Enemy of My Enemy, Part 2

Continued from Enemy of My Enemy, Part 1

In 1472, a Venetian embassy arrived in the camp of Uzun Hasan, chief of the Akkoyunlu, looking for an alliance against the Ottoman empire.

Hasan was an astute diplomat for whom the Italians were only one of many possible allies. In 1457, he had married in to the Kommenos family that ruled Trebizond, the last of the Byzantine Empire’s successor states. The leader of the Venetian embassy, Caterino Zeno, was the son of Hasan’s Greek sister-in-law, and he reported that Hasan was also trying to negotiate a marriage alliance with the Catholic king of Poland. Nor was Hasan ignoring the rest of the region. He not only publicized his ancient Turkic lineage, a long-standing tradition for nomadic leaders, but also launched a propaganda campaign to publicize his credentials as an Islamic ruler. Although early in his reign he pledged fealty to the Mamluk sultan in Cairo, by 1469 Hasan was making claims to be the proper inheritor of the authority of the caliphate.  His agents spread money like water to try and get Hasan’s name read at the Friday prayers in Mecca and Medina, the traditional mark of Islamic authority.

With the Venetians, Hasan negotiated a treaty of alliance that came with artillery and arquebuses, as well as gunners to operate them. Firearms and horse archers were a powerful pairing, and combining them was becoming the basis for armies all the way from the Balkans to China. Any force powerful enough to resist the guns was vulnerable to harassment by the horsemen, and any troops swift or quick-firing enough to drive off the cavalry could be pounded into dust by the cannons. That, at least, was the theory. Before the Akkoyunlu could put it into practice they themselves were smashed by the future masters of the combination, the Ottomans.

Continued in Enemy of My Enemy, Part 3


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