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?


3 Answers 3


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.
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 17:21
  • Ahmet or Ahmed is the commander of the expedition, right?
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 0:06
  • @LouisRhys Correct, edited
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 8:48

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.


Sultan Mehmed had several reasons to invade Italy.

  1. In the 4th quarter of 15th century, Ferdinand and Isabella's forces were forcibly converting Muslims in Spain to Catholic Christianity. They were literally massacring Muslims and Jews. Mehmed was very far from Spain so couldn't help those Muslims with force, so he opened the gates for exiled Muslims and for Jews as well. He was very angry on Christians at that time. So, he did same in Otranto. He asked population to convert to Islam. When they refused, he massacred 12000 people. Spanish were afraid of Ottoman Empire. So, when Sultan Suleiman reached the gates of Vienna. Spain send reinforcement for Vienna.
  2. Sultan Mehmed was a devoted muslim. So, he wanted to end all Christian kingdoms and papacy. So, his next goal was to conquer Roma.
  • 3
    "Spanish were afraid of Ottoman Empire. So, when Sultan Suleiman reached the gates of Vienna. Spain send reinforcement for Vienna" - You might want to look up who was archduke of Austria and who was king of Spain in 1529.
    – Jan
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 9:15

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