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In 1480, the Ottomans invaded Otranto and briefly occupied it. However, it didn't seem that the city was strategically important or held particular value to the Ottomans, nor did they seem to follow this up with meaningful actions (e.g. reinforcing it or expanding their holding in Italy). They had to abandon it in the next year anyway. On the other hand, this act seemed to provoke a sort of Crusade against them

What was the reason for this invasion?

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There were many reasons for an invasion:

  • punishing Naples for its support of the Knights of Rhodes, whom the king Ferdinand I of Naples sent two ships of reinforcements against the Turks, determining a burning defeat of the Ottomans
  • creating a bridgehead for further operations in Italy, against Naples and possibly Rome (we have to keep in mind that the Sultan Mehmet II had conquered Istanbul in 1453, so the conquest of Rome was conceivable to him)
  • making advantage of a peace treaty with Venice (1479) and of the division of Christianity in Italy (the Papal States and Naples fought the "War of the Pazzi" against Florence, 1478-1480)

These are however speculations.

In my opinion the intentions of Mehmet II were serious: the most important proof being that the commander of the expedition, Gedik Ahmed Pasha, was perhaps the best Ottoman general, with a crucial role in unifying Anatolia under Ottoman rule.

After conquering Otranto, because there was not enough food to sustain the occupying army, the Ottomans had to partially retreat to Albania, planning to start the operations again next year.

The death of the Sultan that same year however started a phase of instability, with his sons fighting over succession. Ahmed was forced to surrender as no reinforcements were sent. He never abandoned the idea of estabilishing a bridgehead in Italy, supporting one of Mehmet II sons, Bayezid, in return for support of his plan. Bayezid however did not trust Ahmed, and after having him imprisoned, he killed him in 1482.

  • (while noting that you may still be editing this) - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehmed_II claims the Sultan's intention was to use it as a bridgehead in Italy with the eventual goal of conquering Rome and "reunite the Roman Empire", but doesn't source it. – T.E.D. Jan 9 '13 at 17:21
  • Ahmet or Ahmed is the commander of the expedition, right? – Louis Rhys Jan 10 '13 at 0:06
  • @LouisRhys Correct, edited – astabada Jan 10 '13 at 8:48
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You need to be aware that Sultan Mehmed II styled himself as a Roman Emperor after the conquest of Constantinople. Therefore, the original seat of the Empire, Rome, would be an attractive target. Besides the papacy was the principal enemy of Ottomans at that time. Later the target shifted to Vienna because successors were not so keen on classical Greek and Roman history as Mehmed II; and, more importantly, the principal enemy in the West became Habsburgs as the political power of Papacy weakened by the Reformation.

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