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Catherine I Rules After Death of Husband 1725

Despite her humble beginnings and her unpopularity, Tsar Peter the Great’s consort Catherine I was able to consolidate power and rule Russia after her husband’s death in 1725. The illiterate Empress, however, was only a puppet for Peter’s trusted friend Menshikov who soon took over the administration of the empire.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during this time.

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The Peasant

Martha Skavronskaya, the future Catherine I of Russia, was born around 1683 in the Swedish province of Livonia. Her father, Samuel Skavronski, was a peasant and died when Martha was just two years old. Her mother died soon after, so Martha was separated from her siblings and soon adopted by an aunt. At the age of twelve, the girl was sent to Marienberg to work as a servant of the Lutheran Pastor Gluck and his family.

Just like the majority of 18th-century peasant women, young Martha never learned to read or write. She was, however, attractive, cheerful, and smart, so it was not long before she caught the eye of a trumpeter in the dragoons named Johann Raabe. Pastor Gluck’s delighted wife immediately arranged their engagement, and their wedding was held in 1702.

Russian troops marched into town soon after the couple’s wedding, so Johann was forced to retreat with the Swedish troops. Martha stayed behind and accompanied Pastor Gluck (and other townspeople) to the Russian camp to plead for their safety. A German mercenary-officer in service of the Russians promised Pastor Gluck safety. Martha and the other townspeople, on the other hand, were another matter. She and other townspeople were forced to remain in the camp as prisoners of war.

Martha soon caught the eye of the German officer and the two became lovers. She was also able to attract one of the most powerful men in the campaign, the Commander-in-Chief Boris Sheremetev himself. Apart from working as Sheremetev’s personal servant, Martha also served as his mistress. This arrangement, however, did not last long after she was given (or even sold) to the dashing St.Petersburg governor and general Alexander Menshikov.

The Mistress

Like Martha, Menshikov came from a humble background (his father was rumored to be a Moscow pie-seller or a common soldier), and in her he found a kindred spirit. Martha worked as a servant in his household, but it was possible that she was also his lover. She first met Peter during his many visits to Menshikov’s home in 1703. Menshikov was quick to grab an opportunity when he saw one, so he immediately exploited the Tsar’s attraction to his beautiful servant. He arranged their meetings, and it was not long before Peter summoned Martha to Moscow to be his mistress.

The Tsar had married the noblewoman Eudoxia Lopukhina in his youth, but the relationship had been troubled for many years. He had a relationship with a number of women outside his marriage, but he finally had enough and forced his wife to enter a convent to dissolve their marriage. His relationship with his long time mistress Anna Mons also came to an end, so Martha arrived at a crucial moment in his life.

 She lived in Peter’s house in Moscow’s German quarter, but she rarely saw him as he was often away supervising the Great Northern War. She became pregnant with their first child in 1704, so the Tsar insisted that she convert from Catholicism so the child would be born in the Orthodoxy. She gave birth to their son in the same year and soon changed her name to Catherine.

Catherine had a calming effect on the Tsar who suffered from seizures and rages. To him, she was a lover, surrogate mother, and de facto wife rolled into one. It was not long before she found herself pregnant with their second son, whom they eventually named Peter.

The Wife

Catherine I of Russia, shown here in 1717, was born in Sweden in 1683.

The year 1706 was a mix of tragedy and bliss for the couple. They welcomed their first daughter (which they named after her mother) in 1706 but lost the two elder boys in the same year. The Great Northern War still raged on, but they were able to spend some time with each other. She gave birth to Anne in 1708 but soon suffered another blow when her eldest daughter died.

Catherine rarely saw Peter while the Great Northern War reached its height. She also tried to mediate between the temperamental Tsar and his son by his first wife, the Tsarevich Alexei, who resented his father as much as his father despised him. In 1709, she accompanied the Tsar to the southern front and stayed far from the camp when Peter won the Battle of Poltava against the Swedes. Their fifth child, Elizabeth, was born not long after her father’s victory against Charles XII.

The worst moments of the war were finally over, so Catherine was able to see the Tsar more frequently. Although their relationship was still far from legal, she began to appear in public functions with him. She also successfully compelled him to recognize their daughter Anne as a princess. In 1711, Peter himself announced that she was to become a Tsarina and that they would be officially married (they married in secret in 1707). This scandalized the people, but Peter’s terrifying temperament and well-documented cruelty ensured that no one would oppose his plans.

Catherine accompanied Peter on an official state visit to Poland and proved herself indispensable when she traveled with him to the Turkish front. Peter’s war against the Ottomans did not go well, and she was forced to serve as a nurse for wounded Russian soldiers. She was also credited as the one who saved the army when she allegedly gathered her jewels (as well as those of the officers’ wives) and used them to bribe the Ottoman vizier into letting them retreat without further harassment. The bribe was irresistible, and the Russian army was allowed to limp home in defeat.

Peter finally made good on his promise and officially married Catherine on February 9, 1712. They attended a simple ceremony but arrived at an elaborate reception afterward. She was now Tsarina, and Peter soon went back to governing his empire. The Tsar was often away from his family as the Great Northern War continued, while his wife stayed at home with their children. The stress of war, however, began to take its toll on the Tsar’s health. They welcomed the birth of two additional daughters, but both girls died in infancy.

Peter’s relationship with Menshikov and Sheremetev became strained when he discovered their corrupt practices. Thanks to Catherine’s mediation, Menshikov was compelled to give up the money he embezzled so he was spared. Catherine gave birth to a son in 1715, but their joy was turned to worry when the Tsar fell ill later in the same year. He recovered, but the Tsarina knew that she would have to fight for the welfare of her children just in case Peter died and her stepson Alexei succeeded as tsar.

Catherine joined her husband in several state visits to Poland, Prussia, and Denmark. She gave birth to another son in 1717, but the boy died soon after. The couple recovered from their grief and resumed their tour of Holland in the same year. Peter later went to France to negotiate the betrothal of Tsarevna Elizabeth and the Dauphin, but left his wife behind at the request of the scandalized French court. To Peter’s dismay, the betrothal negotiations were unsuccessful because of the Tsarina’s questionable background. The English royal family also refused to invite them to court because of the same reason.

The couple was back in St. Petersburg by fall of 1717.  While they were away, Tsarevich Alexei had fled to Austria to his brother-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.  The Tsar was able to track him down, and agents brought his wayward heir back to Russia in 1718. To her relief, Tsarevich Alexei renounced his claim to the throne in exchange for clemency from his father. The prince, however, was sentenced to death for wanting his father dead and was sent to prison to await execution. He mysteriously died on June 26, 1718.  

A funeral was held for the Tsarevich, but the royal couple did not mourn him at all and soon went back to their routine. The people still considered Catherine an outsider, but she stubbornly stayed by Peter’s side in spite of their rejection. Peter made moves to modernize the empire, but conservative Russians only pushed back harder.

By 1719, the couple suffered another tragedy: the death of their young son and heir Peter. The death of their son devastated the couple, but they went back to their routine once their period of mourning was over. Tsar Peter was often ill, and it seemed that he had mellowed with age. The couple spent much time thinking about possible heirs for the throne, of which the first candidate was the dead Tsarevich Alexei’s son Peter. They did not like this possibility, so they looked for suitable husbands (and potential heirs) for their two daughters. They found a suitable groom in Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and nephew of the dead Swedish king Charles XII. Lineage made up for what Charles lacked in wealth and looks, so the Tsar soon arranged the betrothal of his daughter to the duke.

The Empress

In 1722, Catherine accompanied her husband on the march south to face Safavid Persia. After taking Derbent in Dagestan, the Russian army marched back to Astrakhan. Peter fell ill soon after, but his poor health did not prevent him from thrashing Menshikov who fell back to embezzlement again. Catherine, for her part, had no choice but to be involved in politics when her husband’s health started to decline. Peter further shocked his people in 1723 when he declared Catherine the Empress and co-ruler of the Russian Empire. She was crowned with great pomp in Moscow’s Uspensky Cathedral in 1724 and it was followed by lavish celebrations. The empress fell ill soon after and had to leave Moscow for her beloved St. Petersburg. Peter’s health was no better, and he had to undergo a bladder surgery to relieve the pain which plagued him for some time.

Peter and Catherine’s relationship deteriorated sometime after the coronation. She had been close to her private secretary William Mons, so rumors soon spread that she and Mons were lovers. The accusation of infidelity was strengthened by the appearance of Mons’s supposed love letter to Catherine (or one of her daughters). This damning letter later wound up in the hands of her husband.

The Tsar had Mons arrested along with his sister Matryona, her children, and the Tsar’s own jester. Mons was condemned to hang, while his sister and her children were sent to exile. Catherine tried to intervene to save her secretary, but Peter was so wrapped up in his jealousy and left Mons to die. Their relationship became strained, and it was not until Anne’s betrothal on November 23 of the same year that they reconciled.

The Tsar fell ill once again during the winter of 1724, and his condition only worsened after the new year. He had been unable to urinate without pain, so his surgeons decided to operate once again. He seemed to get better after the operation, but the wound became infected and gangrene soon set in. He knew that he was dying, so he hastily summoned Princess Anne so he could dictate his will.

He was unable to continue and soon fell into a coma. The distraught empress knew how vulnerable she and her daughters were, so she asked Menshikov to protect them in the event of Peter’s death. Menshikov knew that his own safety and privileges would be in danger if Alexei’s son Tsarevich Peter succeeded, so he agreed to support her.

Peter, ruler of the Russian Empire, died at the age of 52 during the early hours of January 25, 1725. Established grandees and Peter’s favorite upstarts gathered in the palace to talk about who would succeed the dead Tsar. Conservative grandees wanted Tsarevich Peter to succeed his grandfather, but others favored Princess Anne. The strongest party, however, was that of Menshikov and the dead Tsar’s favorites. While Peter lay dying, Menshikov had already bribed the guardsmen with increased pay if they would support Catherine’s accession to the throne.

The crowd which gathered in the Winter Palace was caught by surprise when ranks of guardsmen suddenly arrived outside just as dawn was breaking. Menshikov was busy throwing his weight around in the palace, but the presence of the guardsmen was enough to silence the Tsarevich Peter’s supporters. When the grieving Catherine arrived, the grand admiral suddenly hailed her as Russia’s new empress. Sensing that they had no choice, the rest of the crowd followed suit.

Despite her overwhelming grief, Empress Catherine met with her ministers and signed documents while supervising her husband’s funeral. Fate dealt her another blow when little Natalia, the couple’s youngest daughter, died three days before Peter’s funeral. Father and daughter were buried together on March 8, 1725, at the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Catherine was ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities her husband left behind. She never learned to read or write, and the problems of the vast empire were just too many for her to grasp. She knew that her hold on the throne was fragile, so she turned on her long-time ally, Menshikov, to guide and protect her. Menshikov kept his part of the bargain. He did his best in rooting out enemies and stamping out possible dissenters, while every day Catherine ensured that she had the army’s loyalty.

She wisely kept Tsarevich Alexei by her side to make sure that the people would see her as a benevolent mother. Her grief slightly ebbed, and she was able to become more than a figurehead for Menshikov for a little while. She received reports that the peasants were overburdened by the poll-tax, so she immediately slashed the amount collected by her government. She also discontinued some of Peter’s naval projects and allowed the army fewer recruits so the government could save money.

Menshikov continued to play a great part in administering the empire, while the empress gradually took a back seat. She was eventually convinced to create a council made up of her trusted men who would then make most of the decisions for her. The council included Grand Admiral Fyodor Apraksin, Chancellor Gavriil Golovkin, Chancellor Peter Tolstoi, the German diplomat Andrey Osterman, and Menshikov himself. These men ruled the empire, while the illiterate Catherine was left to sign decrees and other documents.

Her spending sprees and incompetence made her unpopular among the people. She began to drink and party heavily to cope with her loss, and would often stagger to bed at 3 in the morning. Menshikov was content to leave her to her revelry and absent-mindedly wandering around the palace and gardens while he continued to extend his influence and enrich himself at the expense of the government coffers.

Catherine fell ill in late 1726 and her condition worsened as the new year arrived. Menshikov knew that Catherine would not last long, so he started supporting Tsarevich Peter as her successor. The Empress herself wanted Peter to rule. Princess Anne was already disqualified because she was born out of wedlock, while the empress did not want to burden her youngest daughter Elizabeth with the ruling an empire.

By April and in spite of the efforts of her doctors, Catherine knew that she did not have enough time. Menshikov created a will which made Tsarevich Peter the successor and had her sign it on her deathbed. She signed it without protest but made sure that her daughters would succeed in case Peter died without an heir. On May 6, 1727, Catherine I, Empress of Russia, died after only three years of unremarkable reign.


Picture by: Jean-Marc Nattier, Public Domain, Link

Lieven, Dominic, ed. The Cambridge History of Russia: Imperial Russia, 1689-1917. Vol. II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Longworth, Philip. The Three Empresses: Catherine I, Anne and Elizabeth of Russia. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1973.

Montefiore, Simon Sebag. The Romanovs: 1613-1918. New York, Vintage Books, 2017.

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Bible Translated into Burmese 1835-1837

In 1834, the American missionary Adoniram Judson became the first person to translate the Bible into Burmese. Judson’s Burmese translation was finally published in 1835—a major accomplishment for a man who arrived in Burma in 1813 not knowing a single word of the Burmese language.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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Early Years

Adoniram Judson, the man who translated the Bible to Burmese, was born in 1788 in Malden, Massachusetts. He was the son of Adoniram Judson Sr., a Congregational minister, by his wife Abigail Brown. He taught for a year at a school in Plymouth after graduating from Brown University. In 1808, Judson entered the Andover Theological Seminary to study divinity.

Judson decided to become a missionary in 1810 after reading “A Star of the East,” Reverend Edward Norman Harris’s account as a missionary to the Karen people of Burma. He received a license to preach and also met his future wife, Ann Hasseltine, in 1810.

He married Ann on February 5, 1812, and he was ordained as a minister one day later. The couple and their fellow missionaries boarded a ship bound for Calcutta on the 19th of February, 1812. They arrived in Calcutta in the middle of June, but he and his wife transferred to the Baptist denomination two and a half months later. Preaching the gospel to Hindus was illegal, so the couple was forced to flee to Mauritius in 1813 for fear that they would be arrested.

Adoniram Judson was the first missionary to translate the Bible into the Burmese language.

The couple soon returned to India but decided to continue to Burma instead. They arrived in Rangoon in 1813 and joined the Baptist missionary Felix Carey and his family. The Careys left Burma, so the Judsons took over their mission. Judson and his wife started to learn Burmese, but it took them four more years before they could hold a proper church service. What began as a struggle became a lifelong love affair with the Burmese language. Adoniram started to write the “Grammatical Notices of the Burman Language” and finished it in 1816. He completed the Burmese translation of the Gospel of Matthew and also started the difficult task of compiling a dictionary of Burmese words.

Life as a missionary in Rangoon was difficult and tiring with little reward. Buddhism was deeply embedded in the culture, and their resistance made his job more difficult. The king also forbade his people from converting from Buddhism to other religions, so Judson only had eighteen converts by 1822. Judson and a fellow missionary appealed to the Burmese King Bagyidaw to let them preach the gospel all over the kingdom, but the request was denied. Despite these challenges, Judson was able to finish his Burmese translation of the New Testament in 1823.

Judson was arrested and spent 20 months in prison during the Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). Ann sought to free him from prison, but he was only freed when the British army defeated the Burmese. He worked for the Burmese government as a translator, but tragedy struck again when his wife and youngest child died.

In 1827, Judson set off to evangelize in the areas where the animist Karen people lived. To his surprise, he found them more receptive to the gospel than their Buddhist counterparts. He continued his Burmese translation of the Bible while working with this repressed minority. He finally finished the translation in 1834 and published it in the following year.


Picture by: George Peter Alexander Healy, Public Domain, Link

Middleditch, Robert Thomas. Burmah’s Great Missionary: Records of the Life, Character, and Achievements of Adoniram Judson. New York: Edward H. Fletcher, 1854.

Thorne, C.G., Jr. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by J.D. Douglas and Earle E. Cairns. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Warburton, Stacy Reuben. Eastward! The Story of Adoniram Judson. New York: Round Table Press, Inc., 1937.

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Peace of Augsburg 1555

After more than thirty years of religious and political conflicts, the rulers of Germany finally agreed to sign and enact the Peace of Augsburg on September 25, 1555. The German princes agreed to recognize Protestantism and Catholicism, and allowed both forms of Christianity to co-exist in their realm. Fragile as the peace was, it brought a measure of stability to a land long divided by differences in religion.  This event can be found on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Schmalkaldic War (1546-1547) and the Augsburg Interim (1548)

Emperor Charles V never stopped trying to bring the Protestants back into the Catholic fold during Martin Luther’s lifetime. His efforts intensified after the Reformation leader’s death on February 18, 1546, but the Protestant princes did not give in. A war between the Catholic Holy Roman Empire and the Protestant princes had loomed on the horizon for many years but it finally flared in 1546. The princes of the Schmalkaldic League had no choice but to gather their own troops to prepare for war.

Battles raged between the Schmalkaldic army and Charles’s forces between the summer of 1546 and spring of 1547. By April 24, 1547, Charles’s army had finally defeated the outnumbered Protestants at the Battle of Muhlberg. The Protestant leaders Philip of Hesse and Elector John Frederick of Saxony were soon captured and imprisoned. Charles’ army also besieged Wittenberg, so John Frederick was forced to sign away the right to his title to keep the emperor’s army from destroying the city. The title of elector was then transferred to Charles’s ally and John Frederick’s cousin Maurice.

The Protestants had been a thorn in Charles’s side since the rise of Martin Luther, but he was getting tired of the religious conflict and was anxious to bring peace to Germany. While waiting for the results of the Council of Trent, the emperor went ahead and established a compromise with Protestants. This temporary compromise was eventually called the Augsburg Interim (1548). During the Interim, Protestants were allowed to live in peace granted that they would adopt some Catholic practices again. Masses were once again celebrated, and Germans were forced to acknowledge the Pope’s authority over them. Priests, however, were allowed to continue the giving of both bread and wine to the laity. Priests who married during the Reformation, meanwhile, were free to stay in that state.

The Peace of Augsburg 1555

The front page of the Peace of Augsburg treaty, which was also known as the Augsburg Settlement.

Despite these concessions, peace was hard to obtain in a place where Protestantism had taken deep root. Charles brought in Spanish troops to enforce the terms of the Interim. But the presence of outsiders (and Catholic ones at that) only added to the resentment of the Germans. War began again in 1552, but it was the ambitious Saxon elector Maurice who stood at the helm after taking the side of the Protestants. He made an alliance with Henry II of France but gave away the bishoprics of Metz, Verdun, and Toul in exchange for military help.

Charles’s army suffered a major defeat in the same year which forced him to flee to Innsbruck. It was then up to his brother, King Ferdinand of Bohemia and Hungary, to sue for peace with the German princes (Peace of Passau, 1552). However, the Peace of Passau died prematurely when Albert Alcibiades, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, broke ranks and offered his services to Charles V. The Holy Roman Emperor accepted his offer, and the renegade margrave’s attacks in Germany began.

The Margrave helped Charles besiege Metz in October 1552, but they were forced to withdraw in January 1553. Alcibiades then returned to Germany and once again started harassing the region of Franconia. Tired of the unrest Alcibiades was causing, a group of Catholic and Protestant princes soon rose up to oppose him. The Margrave was finally defeated at the Battle of Sievershausen in 1553. Alcibiades was forced to flee and seek refuge in France after his defeat.

The increasingly despondent emperor had abandoned all hope that he would be able to solve Germany’s conflicts. He started to withdraw from public life and allowed his brother, King Ferdinand, to represent the Habsburg side at the Diet of Augsburg in February 1555. The Pope did not send a representative, so the German princes were forced to work out peace among themselves.

The Peace of Augsburg was enacted on September 25, 1555, and included terms such as:

1. The guarantee that Protestants would enjoy the same security enjoyed by German Catholics.

2. The condition that subjects would follow their overlord’s religion. Those who do not want to conform, however, were free to sell their properties and move elsewhere.

3. The guarantee that all lands taken by Protestant princes from Catholic churches before 1552 would remain in their possession.

4. The assurance that the Catholic Church had the right to deprive the clergymen who had converted to Protestantism their former properties and other rights that were given by the Church.

The Peace of Augsburg, however, was only applied to Lutherans and Catholics. Calvinists, Anabaptists, and members of other sects were excluded.


Picture by: User:Michail[1], Public Domain, Link

Douglas, J. D., and Earle E. Cairns. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Roper, Lyndal. Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet. New York: Random House, 2016.

Scribner, R.W. The New Cambridge Modern History: The Reformation, 1520-59. Edited by G.R. Elton. 2nd ed. Vol. II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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Michael I, First Tsar of the Romanov Dynasty 1613

In 1613, a distant relative of the last Rurikid Tsars named Michael (born July 22, 1596) became the first Tsar of the Romanov Dynasty. In spite of his youth and inadequate education, the Tsar was able to usher in a period of stability with the help of his supporters. He was able to secure temporary peace with Sweden and Poland during his reign, as well as secure the title of tsar for his heirs by getting rid of pretenders to the throne.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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Rurik, the Rus’, and the Long Road to the Romanovs

Around AD 862, a Varangian warrior named Rurik became the ruler of Eastern Slavs and the Finno-Ugrian tribes who lived near them. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, Rurik came from a group of people called the Rus’. The Rus’ chieftain then commanded two other warriors named Askold and Dir to go to Constantinople. But the two men came upon the town of Kiev as they passed the Dnieper River on their way to Constantinople. They decided to stop by, but eventually settled in Kiev along with other Varangians. Askold and Dir later became the leaders of the town of Kiev.

Rurik died sometime later, and soon a representative named Oleg brought the former chieftain’s son named Igor with him to Kiev. He claimed the town for Igor and immediately had Askold and Dir executed. From then on, Rurik’s dynasty ruled the Kievan Rus’. Igor, Prince of Kiev, soon rose to some sort of prominence during his reign that he was able to secure a treaty with Constantinople. He died at the hands of the Drevlians, but was avenged by his warrior-queen Olga.

Olga ruled as her son’s regent after her husband’s death. She visited Constantinople during her reign and was warmly welcomed by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. She converted to Christianity before she returned to Kiev and soon convinced her people to adopt the same religion. Her son, Svyatoslav, came of age in AD 963 and started to rule his people in his own right. He cast aside his mother’s religion and spent his reign subduing the neighboring peoples just like a proper Rus’ warrior. The Rurikid Dynasty ruled Kiev until AD 1125, but the kingdom soon broke apart into different principalities.

The Rus’ people were still fragmented when the Mongols swept into Europe during the early 13th century. After decimating the Rus’ army, the Mongols chased the survivors as far as Dnieper River and turned back when their leader felt that they had accomplished their mission. The Rus’ were given a brief reprieve when Genghis Khan died but they were once again overwhelmed when the Mongol horde returned around 1240.

The Mongol horde was led this time by one of Khan’s grandson Batu and the equally ferocious general Subotai. They took Moscow and Kiev, killing people and pillaging cities as they went. By the time worst of the carnage was over, the only independent Rus’ principality left was Novgorod. But even during the overlordship of Batu Khan and his descendants, the Grand Princes of Moscow still retained their dominance over all other Rus’ principalities.

The greater Mongol Empire crumbled in the middle of the 14th century and with it came the gradual disappearance of the Golden Horde’s power. The Grand Prince Ivan III was able to overthrow what remained of the Golden Horde and soon integrated the other Russian duchies into one state. His grandson, the famously ill-tempered Ivan IV (the Terrible), went on to become Russia’s first tsar in 1547. In a fit of rage, the tsar killed his own son and heir, Ivan Ivanovich, and left the empire to his younger son upon his death.

Ivan’s younger son Feodor I died childless in 1598 and became the last of the Rurikid Dynasty to rule Russia. His death plunged the empire into a succession crisis and ushered in the Times of Troubles (1598-1610). Five different men held the Russia’s throne until Michael, a 16-year old boy from the Romanov family, was crowned in 1613.

Michael Romanov

Life During the Times of Troubles

Michael I was the first Russian Tsar from the house of Romanov.

Michael (Mikhail) Feodorovich Romanov (born July 22, 1596) was the son of Feodor Nikitich Romanov by his wife Ksenia Shestova. His father was a decorated soldier and a nephew of Anastasia Romanovna, the first wife of Ivan IV (the Terrible). He became a boyar in 1583, and soon became a candidate to succeed upon the tsar’s death in 1598. But he and his family were driven out of Moscow as Russia descended into the Times of Troubles.

Both Feodor and Ksenia were forced to divorce, enter the monastic life, and go to distant monasteries separately. Feodor took the name Philaret, while the nun Ksenia took the name Martha. Their son Michael was then sent to Belozersk to be cared for by a relative. By 1605, a monk named Dmitry was crowned tsar of Russia. Backed by Poles and Cossacks, this False Dmitry soon recalled Philaret and appointed him the Metropolitan of Rostov. It was not long before Martha and Michael also joined Philaret at Rostov.

False Dmitry became unpopular when he married a Polish woman named Marina Mniszech. The pretender was killed soon after, but his wife and son were able to escape before the assassins caught up with them. Philaret, meanwhile, rose through the ranks when he was appointed patriarch during the reign of False Dmitry’s successor, Vasily IV. But he would not hold this position for long when he led the opposition against Vasily. The offended Tsar ordered him to go back to Rostov and reunite with his family.

Vasily soon faced a threat posed by the Second False Dmitry and his wife Marina Mniszech. Swedish troops took advantage of the chaos and swooped in to take Novgorod. Polish-Lithuanian troops also arrived and occupied western Russian cities. The boyars finally had enough, and they removed Vasily through a coup. The Second False Dmitry was forced to flee south with his wife and stepson in tow.

Philaret came back to Moscow and became an ambassador to the Polish king whose troops, by then, had occupied the Kremlin. The Patriarch initially wanted his son to become tsar but knew that the state needed an adult who could unite the Russians. He then agreed to support the accession of a Polish prince as tsar and traveled to Smolensk to negotiate the terms.

But the negotiations stalled when the Catholic prince refused to convert to Orthodoxy which was one of the conditions specified by the Russians for him to rule. The Poles seized and imprisoned the Patriarch, while Russia remained in chaos as Sweden launched a full-scale invasion. The Russians were able to drive the Swedes out, but they knew that their independence would always be threatened as long as they did not have a leader.

The First Romanov Tsar   

By 1613, the worst of the Times of Troubles had died down, so the Zemskii Sobor (Assembly of the Land) decided that it was time to rebuild the state with a new tsar at the helm. One name that stood out among the candidates was Michael’s, one of the distant relatives of the last Rurikid tsar. Because of his youth, Michael did not take part in the Times of Troubles, so was not tainted in their eyes. The boyars also thought that the 16-year old would be biddable enough so they could use him for their own gain.

On February 7, 1613, the representatives of the assembly elected Michael as the new tsar. They soon dispatched a delegation to summon him from the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma. Martha initially refused to let her son go to Moscow with the delegation as the Troubles was still fresh on her mind. Despite the mother’s reluctance, she was eventually convinced by the delegates that the tsardom was her son’s destiny.

Michael was crowned on July 21, 1613, at the Cathedral of Dormition. The inadequate education he received made him timid and easily swayed by his mother, her family, and the advisers who surrounded him. Despite his lackluster performance, Michael was able to score a couple of diplomatic victories early in his reign, namely the Treaty of Stolbova with Sweden (1617) and the Treaty of Deulino with Poland (1618). The peace of Deulino, however, came at a cost when Russia agreed to cede Smolensk to the Poles.

Michael’s father Philaret had been exiled to Poland during the Troubles, but he was immediately released when the Treaty of Deulino was signed. Philaret came home and resumed his role as Patriarch of Moscow in the same year. As Patriarch, he was essentially one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. Michael’s timid personality, however, ensured that his father played a larger role in ruling Russiaa tsar in a patriarch’s robes.

The Romanov family secured Michael’s path by getting rid of some holdovers from the Times of Troubles. These persons included the Second False Dmitry’s wife Marina Mniszech, her three-year old son, and the Cossack leader Ivan Zarutsky. False Dmitry’s son and Zarutsky were executed, while Marina Mniszech became a prisoner for the rest of her life.

Michael largely refrained from purging the state’s enemies. Some of the boyars who took part in the Troubles retained their influence, but Cossack patriots who supported the Romanov family were often sidelined. His reign was marked by relative stability, but the same could not be said of the early years of his personal life. His mother and her family became influential and soon meddled with his choice of a bride. Michael’s first wife died in 1625, and rumors soon swirled that she was poisoned by her mother-in-law. He married his second wife Eudoxia Streshneva in 1626 without much interference from his mother who soon fell from grace.

Michael and his wife had ten children, but only four survived to adulthood. These children included Irina (1627), Alexei (1629), Anna (1630), and Tatiana (1636). Michael reigned for 32 years and died on July 13, 1645.


Picture by: Anonymous, Public Domain, Link

 Montefiore, Simon Sebag. The Romanovs: 1613-1918. New York, Vintage Books, 2017.

Nestor the Chronicler. The Russian Primary Chronicle. Edited by Samuel H. Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor, Cambridge, MA, The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953.

Perrie, Maureen, ed. The Cambridge History of Russia. Vol. 1. The Cambridge History of Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521812276.


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Emperor of Russia as Temporary Head of the Orthodox Church

In 1700, Russian Emperor Peter the Great became the temporary head of the Orthodox Church after the death of the Patriarch Adrian of Moscow. Peter’s refusal to appoint the patriarch’s successor was one of the reforms he introduced into the Orthodox church. He replaced the patriarchate with a deputy and later, a Holy Synod made up of bishops.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster around that time period.

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From the Rurikids to the Romanovs

Russia became the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church after the fall of Byzantium to the Ottomans in 1453. In 1598, Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople traveled to Moscow to seek financial help but was forced to create a Patriarchate of Moscow in exchange for money. The Orthodox form of Christianity had been a part of the Rus’ people’s life since AD 988, but the people’s devotion to it intensified during and after the Times of Troubles. Patriarch Hermogen used the Orthodoxy to unite the Russians during a time when the existence of the state was threatened by the absence of a legitimate tsar and the invasion of the armies of Catholic Poland and Protestant Sweden.

The Times of Trouble had died down by 1613 and a distant relative of the last Rurikid tsars soon acceded the throne as Michael I. After securing peace with Poland in 1618, the Tsar had his father, Patriarch Philaret, freed from a Polish prison. Philaret then came home and resumed his responsibilities as Patriarch of Moscow. He was more than an ordinary Patriarch as he was also his son’s co-ruler. Patriarch Philaret continued to co-rule with the Tsar until his death in 1633.

Alexis I became Tsar upon the death of his father in 1645. This youthful and energetic tsar was nicknamed the “Young Monk” early in his reign because of his religious devotion. It was not long before a group called Zealots of Piety joined him in reforming the church. The group was led by the Tsar’s own confessor and included prominent members such as the priests Ivan Neronov and Avvakum Petrov, and later, the abbot Nikon Minin.

Alexis, with the support of the Zealots of Piety, banned some folk entertainments and festivals to promote religious devotion. These constricting reforms did not sit well with the Muscovites who were not above beating clerics in retaliation. In 1649, Alexis created the Monastery Chancellery and gave it the power to try clergymen and those who lived on the land of the Church. Those who lived in the domain of the Patriarch, however, remained under his power.

The abbot Nikon Minin steadily became a powerful figure in Alexis’s court after the fall from grace of his former tutor Morozov. More zealous than Alexis, Patriarch Nikon soon became high-handed in his reforms and eventually angered some members of the Zealots themselves. Avvakum, one of the most prominent leaders of the group, opposed Nikon and paid for it with his life. Nikon also lost his prestige after a falling-out with the Tsar and was soon forced to return to the life of an ordinary monk.

Alexis‘s death in 1676 was followed by a succession crisis. His sickly son Feodor inherited the throne, but the tsar died six years later without an heir. His brother Ivan, sister Anna (though unofficial and unpopular), and half-brother Peter co-ruled from 1682. Sophia ruled for some time on her own but was deposed in 1689. Peter’s mother, Natalya Naryshkina, ruled briefly as regent until her own death in 1694. Peter and Ivan V co-ruled from then on, but it was cut short when the sickly Ivan V died in 1696. His death without an heir left Peter to rule Russia on his own.

Peter the Great’s Reforms and Takeover of the Church

Peter the Great of Russia, shown here in 1838.

As a child, Peter received his education from some of the best tutors, including the Scotsmen Paul Menesius and Patrick Gordon. Thanks to his own intelligence and the Western European education he received from his tutors, Peter was able to modernize Russia and turn it into an empire. He wore Western European clothes and shaved his face. He even forbade other men from growing their beards and from wearing traditional Russian clothing. He also kept Russia up to date by ordering his people to discard the old style calendar and adopt the Julian Calendar instead.

Peter had no sympathy for the clergymen his father and grandfather so revered. He was not a religious person, and he was not above to using his power to bring the clergymen to heel. Moscow’s conservative Patriarch Adrian died in 1700, but the Tsar left the position of the patriarch empty and appointed a deputy to temporarily act as head of the church.

Russia’s hostilities with Sweden finally flared up into the Great Northern War in 1700. He restored the Monastery Chancellery in 1701 and used the office to take the church’s income which he used to fund his war. He also raised funds for the war by creating new taxes for clergymen and the church.

Peter knew that getting rid of the Orthodox Church was impossible, so what he did instead was to place himself at the top of the hierarchy. He replaced the Patriarchate in 1721 with a Holy Synod which was composed of bishops who answered to him. In 1722, the Tsar created an office and hired agents who would spy on erring clergymen. Many of his reforms, however, were abandoned by his successors when he died in 1725.


Picture by: Paul Delaroche – 1. – 4. Unknown 5. Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur, object 00031228., Public Domain, Link

Bromley, J. S., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History. Vol. 6. The New Cambridge Modern History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521075244.

Lieven, Dominic, ed. The Cambridge History of Russia. Vol. 2. The Cambridge History of Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521815291.

Montefiore, Simon Sebag. The Romanovs: 1613-1918. New York, Vintage Books, 2017.


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Mongol Yuan Dynasty Ruled China (1206/1271-1368)

In the middle of Kublai Khan’s 1271 conquest of the Southern Song Dynasty, his adviser Liu Bingzhong suggested a name for the Mongol Dynasty that ruled Northern China. He suggested the name “Yuan” which he took from the classical Chinese text I Ching. It meant “origin” or “primal force.” It pleased the Great Khan, so he adopted it in the same year. When Kublai Khan died in 1294, his grandson Temur inherited a vast and prosperous empire. The Mongol Yuan Dynasty continued to rule China until they were overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368. The Mongol Yuan Dynasty is located on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History between 1234 – 1305.

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The Death of Prince Zhenjin and Kublai Khan

During the 1280s, fate dealt Kublai Khan some heavy personal blows. His beloved wife Chabi died in 1281 and was followed by the death of his successor Zhenjin in 1286. Kublai Khan started to withdraw from his court, and he turned to food and alcohol. This made the gout that plagued him begin to worsen. Kublai Khan died in 1294, but not before announcing that his grandson Temur (Zhenjin’s son) would succeed him.

Kublai Khan’s Successors

“Statue of Kublai Khan in Sükhbaatar Square”

Temur’s rise as Yuan Khan in 1294 was supported by his mother Kokejin (Bairam Egechi) of the Khongirad tribe and the general Bayan. He continued his grandfather’s policies, and conquered kingdoms continued to pay tribute to him. He died without an heir in 1307, so the Mongol heirs fought for succession.

Temur’s nephew Kulug eventually became the Emperor Wuzong four months later. Kulug was also known as Haishan or Khayishan, and the Mongols also named his brother Ayurbarwada as his heir. Kulug Khan’s reign (1307-1311) was marked by economic challenges because of his policies.

When he died in 1311, his brother and heir Ayurbarwada (1311-1320) immediately overturned his decrees. Ayurbarwada was a supporter of Confucianism and he reintroduced the civil service exams for government officials. He died in 1320 and was succeeded by his son Shidibala who became Gegeen Khan in 1321. His reign was short as he was assassinated by the Alan Guards (Ossetians) in 1323 at Nanpo.

Shidibala did not have an heir, so the Yuan crown passed to the Kublai Khan’s great-grandson and Zhenjin’s grandson Yesun Temur. He left the administration of the empire to his trusted Muslim ministers. He also cut off spending and denounced luxuries in his court. He died in Shangdu in 1328, and his son, Ragibagh, succeeded him. He ruled briefly from October of 1328 up to November of the same year until Kulug Khan’s son Tugh Temur became emperor after a coup. He was supported by the Kipchak general El Temur and the Merkid general Bayan.

Tugh Temur adopted the name Jayaatu Khan. His reign marked the start of the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty in China. His brother, Khutughtu Khan Kusala, ruled in August 1329. However, Tugh Temur came back to reign after his brother was assassinated in September of the same year. Tugh Temur died three years later, and he was succeeded briefly by his nephew, the young Richinbal. Tugh Temur’s widow. Bayan of the Merkid supported Richinbal’s as king. The two, however, only used him so they could rule China.

Richinbal died in 1332, and he was succeeded by his brother, Toghon Temur. Bayan of the Merkids, Budashiri, and El Tegus still dominated the court but Toghon had them successfully banished through a coup. Unfortunately, Toghon Temur’s reign was marked by the Red Turban rebellion and his own son Ayushiridara’s revolt.

The Yuan Dynasty collapsed during the last years of his reign and was helpless against the rise of the Ming Dynasty. Toghon fled Dadu for Shangdu in 1368 when Ming armies advanced to the capital. He tried to regain Dadu but was unsuccessful. Toghon died in Yingchang in 1370 and with him, the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.

Picture by: ChinneebOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Atwood, Christopher Pratt. Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. New York, NY: Facts On File, 2004.
Buell, Paul D. Historical Dictionary of the Mongol World Empire. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003.
Fairbank, John King, and Merle Goldman. China: A New History. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard U Press, 2006. Print.
Hsiao, Chiching. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 6: Alien Regimes and Border States, 907-1368. Edited by Herbert Franke and Denis Twitchett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
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Venetians Driven From Morea

Venice was one of the wealthiest and most powerful maritime republics of Medieval and Renaissance periods. The republic’s merchant ships dominated the Black Sea and Mediterranean where they established numerous trading ports. The Venetians also established trading ports in Morea (Peloponnese) when they participated in the Fourth Crusade. They would lose these Greek colonies three hundred years later to the Ottoman Empire when the Venetians were driven from Morea in 1500.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History during that time.

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Morea: From Greek Rule to Ottoman Domination

Instead of campaigning in the Holy Land, the participants of the Fourth Crusade rampaged throughout the Byzantine territories in Greece and Anatolia in 1204. What was supposed to be a holy crusade became a bloody free-for-all. Two Frankish knights, Geoffrey of Villehardouin and William of Champlitte, decided to leave Constantinople for the other Latins to rule. They then led their followers from mainland Greece to Morea (the Peloponnese peninsula) in 1205. The Franks besieged the peninsula for many months until they finally dominated a large part of it in 1207.

Since the Venetians were the Latins’ partners in the Fourth Crusades, they received a great portion of Morea in the Partitio Romaniae of 1204. However, the two Frankish knights and their followers occupied the peninsula first, so it was not until 1207 that the Venetians were able to occupy the Morean port cities of Methoni (Modon) and Koroni (Coron). The Latin Empire was dissolved in 1261, but the Venetians still maintained a presence in Morea in the years that followed. The Republic of Venice later bought the Morean cities of Argos and Nafplio (Nauplia) in 1388. The Byzantine Empire and the Ottomans also claimed large portions of Greece.

By 1446, the Ottomans under Sultan Murad II managed to wrest a great part of Greece from the Byzantines. The Byzantine Empire completely crumbled in 1453 under the force of the Ottomans led by Murad’s successor, Mehmed II. By 1460, the Palaiologos brothers who governed Morea surrendered the peninsula to Mehmed II. The Venetians, however, continued to occupy Nauplia, Argos, Modon, and Coron. Because of its strong navy, the Republic of Venice remained one of the masters of the Mediterranean trade. Unfortunately for Venice, this domination would not last.

First Ottoman-Venetian War

The Morea in its international context, ca.1265.

Trade was something that Venice and the Ottoman Empire had in common, so they found it beneficial to maintain warm relations at first. But the Venetians became nervous when they saw that the Ottoman Empire had strengthened its navy to control the Black Sea. They knew that it was only a matter of time before the Ottomans would try to obtain their Morean colonies in order to dominate the Mediterranean.

The capture of Bosnia in 1463 and the attack on Lepanto (Nafpaktos) put Venice’s Adriatic and Aegean coast colonies in danger. The Republic declared war against the Ottomans in the same year. Venice gained a large part of the Peloponnese peninsula in the first few years of the war. It was generally successful for the Republic especially with their alliance with King Matthias of Hungary and the Albanian military leader, Skanderbeg.

The Venetian campaign against the Ottomans started to suffer from setbacks as the Turks were just too strong. The Venetians still possessed some of their Adriatic territories, but the death of Skanderbeg in 1468 left Venice without a charismatic ally in Albania. The First Ottoman-Venetian War dragged on for many years, but the scales tipped heavily in favor of the Ottomans. In 1475, the Ottoman navy (which improved considerably over the years) sailed deeper into the Black Sea. There the Turks annexed the Black Sea holdings of Genoa, as well as the port of Tana which was then held by Venice. The Genoans and Venetians could only watch helplessly as many Crimean ports became colonies of the Ottomans in the years that followed.

The years 1478 and 1479 were difficult for the Republic of Venice and its allies. The Albanian strongholds of Kruje and Shkoder (which served as buffers between the Turk-dominated region and Venice) fell to the Ottomans. The fall of the Albanian strongholds allowed the Turkish army to raid even as far as the Friuli region of Italy. Fearful that the Turks would raid into the city itself, Venice had no choice but to sue for peace in 1479.

Second Ottoman-Venetian War

Sultan Mehmed (the Conqueror) died in 1482, and a fight for the throne between his sons briefly put their plans for expansion on hold. The victor, Sultan Bayezid II, proved to be just as determined as his father in removing Venetian domination in the Aegean and Adriatic. In summer of 1499, the Ottomans under Bayezid II seized and occupied the port of Nafpaktos (Lepanto). The Turks were now dangerously close to Venice’s colonies in Morea. It allowed them to launch raids which later turned to full-scale naval attacks on Venetian ports of Modon, Coron, and Pylos.

Venice had no choice but to seek the help of the Republic’s usual allies: the Pope and the kingdom of Hungary. The alliance was ineffective as the Ottomans were able to seize Modon and Coron in 1500. In the same year, the Turks successfully drove out the Venetians from Morea. Cyprus, Crete, and Corfu remained in Venetian hands. Venice was not totally defeated by the Turks, but the Republic’s remaining colonies in the Mediterranean were still in danger. In 1503, Venice was once again forced to sue for peace with the Ottomans.


Picture by: William Robert Shepherd – The Historical Atlas, William R. Shepherd, 1911., Public Domain, Link

Arsdall, Anne Van, and Helen Moody. The Old French Chronicle of Morea: An Account of Frankish Greece After the Fourth Crusade. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2015.

Dana, Charles Anderson., and George Ripley. New American Cyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, volume 16. D. Appleton, 1863.

Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. NY, NY: Basic Books, 2007.

Rosser, John H. Historical Dictionary of Byzantium. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2012.

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St. John Defend Rhodes, Knights of

The Knights of St. John defended the garrison of Rhodes from the Ottomans between May 23 and August 17, 1480. The garrison endured months of intense bombardment, but the Turks were repelled again and again. On the 28th of July, 1480, the Turks finally breached the city. Although they were outnumbered, the Knights of St. John successfully drove the Turkish soldiers out of the garrison. Both sides suffered heavy casualties, but the Ottoman fleet was forced to retreat.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Order of St. John of Jerusalem

During the late 11th century, a group of men and women established a hospital in Jerusalem to care for sick pilgrims and the city’s poor. Most of the caregivers came from Western Europe, and they belonged to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The Roman Catholic Church officially recognized the order in 1113. European knights also joined the order, and they later participated in the Crusades. The order then became known as the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. From then on, the order had two branches: the religious and the military.

In 1291, the Mamluks of Egypt captured Acre along with a great part of the Levant held by the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. This drove the members of the Order to the island of Cyprus which was ruled by Henry II of Jerusalem (a member of the House of Lusignan). They established their base in the Cypriot city of Limassol and opened a new hospital there.

The order apparently had the talent of landing on its feet as it found another source of income. The knights’ new job was to escort and protect Holy Land-bound pilgrims who traveled by sea. Apart from this, they also engaged in piracy. This gave the Mamluk and Ottoman pirates some serious competition in the Mediterranean. The Genoan and Venetian merchants, meanwhile, profited from the knights’ domination in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

The knights tried to recapture the Holy Land under the leadership Grand Master Guillaume de Villaret but they failed. Over the years, the members of the order also felt increasingly unwelcome in Cyprus because of the high taxes imposed upon them. For de Villaret, it was high time for the Order to look for a new home and the island of Rhodes seemed perfect.

The island of Rhodes had once belonged to the Byzantine Empire. It was taken by the Crusaders in 1204 and became a part of the Latin Empire. It was then occupied by Genoa, and taken once again by the Byzantine Empire during the latter part of the 13th century. The crumbling Byzantine government, however, maintained only a nominal control of the island. The island was ruled by independent Byzantine governors who also welcomed Ottoman and Mamluk merchants or pirates.

Guillaume de Villaret soon started the plans for the knights of the Order to conquer Rhodes. The grand master himself surveyed the strongest and weakest points of the island on board a ship. He returned later to Cyprus to make preparations to conquer the island. However, his grand plans would be carried out by another as he died in 1305.

He was succeeded by his nephew, Foulques de Villaret who continued the plans to conquer Rhodes. Pope Clement V himself sanctioned it as a crusade and provided the funds. Many Europeans joined this “crusade”, and the conquest of Rhodes finally started in 1307. The Order’s troops and the Crusaders soon conquered a large part of the island, except for those that were occupied by Muslim merchants and pirates. The Byzantine troops sent by Constantinople also joined the battle, but they were not there to help the Knights.

The Knights of St. John and the Crusaders now faced two enemies: the Muslims who held out on the island and the Byzantine troops. Many of the Crusaders were discouraged when the Byzantine troops arrived as they were not expecting to fight fellow Christians. The Crusaders went home one by one until only the Knights of St. John remained in Rhodes.

During the summer of 1310 the Knights’ fortunes changed. None of the Crusaders returned for the second attempt to conquer the whole island, so the Knights hired mercenaries instead. It was successful, and they finally drove off Muslim merchants and pirates out of the island. Apart from Rhodes, they also ruled the nearby island which belonged to the Dodecanese group in the Aegean Sea. These included Nisyros, Leros, Chalki, Kos, and Tilos. The Knights established a church, a palace, and a convent in Rhodes. They also built fortifications on the island and maintained a small fleet to protect them from the Mamluk and Ottoman raiders.

The Siege of Rhodes (1480)

Castle of the Knights of St. John at Rhodes.

In Anatolia, the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed II had reached the peak of empire building. They had toppled the weakened Byzantine Empire in 1453 and conquered much of the Balkans. The Ottoman navy also started to attack the islands off the coast of Anatolia including the islands of Tilos (1470) and Chalki (1475). The Knights knew that the Ottomans would soon attack Rhodes, so they prepared by building and repairing the fortifications in the island over the years.

The French knight and the Order’s Grand Master Pierre d’Aubosson sent spies to Istanbul sometime before the invasion. With the information the spies sent to him, he knew that the Turks would invade the island soon. In the early months of 1480, he ordered the locals to harvest the crops and bring them inside the fortress as provision for the oncoming attack. Fruit trees planted near the coast were cut down. Houses that stood outside the fortress were destroyed so that the Turks would not be able to use them.

On the 23rd of May, 1480, the dreaded Turkish fleet finally arrived near the coast of Rhodes. It was composed of hundreds of ships loaded with as much as 80,000 men who were led by Pasha Mesih Palaiologos (a relative of the dead Byzantine emperor). The Turks camped out on the hill of San Stefano and promptly started the bombardment of the fortress on the 24th of May.

As expected, the Knights were outnumbered and outgunned. 400 knights under Pierre d’Aubosson plus 200 members of the Order led the defense of the fortress. The rest were hired troops (around 2,000 men) and locals who decided to help the Knights. The Turks, meanwhile, were bolstered with 100,000 reinforcements led by Ali Pasha. They were composed of irregulars (bashibazouks who were feared for their cruelty), Janissary corps, and regular Ottoman soldiers.

The residents of Rhodes endured 60 days of unrelenting bombardment until the Turks decided to row for land. On July 28, they entered the garrison and wave after wave of Turkish soldiers poured inside. The Grand Master and several Knights engaged the Turks in a hand-to-hand combat, but the sheer number of attackers overwhelmed the defenders.

However, luck was on the side of the Knights as the invasion suddenly turned into a melee for the Turks. The attackers at front retreated in a confused mess, but those at the rear of the crush kept pushing back at them. Many were already hurt, so the Knights took advantage and picked them off one by one. In the end, thousands of Turkish soldiers were either wounded or killed. Mesih Pasha did not have a choice but to order a humiliating retreat. Rhodes would remain in Christian hands for another 42 years until the arrival of Suleiman I’s fleet.


Picture by: Antiquarian at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, Link

Buttigieg, Emanuel, and Simon David Phillips. Islands and Military Orders, c.1291-c.1798. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013.

Packard, Barbara. “The Sieges of Rhodes: Print and Propaganda.” Museum of the Order of St John. Accessed March 20, 2017.

Porter, Whitworth. A History of the Knights of Malta: or, the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Setton, Kenneth M. The Papacy and the Levant (1204-1571). The fifteenth century. American Philosophical Society, 1978.

Vann, Theresa M., and Donald J. Kagay. Hospitaller Piety and Crusader Propaganda: Guillaume Caoursin’s Description of the Ottoman Siege of Rhodes, 1480. London ; New york: Routledge, Taylor & Group, 2016.

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Turkey Flourished Under Sultan Suleiman I

Turkey flourished under Suleiman I, the Ottoman sultan who reigned from 1520 until his death in 1566. His reign was the Empire’s golden age, and it was marked by rapid expansion in the European and Asian fronts. Suleiman carried out reforms in the Ottoman government and justice system. His reign was also ushered in the golden age of Ottoman art.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History during that time.

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The Young Suleiman

Suleiman I was born on November 6, 1494, in the prosperous crossroad city of Trabzon (Trebizond). He was the son of the Ottoman prince and Trabzon governor Selim I by his wife Hafsa Sultan. Little is known of Suleiman’s childhood as his father was one of the youngest sons and he was not expected to inherit the throne. However, Selim I’s deposition of his own father, Sultan Bayezid II, propelled his family to the throne.

Suleiman received the best education possible for upper-class children. This included reading and writing, mathematics, music, and the Koran. History, science, and the art of war were also taught to him at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. As was the tradition for Ottoman princes, he was assigned his own tutor or lala at a young age. In addition to Turkish, he was also fluent in Arabic and Persian.

Sultan Bayezid II, Suleiman’s grandfather, appointed him as governor of Karahisar when he reached 15 years old. An uncle who held the province of Amasya requested that the boy be transferred to Bolu instead. This uncle feared that in the event of Bayezid’s death, Suleiman would stand in the way of his succession to the throne as Karahisar was nearer to Istanbul. In the end, Suleiman was sent instead to Feodosia (Caffa) in Crimea.

Bayezid died in 1512, and Selim immediately seized the reins of power. He then ordered the massacre of his own brothers and their families to get rid of competition. Selim appointed the 17-year old Suleiman as the governor of Istanbul and then of Manisa where he learned the art of administration. He also served as the governor of Edirne, and then ruled Istanbul briefly as governor once again.

Suleiman the Magnificent

Selim I died of an illness in 1520 in Tekirdağ. Messengers were immediately dispatched to Suleiman to inform him of his father’s death. The prince hurried to Istanbul to take his throne. By Ottoman standards, Suleiman’s accession was peaceful as his half-brother brother, Uveys Pasha, was not qualified as a candidate. Suleiman was 26 years old when he became sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

His father, Selim I, was a military man who was aptly nicknamed “The Grim” for his violence against his enemies and his own people. Arbitrary punishments even for minor offenses were common during Selim’s reign. So Suleiman tempered his father’s unjust punishment with justice and clemency. He issued clemency to some of those who were bound to be executed and released many prisoners. He also gave lavish gifts and increased the salaries of the loyal Janissary corps (the Sultan’s elite guards), regular soldiers, and dignitaries. He also approved of the execution of some prisoners to send a clear message to his people: the sultan was just but not soft.

Suleiman inherited one of the largest, most powerful, and wealthiest empires in the world. The Ottomans were the undisputed masters of a part of the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, Egypt, Anatolia, Crimea, and the Balkans. Before his death in 1566, a large part of Hungary, Mesopotamia, Northern Persia, and North Africa also belonged to the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman Expansion

First Test: A Rebellion in Syria

It was not long before Suleiman’s skill as sultan of an empire was tested. His father, Sultan Selim I, had conquered Syria and Egypt between 1516 and 1517. Janbirdi al-Ghazali, the former deputy governor of Hama, switched allegiance from the Mamluk Sultanate to the Ottomans when they conquered Egypt. As a reward, Selim gave Damascus Province for al-Ghazali to govern. Upon Selim’s death, al-Ghazali decided to take advantage of the situation. He declared his intention to become sultan of the former Mamluk territories.

The rebellion was a dismal failure as it was immediately quashed with the help of the double-dealing governor of Egypt, Hayra Bey. Al-Ghazali asked him for help, but Hayra Bey betrayed him to Suleiman and encouraged him to besiege Aleppo. The rebel leader and his troops fell into a trap as Aleppo swarmed with Ottoman defenders which Suleiman sent after Hayra Bey sent him a warning. Al-Ghazali died while on the run around February 1521. With Syria pacified (at least temporarily), Suleiman’s trusted officers kept their eyes on the Safavid Shah Ismail. He had prepared his troops to assist al-Ghazali just in case the rebellion turned out well. The Sultan knew it was only a matter of time before the Safavid Shah would strike.

Against Europe

16th-century Europe was a divided continent because of the Reformation and regional conflicts. However, some monarchs were strong leaders of their own territories. One of those was the Habsburg ruler, Charles V. As Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V held Austria, the Low Countries, the Two Sicilies, and Spain—three of which were dangerously close to the Ottoman Empire’s territory in Europe. Suleiman knew that the threat of a crusade was always on the horizon, so he decided to preempt an invasion and launch one of his own against Europe. His first target was the gateway to Hungary: the city of Belgrade.

The power vacuum left by the disappearance of the Bulgar and Serbian Empires was filled by the Kingdom of Hungary. Sixteenth-century Hungary was ruled by weak kings which made it a good target for Suleiman. The murder of his envoy whom he sent to the Hungary to demand the annual tribute only gave Suleiman further reason to attack the kingdom. He called on all his troops in the Empire to prepare for war, and the first goal was to conquer Belgrade. If the Ottomans were successful in occupying the city, it would be easier for them to control the valleys where the Tisza, Danube, and Sava rivers ran through. Suleiman’s great-grandfather, Mehmed II, besieged Belgrade in 1456 only to turn back in defeat. The new young sultan decided to finish what Mehmed started more than sixty years before his reign.

Hungary’s teenage king, Louis II Jagiellon, knew that he could not match the Ottomans’ strength. Many years before, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V arranged the marriage of his brother, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, to Louis II’s sister Anne. Louis, too, married Charles and Ferdinand’s sister, Mary, to cement the alliance. Charles V assigned the protection of Central Europe to the young king of Hungary (who also held Bohemia) and the Habsburg archduke. This alliance seemed sound, except that Charles was too occupied with a rebellion in Spain and the Reformation in Germany to be of any help to the two.

Louis II of Hungary appealed to other European rulers for help, but they, too, were busy with their own problems. Venice and Genoa proved to be unreliable because of their conflicting business interests. The Ottoman Empire, after all, was a good trading partner whenever it was not wresting trading ports and colonies from both Republics. France, meanwhile, refused to help Hungary as its monarchs were involved in a struggle for power with Charles V.

In February of 1521, Suleiman left Istanbul with thousands of Janissaries, foot soldiers, gunners, and archers. They, along with Ottoman officials, dignitaries, and eunuchs marched to the outskirts of Belgrade. The Ottomans transported cannons and provisions with the help of horses and camels across the Balkans.

The bombardment of Belgrade started on July 25, 1521. It dragged on for three weeks with no progress until Suleiman ordered his men to bomb the largest tower of the fortress. The fortress was defended by Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Hungarians so there was a great deal of conflict going on between the two groups. The Orthodox Serbs decided to abandon the defense and surrendered to Suleiman so they would be spared. The Catholic Hungarians, meanwhile, refused and continued the defense. They were massacred when the Ottomans finally breached the fortress of Belgrade. The city fell to the Ottomans on August 29 of the same year.

News of the fall of Belgrade spread quickly throughout Europe. The rulers were gripped with fear, but were still caught up in their own problems, so they failed to prepare for a bigger attack which would come many years later in the Battle of Mohacs.

The Fall of Rhodes

Sultan Suleiman I, pictured during the siege of Rhodes in 1522.

The Turks dominated the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, but the presence of the Knights of St John on the island of Rhodes was a thorn in the Empire’s side. The knights were driven many years ago from Jerusalem and Cyprus to Rhodes which they turned into a stronghold. The Knights were primarily warrior monks, but they also made money by protecting pilgrims bound for Jerusalem. Preying on and raiding Ottoman-held coastal colonies and ships also added money to their coffers.

Apart from piracy, the Knights also interfered with the communication routes between Istanbul and Egypt. To add insult to injury, the Knights also helped al-Ghazali when he launched his rebellion. Suleiman decided that it was time to get rid of the Knights of St John and occupy the island of Rhodes.

The sultan knew that it was the best time to get rid of the knight as the rulers of Europe were occupied and would not be able to help them. France would most likely help the Knights, but its king was busy with his war with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Venice maintained a powerful navy that could help the Knights. But its ruler already signed a peace treaty with Istanbul so its hands were tied.

Suleiman first sent a letter to the Knights’ Grand Master to demand the Order’s surrender. The letter went unanswered, so Suleiman commanded the vizier Çoban Mustafa Pasha to sail to Rhodes with a fleet of around 700 ships with 10,000 men on board. Suleiman and 100,000 soldiers who lugged around heavy cannons traveled through an overland route to support the navy.

Although they were heavily outnumbered, the Knights were disciplined soldiers who made formidable enemies. But their weapons were no match for the cannons the Ottomans brought along for the siege of Rhodes. The knights and the locals fought valiantly, but the Ottomans’ bombardment of the fortress continued.

Both sides suffered casualties, but Çoban Mustafa Pasha suffered the brunt of Suleiman’s anger. Two months dragged on, but it was harder for the Knights as their supplies were limited. The Grand Master knew that his people would not be able to withstand a prolonged siege except when Europe sent help. Unfortunately for the Knights, no help from Europe arrived.

The sultan once again offered peace to the Grand Master in exchange for the Knights’ surrender. If the Grand Master declined, Suleiman promised that no one would be spared—not even the cats of the island. The Grand Master had no choice but to accept Suleiman’s offer of peace. The sultan allowed the knights and those who wanted to leave twelve days to pack up and go. In 1522, the island of Rhodes was entirely in Ottoman hands. However, this was not the end of the Knights of St John. The remaining knights set up another base on the island of Malta twelve years later.

The monarchs of Europe were dismayed at the turn of events. Except for Cyprus (then held by Venice) and some islands in the Dodecanese group, the eastern part of the Mediterranean was now entirely in the hands of the Ottomans.

The Battle of Mohacs

After the conquest of Rhodes, Suleiman was free to return to the conquest of Central Europe. Most of the Balkans up to Belgrade were already the Ottomans’, so it was easy to launch another invasion. In 1526, he decided to wrap up the conquest of Hungary and marched 100,000 men with as much as 300 cannons into the Plain of Mohacs. The Hungarians led by King Louis II, meanwhile, could only muster less than a quarter of the number of the Ottoman troops. The Ottomans and the Hungarians met on the Plain of Mohacs on August 29, 1526.

Just like in Belgrade, the poorly organized Hungarian troops and their allies were no match for the Suleiman’s disciplined army. The Hungarians took the offensive position, but they were soon crushed by the Ottoman troops. Many Hungarians and allied troops died in the Battle of Mohacs, including the young king Louis II and Hungarian nobles who drowned while trying to cross the Danube to escape.

Suleiman and his army entered Buda as conquerors. Before he left the city, he appointed the governor of Transylvania, John Zapolya, as administrator of the Ottoman part of Hungary and Bohemia. He also took with him more than 100,000 captives back to Istanbul. With Louis II dead, Archduke Ferdinand hurriedly occupied the western and northern portions of Hungary in a last-ditch effort to block the Turks’ path into Central Europe.

Against the Safavids: Suleiman’s Shia Nemesis

Although he was a devout Muslim who followed the Sunni branch of Islam, Suleiman was generally tolerant of Shiites who lived in his Empire. But the Shia-led Safavid Empire of Iran was another thorn in the eastern side of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans under Selim I had defeated the Safavids led by Shah Ismail in the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. Shah Ismail evaded capture and established another Safavid capital in Qazvin. The Safavids under Ismail continued to harass the Ottomans in Asia.

Shah Ismail died ten years later and was succeeded by his son, Tahmasp I. In 1532, hostilities once again flared up between the Safavids and the Ottomans after the Bey of Bitlis made an alliance with Tahmasp. Charles V’s alliance with Tahmasp and the assassination of the governor of Baghdad also added fuel to the fire.

Suleiman sent his close friend and Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, to lead the campaign against the Safavids in Mesopotamia. Later he personally oversaw the campaign, and the Ottomans took Bitlis, Tabriz, and Baghdad. Tahmasp knew the discipline of the Suleiman’s army, so he made sure that he would never engage the Ottomans in combat. The Safavids and the Ottomans had no major battles in Mesopotamia, but Tahmasp led them on a chase across the desert. To make it more frustrating for the Ottomans, the Shah and his troops destroyed crops and other provisions along the way.

In 1548, Tahmasp and the Safavid troops attacked the Ottoman-held cities of Tabriz and Van. Suleiman immediately sent troops to recapture the cities, as well as some strongholds in Georgia and Armenia. No clear winner emerged during the years of attacks and counterattacks, so both sides were forced to sign the Treaty of Amasya in 1555. Safavid Persia received Azerbaijan, eastern Kurdistan, eastern Georgia, and eastern Armenia. The Ottomans, meanwhile, received western Georgia, Hejaz, Mesopotamia, western Armenia, and greater Kurdistan.

The Siege of Vienna

Archduke Ferdinand and his Austrian troops managed to occupy several fortresses in Ottoman-held parts of Hungary. He was unable to hold on to them for long as John Zapolya and the Ottomans drove them out. In 1529, Ferdinand’s troops met a crushing defeat at Feldioara.

Suleiman wanted to push deeper into Central Europe now that the Ottomans held a large part of Hungary. In early 1529, he organized his troops once again and started the long march from Istanbul to the gates of Vienna. Fate seemed to have favored the Austrians as the rains and floods made the plains of the Balkans impassable to the Ottomans. Many of Suleiman’s men got sick and died along the way. They were also forced to abandon the cannons and camels that got stuck on muddy roads.

Suleiman and his men arrived at the outskirts of Vienna and began the invasion on the 27th of September 1529. They were forced to abandon it on the 5th of October of the same year. Ferdinand knew that the city was spared only because of luck, so he negotiated with Suleiman for peace. He also asked that Hungary be given to him in the event that John Zapolya died without an heir. By 1530, the negotiations fell apart and hostilities returned.

In 1532, Suleiman and 200,000 men left Istanbul to launch another attack on Vienna. Once again, the Ottoman soldiers were bogged down by rains and floods. They came as far as Güns which they besieged for three weeks until they finally gave up and returned home. They besieged Lower Austria and Styria along the way to send a message to Archduke Ferdinand: the Ottomans were not done yet.

Archduke Ferdinand and Suleiman signed the Treaty of Constantinople in 1533. In this treaty, Ferdinand gave up his claims on Hungary and agreed to pay an annual tribute to the Ottomans. The Ottoman-backed John Zapolya died in 1540, so Ferdinand tried once again to get his hands on Hungary. Meanwhile, John Zapolya’s wife had given birth to an heir, so the Ottomans attacked and defeated Ferdinand’s troops for violating their agreement. He was defeated by the Ottomans at Buda in 1541.

Ferdinand was forced to agree to partition Hungary once again. The Habsburgs held the western and northern regions of the principality, while the Ottomans held the central and eastern regions. John Zapolya’s infant son received the administration of Transylvania. Peace was elusive between the Ottomans and the Habsburg, so war flared up again between 1551 and 1553. The Ottoman-Habsburg wars temporarily stopped when Suleiman died while on campaign in 1566.

Suleiman’s Government and Military

Suleiman inherited a vast and powerful empire with a strong army and navy. When he became sultan, he immediately overturned his father’s harsh and unjust punishments. He established more courts, and hired additional enforcers of laws. He was known as a just ruler who surrounded himself with jurists and legal scholars at his court. He discouraged judges from giving out arbitrary sentences to ordinary people. Government officials were not to be dismissed without a good reason. Imprisonment without trial was forbidden during Suleiman’s reign.

He also restructured and codified existing laws (kanuns). He was known later as the “Kanuni” or the Lawgiver after working on and issuing new laws (kanunname) that focused on civil and criminal justice, and finance. This was a project that he worked on with prominent jurist Ebussuud Efendi between 1539 and 1541.
The sultan implemented tax reforms during his reign. His people were required to pay taxes based on their income and ability to pay. Tax collection was systematized to replenish the treasury, and he ensured that the empire’s budget was always balanced.

Suleiman was a statesman, but he did not shirk battles on the field. Because of this, he earned the loyalty and respect of the Janissary corps. He personally led his army on major campaigns in Europe and Asia. The Ottoman army was made up of professional cavalry corps who regularly received wages, as well as fief holders from the provinces. Suleiman also prevented the troops from being spread too thin by avoiding wars on two fronts.

The Ottoman soldiers were disciplined and organized—a contrast to the dismal state of 16th-century European troops. They were also well-paid and well-provisioned. The well-trained artillerymen and bombs specialists contributed much to the Ottomans’ success during the campaigns. Their investment in the latest cannons and gunpowder weapons also paid off in their European and Asian campaigns.

The Grand Vizier and Suleiman’s close friend Ibrahim Pasha was influential in the sultan’s policies in governing the territories the Ottomans conquered. In Egypt, Ibrahim Pasha ensured that the governor did not hold absolute power. The grand mufti, the commander of the garrison, and the treasurer checked the taxes before these were sent by the governor to Istanbul. Egyptians were allowed to serve anywhere in the Ottoman Empire except in Egypt itself. Ottoman officials were also forbidden to serve in an area for more than two years. These were implemented to prevent the governor from amassing supporters and funds for another rebellion.

Suleiman’s Ottoman Empire was prosperous. The empire gained a great deal from its location between Asia and Europe which made it a haven for merchants. It was also the gateway of trade ships from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and vice versa. Whenever the empire expanded, the Ottomans also gained another source of revenue.

During the war with the Safavids, Selim forbade Ottoman merchants to trade with Persians. The goods of those who violated the decree were confiscated by the state. Suleiman overturned this decree and ordered his officials to return the confiscated goods to the merchants. They were also compensated.


The Ottomans practiced Sunni Islam. In general, they were tolerant of other religions and to some extent, the Shia branch of Islam. Christians and Jews were treated fairly, but their rights were limited, and they were barred from joining the government as officials. The only exception were the boys who entered the Devshirme system. The boys of the Devshirme system started out as Christian tributes who were compelled to convert to Islam. They were then sent to special schools in Istanbul, and many of them rose through the ranks as government officials when they grew up. One of the men who benefited from the Devshirme system was Suleiman’s Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha.

Ottoman Christians and Jews were also forbidden to convert Muslims. They were required to pay heavier taxes but were free to own properties. They could also elect their own village leaders.

Because of his success in conquering lands in Europe and Asia, the Muslims regarded Suleiman as the guardian of the umma (community). To demonstrate his wealth and his devotion to Islam, Suleiman also commissioned the great Ottoman architect Sinan to remodel the Tomb of the Prophet in Medina and the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Ottoman Art

Suleiman was a great patron of the arts during his reign. He was also a goldsmith and a prolific poet who wrote Turkish and Persian verses under the name “Muhibbi.” When he became sultan, one of his first decrees was to allow the return of captured Mamluk and Azerbaijani artists to their homelands. Those who chose to remain in Istanbul were generously paid.

Artists and craftsmen from all over the empire came to Istanbul to join the different artisans’ guild of the city. The most prestigious of these was the Ehl-i Hiref or Community of the Talented. All members of this community served in the sultan’s palace.

Istanbul during Suleiman’s reign was home to the best of the empire’s calligraphers, weavers, jewelers, potters, bladesmiths, and woodworkers. Sixteenth-century Istanbul also produced some of the best Ottoman manuscript painters and illuminators. Some of the well-known Ottoman artists include:

* Ahmed Karahisari – calligrapher.
* Shah Quli – Persian painter known for his saz style dragons and phoenixes.
* Kara Memi – a student of Shah Quli who became a prominent manuscript illuminator.
* Ahmed Tekelu – bladesmith who created Suleiman’s beautiful yataghan (short sword).
* Haydar Reis (Nigari) – Suleiman’s portraitist.
* Matrakçı Nasuh – mathematician, historian, painter (topography), among others.
* Piri Reis – Ottoman admiral, cartographer, and author of naval guides.
* Nakkaş Osman – illustrator and miniaturist.

Sinan was the most revered Ottoman architect of his time. He designed the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. On top of that, he also designed around 300 monuments scattered all over the empire. Madrassas, hospitals, soup kitchens, hospices, shops, markets, caravanserais, and mausoleums were also among his projects.

The ulema (Muslim scholars) were among the most educated people in Suleiman’s empire. The polymath Matrakçı Nasuh was one of the empire’s most celebrated historians. Feridun Ahmed Bey and Mustafa Ali were some of the prominent Ottoman historians during Suleiman’s time.

Ottoman artists flocked to Istanbul to create their best works, but some Anatolian provinces were also known for their own distinct products. Tiles and ceramics were bought from the province of Iznik, while the Uşak province was known for rug weaving (Oushak carpets). Textile production during Suleiman’s reign was centered in the province of Bursa.


Picture by: Matrakci Nasuh –, Public Domain, Link

Adler, Philip J., and Randall Lee Pouwels. World Civilizations: Since 1500. Vol. II. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015.

Atil, Esin. The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1987.

Clot, André, and Matthew Reisz. Suleiman the Magnificent. London: Saqi, 2012.

Mikaberidze, Alexander, ed. Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2011.

Shaw, Stanford. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Volume I: Empire of the Gazis – The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Thackeray, Frank W., and John E. Findling, eds. Events That Formed the Modern World: From the European Renaissance to the War on Terror. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012.

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Henry VIII Born

Henry VIII was born on the 28th of June, 1491 in the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich. He was the second son of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, by his wife, Elizabeth of York. His older brother, Arthur, was expected to succeed his father but died before he came of age. The younger Henry VIII became the heir to the English crown in 1502.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History during that time.

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The War of the Roses and the Rise of the House of Tudor

Henry VIII ruled England from 1509-1547 and was best known for his six marriages.

In 1399, the rightful heir to the English throne, Richard II, was deposed by his uncle Henry V of the House of Lancaster. Henry V reigned as the king of England until his death 1422. His son, Henry VI, succeeded him on the throne. He was known to be a mentally unstable ruler who placed too much trust in his advisers. These advisers convinced him to marry the ambitious and cunning Margaret of Anjou, and their marriage produced Prince Edward of Westminster.

Margaret was unpopular among the English people and the royal court. Her enemy was Richard, the Duke of York, who also worked as an adviser to the king. She, however, was backed by her favorites, the Earl of Suffolk and the Earl of Somerset. Because of the conflict between Margaret of Anjou and Richard, she had the Duke of York banished from England. Margaret and her allies dominated the court briefly, but her favoritism made her more unpopular among the English.

Richard was able to return to England some time later. He managed to remove King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, and their allies for a year to implement reforms in England. But a year later, Margaret became powerful once again which forced Richard of York to flee. The armies of Margaret and Richard met in battle, but the Duke of York was killed in his final campaign against the Queen.

Richard’s son, Edward IV, was proclaimed as the first Yorkist king of England after his father’s death. He later defeated and captured Henry VI, while Margaret of Anjou and her son, Edward of Westminster, were forced to flee to France. Edward IV, however, angered his principal ally, the Earl of Warwick, after he secretly married a local noblewoman while the earl was negotiating with the king of France for Edward to marry the French princess.

The Earl of Warwick changed alliances from the Yorks to the Lancasters and supported the restoration of Henry VI to the throne. Henry VI was able to return as king until Edward IV recaptured the throne. The rest of Edward IV’s rule was peaceful until his death, and he was succeeded by his son Edward V. War returned when Richard III, the Duke of York, declared his nephew’s succession as invalid because of Edward IV’s secret marriage to his mother.

The House of Tudor: Henry VII and the Birth of Henry VIII

Richard III imprisoned Edward V and his brother and then seized the throne for himself. It was rumored that Richard III had both brothers killed after this event. The new Yorkist king, however, died in the Battle of Bosworth Field two years later. He was defeated by Henry VII who was directly descended from John of Gaunt, the 1st Duke of Lancaster through his mother, Margaret Beaufort. Before Henry VII became king, he promised to marry Elizabeth of York. His marriage to Elizabeth united the two royal houses and ended the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VII was the first English king from the House of Tudor. The Tudors originally came from Wales, but the family rose to prominence when Henry VII’s grandfather, Owen Tudor, married the widow of the Lancaster king Henry V, Catherine of Valois.Their son, Edmund Tudor, linked the House of Lancaster by marrying Margaret Beaufort, the great granddaughter of the 1st Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt. Edmund died in November of 1456, and Margaret Beaufort later gave birth to their son, Henry VII, in 1457.

Henry VII became engaged to Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward IV and older sister of the deposed King Edward V. They married in the Westminster Abbey on January 18, 1486. The royal couple’s first son, Arthur, was born on September 1486. Arthur’s birth was followed by seven more children, but four did not survive infancy. Those who survived into adulthood included Margaret, Mary, and the controversial king of England, Henry VIII.

Henry VIII was born on June 28, 1491. As Henry VII and Elizabeth of York’s second son, Henry VIII was not destined to reign as king. However, his older brother, Arthur, died of sweating sickness in 1502 so young Henry VIII was elevated to the position of the crown prince. Henry VIII was crowned as king of England when his father died on the 21st of April, 1509.


Picture by: Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/8 (German)Details of artist on Google Art ProjecteAHC0d0WiemXSA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, Link

Carpenter, Christine. The Wars of the Roses: Politics and the Constitution in England, c. 1437-1509. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Guy, J. A. The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Jones, Dan. The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors. New York: Viking, 2014.

Roberts, J. M., and Odd Arne. Westad. The History of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.