establishing Edirne as an essential political and commercial centre. The city served as a base for the Ottoman conquest of southeast Europe, and it was from here that the Sultans launched campaigns to take Constantinople and spread their empire across the continent.
The First Sultans to Rule From Edirne: Murad I and Bayezid I
Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566 and chose Edirne as his capital for almost 20 years. This marked Edirne's golden age when the city served as an imperial metropolis.
Under Suleiman's reign, Edirne's skyline was graced with architectural wonders that still stand today. The crowning jewel is the Selimiye Mosque, considered a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. With its four slender minarets and spacious, light-filled interior, the Selimiye Mosque is a sight to behold.
Suleiman also built the largest bazaar in the Balkans, the Bedesten. At the bazaar, merchants sold spices, textiles, and other goods along vaulted stone corridors. The bazaar remains active today, though many of the original buildings were destroyed by fire over the centuries.
Education and Culture
Edirne became a centre of learning and culture. Suleiman invited scholars, artists, and philosophers to his court. The city boasted libraries, schools, and a vibrant coffeehouse culture where intellectual debates were common.
The sultan was a poet himself and promoted the arts. His court was adorned with lavish textiles, ceramics, manuscripts, and other objets d'art. Suleiman's patronage helped launch the Ottoman Empire's golden age of art and architecture.
Though Suleiman later moved the capital to Istanbul, Edirne continued to thrive as an essential city in the empire. His massive building and restoration projects established Edirne as a prestigious imperial centre of culture and learning that still impresses visitors today. Suleiman's stamp on the city ensured its status in history.
The Decline of Edirne and the Number of Sultans Who Ruled From the City
Edirne was the Ottoman Empire's capital for over 90 years, from 1363 to 1453, under eight different sultans. These early sultans helped transform Edirne into a thriving city and a crucial political centre.
The first sultan to rule from Edirne was Murad I, who conquered the city from the Byzantines in 1363 and made it his capital. Murad I helped establish Edirne as an important military stronghold for the Ottoman Empire in Europe.
Bayezid I, known as the "Thunderbolt", continued expanding the Ottoman Empire from Edirne, conquering Bulgaria and parts of Greece. His defeat at the Battle of Ankara in 1402 weakened the Ottomans.
Mehmed I restored stability to the empire after a period of political turmoil. He reconquered territory lost after the Battle of Ankara and strengthened Ottoman control in the Balkans.
Murad II further expanded the Ottoman Empire, conquering Serbia, Croatia and parts of Hungary. He also defeated a Crusade at the Battle of Varna in 1444. Murad II abdicated twice in favour of his son Mehmed II before ruling as sultan until his death.
Mehmed II, known as "The Conqueror", was the last sultan to rule from Edirne. In 1453, Mehmed II conquered Constantinople, ending the Byzantine Empire. He then made Constantinople the new capital of the Ottoman Empire, moving his court there from Edirne.
With the conquest of Constantinople, Edirne's political importance began to decline. Over time, the city transitioned into more of a cultural and economic centre for the Ottoman Empire, though it remained an occasional military outpost for centuries. The eight sultans who ruled the empire from Edirne were instrumental in transforming it into a dominant power in southeast Europe.
And there you have it, a quick look at how many sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire from Edirne. Over nearly 150 years, eight sultans made Edirne their capital and helped transform it into a centre of culture, arts and architecture. Though their time in Edirne was brief, their legacy lives on in the city's stunning mosques, bridges and palaces. The next time you explore the Balkans, stop in Edirne to glimpse this pivotal period of Ottoman history. Walk the streets where sultans once strolled, marvel at the masterpiece of the Selimiye Mosque, and immerse yourself in the grandeur of a long-vanished empire. With so much magnificence on display, you'll soon see why Edirne was once worthy of imperial rule.