I should note that I wrote this back in mid-February, and it's been on the shelf since then, so the quality might be a bit off.
Part LIII: A Tiger Reborn (1465-1526)
The seventy-year long period between 1465 and 1520 had seen the Karamanid Beylik transform itself from a crippled state on the verge of death into a regional power, stronger in Anatolia than the Ottomans themselves were. Like the personified Rome which had appeared to Constantine in his second vision, the old and mangy tiger had been reborn as a young and nimble predator under several decades of capable government and lucky breaks. An era of prosperity had dawned as years of good harvests and an increasingly efficient central administration allowed for great population growth amongst both the settled and semi-nomadic subjects of the empire. Everywhere they marched, the armies of the bey were victorious, defeating Qutlughid and Çandarid armies on several occasions and raiding heavily into Ottoman and Trapezuntine territory. This run of good fortune would produce, amongst others, the restoration of the Sultanate of Rûm (referred to as the Neo-Rûmite Sultanate) in the 1490s and an unprecedented flowering of Turkish language and art. Truly, the Kayqubad Era was a Karamanid golden age.
The twin greatest achievements of Ibrahim II had been forestalling a civil war between his sons by arranging an invasion of Ottoman Anatolia, and then managing to actually pull it off. The bey himself fell in battle in 1463, while there were still several more years left in the war, but this was only a hurdle on the road to victory. When the dust settled, the feuding brothers had emerged victorious in the great struggle (with no small amount of help from the Qoyunlu) and had driven the Ottomans from much of the Plateau. This victory heralded a new era of Anatolian history, both marking the beginning of the transition of the Ottomans from a Turkish state to a Muslim Greek one as well as the ascendancy of the Karamanids over the numerous settled and nomadic peoples of the plateau and the eastern mountains.
While the Karamanid dynasty was ascendant, a unified Karamanid state would not remerge until the 1480s. Instead, the two Karamanid beyliks--known as the rather self-explanatory Northern Beylik under Pir Ahmet and the Southern beylik under Işak would uneasily coexist, competing over practically everything, from number of subjects, to number of loyal Turkmen bands and even the number of livestock that these bands had. As you might imagine, their frontier zone was a constantly-shifting war zone as bands loyal to Konya or Ankara raided in great numbers to win booty for themselves and to further extend the power of their lords. This fratricidal struggle allowed their many enemies to gain an advantage, letting Angelović Paşa reconquer the lands once encompassed by the Germiyan ‘sultanate’, the Mamluks the opportunity to force Dulkadir back under their standard and the Qoyunlu to raid the dickens out of their eastern frontier, sacking more than a dozen cities and carrying off thousands of the beys’ subjects. This state of affairs only ended with the death of Pir Ahmet on a raid against the Çandarids in 1483. Işak assumed the lordship of the Northern Beylik and began persecuting his brother’s followers only to keel over from a stroke in 1485. He was succeeded by his son, Bayezid, better known by his regnal name, Kayqubad IV.
Bayezid was a young and clever man, who had been raised on the legends of the great Seljuk sultans and tales of the glories of their wars and their courts. He chose his regnal name in honor of the great sultan who had campaigned from the Bosphorus in the west to the plains of al-Jazira in the east, and doubtless hoped to recreate his namesake’s successes and even surpass him. The road to do so would be long and difficult, as he was in truth the ruler of three different states that were barely bound together, but he would rise to the challenge like no man before or after him.
The reunified Karamanid state was not so much a Karamanid state as it was three Karamanid states under personal union. The Southern Beylik, always the more settled of the two regions, had centralized to a degree under Işak’s rule, but it was still a pale shadow of what the region had been under the Rûmite Sultanate. The many canals that had once supported the population of the region had collapsed during the Turkmen invasions, and the remaining farmers were left to eke out a living on the edge of a salt desert. As you might imagine, the Karamanid heartland wasn’t much of a heartland. Instead, the breadbasket of the Karamanid realm was Cilicia, which was populated mostly by the independently-minded Armenians and was separated from the rest of Kayqubad’s realm by a series of impressive mountains, making it a ticking time-bomb for revolt. The Northern Beylik was even worse, as Pir Ahmet had effectively ruled it as a tribal confederation, essentially letting the Turkmen tribes have free reign while he squeezed everything he could out of his settled subjects, which led to near-constant revolts against the increasingly impoverished governing apparatus. Its economy and society were structured almost entirely around raiding, which meant that they were in an effective undeclared state of war with the Trapezuntines and the Qoyunlu at all times. The Turkmen tribes, meanwhile, regardless of which beylik they nominally served, took orders and missives from either Sivas or Karaman as suggestions more than anything else, and more often than not refused to pay their tribute in either gold or arms. In order to even start his planned series of reforms and expansion, Kayqubad would have to weld these three disparate groups together into something that resembled a state.
He did so with great relish. Knowing that his desired reforms would require him to possess a great deal of legitimacy in the eyes of all of his subjects, he first set out on a series of campaigns to build up a military reputation for himself. In 1487, he rode against the Second Çandarid Beylik, fighting his way across the Alexandretta Mountains and into the plains of Syria, where he fell upon their capital, Aleppo, like a bolt from the blue. While he was unable to take the capital city itself in spite of the fearsome power of his siege train, he was able to cow the beylerbeyi, Suleyman V, into submission. The Çandarids’ mountain territories, Malatya and the surrounding valleys in the north and the Alexandretta fortresses in the west, were ceded to the Karamanids, while the surviving beylik was forced to pay heavy tribute to Konya. This angered both the Mamluks and the Qoyunlu, who themselves already imposed heavy tributes on the Syrian state, and Bayezid was forced to defend his conquests twice on the field of battle, at the Battle of the Euphrates against Qoyunlu in May 1488 and fending off a Mamluk amphibious strike against Anatolia proper at Silifke in August. Bayezid was determined to cling to his new conquests, and eventually the Mamluks decided to let it drop, while he ultimately reached an agreement with the Qoyunlu, in which the latter pushed their edge of the buffer zone to the Euphrates’ left bank to counterbalance the expansion of Karamanid influence in the region.
With his legitimacy secured by a string of victories, Bayezid turned his attention to his true desire: internal reform. The greatest obstacle to his secret intentions was the power that was wielded by the hard-living, free-riding Turkmen tribes and bands of the inner plateau, who were in truth only nominal vassals of Konya and could essentially rule as they saw fit. The reason why the Turkmen wielded such political strength was quite simple: physical strength. While most of the bands didn’t pay taxes, they could almost always be expected to rally to the banner of the bey if they were promised the looting and pillaging that was common in warfare during this time. Because of this, they had made up the majority of the Karamanid army in the preceding decades, which kept any would-be reformers from moving against them. Bayezid recognized this, and after winning his Çandarid War he set about breaking their hold on power.
His hoped for first step was to raise a standing army that was loyal only to him and not to the various tribes, elders and Sufis of the Turkmen. However, this project ran full-force into its first speed bump before the first thousand men had even been raised: money. There was a very good reason why his forebears had relied so heavily upon the Turkmen for their military strength, namely because raising an army costs a lot of money, very little of which was to be had in the parts of Anatolia which they controlled. The waves of Turkmen migration had effectively wrecked the agriculture-based economy of the old Sultanate of Rum, and the Karamanids were dependent on remnants of farming that still persisted along the coastal rim of Anatolia and in the eastern mountains, alongside the taxes--tribute, really--paid by the Turkmen tribes and the limited amount of trade that still passed through the region. Since the Qoyunlu and the Trapezuntines had allied, they had a policy of funneling westward trade up into Trapezous rather than across Anatolia, as there was little love lost between either of them and the Karamanids and the Qoyunlu received a sizable kickback from their scheme. With such a poor domestic economy, Bayezid was left with two ways of financing his aspired force. One, trying to steer trade through the Karamanid realm, which would have been feasible if he hadn’t just seriously pissed off all of his three eastern neighbors, and two, revolutionizing the Karamanid tax infrastructure to squeeze out every coin they could from their existing tax base. Unsurprisingly, Bayezid opted for the latter.
Throughout most of its history, the Karamanid state(s) had relied upon the ancient method of tax farming to collect its non-tariff derived revenues. Tax farming was inefficient and bred resentment within the populace, as tax collectors would often extort the people within their assigned district for many times what they actually owed, which just enriched them and pissed off the people with no benefit to the state. Bayezid would, from 1490 on, adopt a more centralized form of tax collection, in part modeled upon that of the neighboring Trapezuntine Empire, whose administrative system he saw as an ideal form for his own realm to adopt. This new system, called the bērşygü or plow-field area, would remove many of the inefficiencies of the tax farming system, which would both increase the money which the treasury saw enter its coffers and decrease how much the peasants actually had to pay. The population of the Karamanid state was somewhere around two million, and so this new tax system was able to raise a not-insubstantial amount of coin. It worked in the following manner: The Karamanid state was divided into 180 ‘tax provinces’, each of which stretched out from the capital city of Konya, and each of which was subdivided into ten ‘tax prefectures’. The staffing of each tax prefecture varied, as you might imagine, depending on population, with the more urbanized east and south having far more than the sparsely-populated north and west. Each of these tax prefectures--manned only by employees of the state--would collect a certain amount of money (calculated in the decade census) and transfer it to the central treasury. Anyone caught grifting would be executed, and their families sold into slavery. Anyone caught embezzling would, well, I don’t think I can post that on this site. Within five years of its institution, the new institution had more than tripled the total income of the Karamanid state, and the relationship between the bey and his subjects had markedly improved, as they saw a net tax decrease because of the streamlining of the tax process. Even the Armenians, who were as always subject to the jizya tax, were mollified by the reforms, as they had faced the worst of the corruption and the grafting.
With the financial constraints that had derailed his first attempt at militarization removed, Bayezid was free to raise the army he had always hoped for. The Turkmen were intentionally secluded by a number of covert methods--bribes, distractions, being kicked upstairs--leaving the military domain to one of three groups: the Seljuks, the Armenians and the mamluks/Zazas. Like so many other Muslim states, Bayezid made the core of his army several hundred slave soldiers, which bore more resemblance to the eleutheroi of Trapezous than they did to the mamluks of the Mamluk Sultanate. He also elevated the Zazas, a federation of Kurd-adjacent war-like tribes from the eastern fringe of the Karamanid realm, to the chief military grouping of his realm, entrusting them with unparalleled positions of power in exchange for them devoting themselves entirely to war. The reason for this was simple; as most of the Zazas were Alevis, them trying to depose him would be met with an uprising by the Sunni majority of the country, which meant that they had a vested interest in keeping him on his throne. The Zazas essentially occupied the role the Turkmen had in previous Karamanid armies, forming a force of swift and well-trained horse archers that would wear down the enemy with ranged harassment. Because of their constant training, Bayezid was confident that the Zazas would be superior to the Turkmen in terms of combat efficacy. He also attempted to institute a system of militias equivalent to the Trapezuntine bandon system, but given the more intensive nature of agriculture in southern Anatolia in comparison to Pontos this was not as effective. However, the Seljuk and Armenian infantry units that Bayezid would succeed in training became light and heavy infantry (respectively) without comparison in the Levant, roughly equal to Ottoman line forces and superior to Trapezuntine bandons, Mamluk infantry, Çandarid footmen and Qutlughid conscripts, in decreasing order of quality. By 1495, he had raised an army of some 15,000 men, an impressive force considering that many thousands of other levymen could be raised in times of war. The standing army was named the nafjayş.
Bayezid then set about crushing the Turkmen. His first action was to unilaterally declare the unification of the Northern and Southern Beyliks in 1493, which raised little protest. He then began the long process of expanding the bureaucracy of the Southern Beylik northwards, which prompted several minor uprisings by angry peasants and herders, all of which were crushed. By 1496, the two states had been woven together once again, leaving the Turkmen who ranged across the former internal border as next on the chopping block. As the Northern Beylike began to recover, the bey turned his attention to the aforementioned semi-nomads, moving forces towards the edge of the plateau under a variety of pretexts in the following years. In 1499, he declared that the Turkmen must settle down or be expelled from the beylik. When the Turkmen, as expected, refused to do either, he struck. A Karamanid army pushed north from Konya and another moved west from Sivas, catching the nomadic tribes between hammer and anvil. In a series of running battles across the Plateau, Bayezid and his Zaza horsemen whipped out the Turkmen, either reducing them to normal subjectivity or driving them across the Ottoman border, whence they became the Sublime Porte’s problem. The climactic battle of the Great Turkmen Revolt, the Battle of Lake Tuz, was fought in 1502 on the western shore of that lake, between Bayezid and some 10,000 loyal soldiers and the Turkman leader Çağri with 8,000. Though the Turkmen hurled themselves at the Karamanid lines, they were unable to break through and were left completely exhausted. Then the Zaza sprung from ambush, and the Turkmen were either slaughtered or barely managed to escape across the border. In merely three years, Bayezid had succeeded in reducing the scourges of so many previous Karamanid rulers. Indeed, he believed he had surpassed them, and unified most of eastern and central Anatolia under one rule for the first time in nearly three centuries. And so, he entered Konya in a triumphal procession modeled on those of the Romans of old, a long trail of Turkmen slaves behind him. On 3 May 1502, he proclaimed himself Kayqubad IV, Sultan of Rûm, and inaugurated the Neo-Rumite Sultanate, as it would become known to history.
Kayqubad made good use of his new army to expand the Rûmite sphere out in all directions. He scented weakness in the newly-established Qutlughids in 1511 after Arslan II was defeated in a war against the Uzbeks on the far side of the aforementioned empire, and invaded to take advantage while he was distracted. He laid siege to Malatya, the chief fortress of the Qutlughid west, and despite several weeks of near-constant bombardment was unable to break through its walls. Instead, he enveloped the city and sent raiders down into Mesopotamia, where they raided heavily against the nigh-on defenseless locals of the Jaziran plain and carried off many slaves and much booty. He then moved eastwards and ravaged the borderlands, successfully capturing the regional center of Erzurum and recovering Erzincan, which had been lost during the reign of Pir Ahmet. With the situation in the east worsening, Arslan reluctantly sued for peace and ceded the three aforementioned cities to Konya’s control, transferring soldiers from the west to shore up the east before ultimately defeating the Uzbek Khan in 1515. This opportunistic land grab essentially killed any hope of Qutlugh-Rûmite reconciliation or even long term peace, which in hindsight made the cities essentially a poison pill.
Kayqubad also struck against the Ottomans during their civil war, invading the Turkmen-dominated eastern regions in 1514. This was partly to annex more land and partly to crush the reviving Turkmen before they could pose a threat to him, as in recent years they had begun to raid across the border with increasing frequency, which was quickly turning from an annoyance to a threat. With most of the Ottoman forces busy in Europe or Bithynia, he was able to quickly overrun much of the southern interior, crushing an alliance of Ottoman and Turkmen forces at Afyonkarahisar in August 1514 and putting the other Turks decidedly on the backfoot. In the following campaign seasons he would occupy Pamphylia and the greater part of the interior, driving the Turkmen towards the coast. However, while he was able to dominate much of the interior, he was unable to break into the plains and valleys of the west thanks to the formidable Ottoman defenses at the Lyconian Gates, which successfully resisted several month-long bombardments before Kayqubad decided to abandon attacks in that direction in 1517. He decided that it was best to let the Ottomans and the Trapezuntines bleed each other, and so Rûmite forces remained mostly in the south. In 1519, Ebülhayr Paşa finally assented to Kayqubad’s demands, and his annexation of the Antalyan plains and everything south and east of the western mountains were officially recognized. This accomplished one of the sultan’s chief goals, securing a port (his attempt to turn the small fishing village of Aphrodisias into a major port was the chief failure of his reign as the renamed Kayqubadabad had quickly turned into nothing but a money pit, but it also brought him into further conflict with the Turkmen. The famous ‘Anabasis of the Turcomans’ would begin in 1521, as some 20,000 Turkmen and their families would flee eastwards across Anatolia, managing to defeat or dodge every attempt to halt them before escaping into the plains of Syria, where most of them joined up with the Çandarids. This, arguably, would have a greater impact on history by starting the long and convoluted chain of events that would lead to the collapse of the Mamluk Sultanate, but that is beyond the scope of this.
After a total reign of thirty-six years, and a life of sixty-two, Kayqubad IV would die in his sleep in the Palace of Konya in 1521. He had managed to keep his government clean of harem politics, and as such his most competent son, Suleiman, age thirty-one, would succeed him as Kilij Arslan V. Kilij Arslan was a fairly quiet man but was a skilled administrator and competent general and soldier, and it appeared his reign would be an extension of his father’s string of successes. However, this hope would be violently disrupted in January 1526, when he was, like Alexios V before him, shot through an open window by Francesco Skaramagos. The fallout from this would catapult his son Kadir to the throne, and it would be Kadir who would lead an invasion of the Trapezuntine Empire in the spring of 1526….