From the time of the Romans to the domination of the Byzantine Empire, the Danube River served as a natural marker of the Balkan region. Its banks were already lined with ports and fortresses during the Medieval Period. The Ottomans had conquered a great part of Thrace during the mid-1300s, but they did not stop there. Hungry for land, the Ottomans then pushed north and eventually conquered many territories on the Danube starting in 1388. The Ottomans on the Danube is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during 1336.
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The Danube: Central and Eastern Europe’s Link
The Danube River was one of the most important waterways in Europe during the Medieval Period. The source of the mighty river come from the Black Forest in Germany. Its waters flow east into ten countries to eventually drain into the Black Sea. The Romans were the first to use it as a border. It was then used by the Byzantines as a buffer between them and the northern tribes during the early part of Medieval Period.
The Byzantine Empire became smaller and less powerful during the latter part of the Medieval Period. Several kingdoms also appeared along the banks of the Danube in the Balkans just when the Byzantine Empire had weakened. Some of the kingdoms eventually turned into present-day Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania. Their nearness to Constantinople meant that they would eventually come face to face with the powerful Ottomans who, at that time, were on a conquest spree.
The Ottomans entered Thrace during the mid-1300s. It was only a matter of time before they advanced north. During the reign of Sultan Bayezid I (1389-1403) the Ottomans first conquered their territories along the banks of the Danube. In 1393, Bayezid seized the region of the Bulgarian ruler John Shishman along the Danube. The Bulgarian territories of Ruse and Silistra fell to the Ottomans earlier in 1388. The fall of Vidin, Oryahovo, and Nicopolis followed in 1396.
The Ottoman civil war period (1402-1413) gave some principalities along the Danube a break from invasions. This was broken when the Ottomans were reunified during the reign of Mehmed I (1413-1421). He was succeeded by his son, Murad II, who pushed north into Wallachia. He conquered the Wallachian strongholds of Isaccea and Tulcea on the Danube during the early years of the 1420s. He later turned west and captured the Golubac fortress in 1427. The Serbian cities of Smederevo and Belgrade fell between 1438 and 1440.
Picture By NASA – NASA Earth Observatory: Where the Danube meets the Black Sea, Public Domain, Link
Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Fleet, Kate. The New Cambridge History of Islam: The Western Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries. Edited by Maribel Fierro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Mikaberidze, Alexander. Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO Interactive, 2011.
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