Cüneyt Bey of Aydın

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Cuneyd Bey (before 1402 – 1424), also known as İzmiroğlu Cüneyt, was the ruler (Turkish: bey) of Aydinid principality in what is now modern Turkey in the early 15th century.[1][2] He actively participated in Ottoman Interregnum, where he made a name as an intriguer.


Main article: Aydinids

Beylik of Aydın was a small Turkmen principality in western Anatolia that emerged after the disintegration of Seljuq Sultanate of Rûm. The beylik controlled the middle section of Aegean Sea coast, that under the rule of Umur the Lion became a minor naval power. The capital of the beylik was Birgi and Selçuk, both in İzmir Province of modern Turkey. Although the beylik was absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1390, it was restored after the Battle of Ankara in 1402, in which the Ottoman sultan Beyazit I was defeated by Temur.

Cüneyt, whose father had been governor of İzmir for many years, seized control of Ephesus from the "sons of Aydin" in 1403, then repelled an attempt by Umur II to regain control of the beylik, despite having the support of Menteshe Ilyas Bey, although Umur captured Cüneyt's father and held him prisoner in Mamlos. Cüneyt made a daring effort to free his father, sailing in secret to the fortress then managing to free his father and the others imprisoned with him.[3]

During the Ottoman interregnum (1402-1413)

During the Ottoman interregnum, Cüneyt supported İsa Çelebi and captured the forts of Alaşehir (Philadelphia), Kemalpaşa (Nif) and Sardis in the Aegean hinterland. But soon Süleyman Çelebi, the most powerful of the fighting Ottoman princes, invaded the Aegean Region in 1406. Although Cüneyt tried to fight, he was betrayed (or thought that he was betrayed) by his allies (who included the beylik of Mentese) and he surrendered.[4] Süleyman pardoned him and he continued to rule his beylik. When Süleyman returned to Rumeli, the European portion of the empire, to fight against Musa Çelebi, Cüneyt accompanied him as the sanjak-bey (governor) of Ohrid (in modern Macedonia). During the later stages of the interregnum, Cüneyt returned to Anatolia and firmly reestablished his beylik.

During the reign of Mehmet I (1413-1421)

In 1415, after emerging victorious in the interregnum, Mehmet I returned to Anatolia. He captured the forts Aliağa (Kymai), Kemalpaşa and finally reached İzmir. There, according to Doukas, he was met by a large number of local rulers -- "the governors of Old and New Phokaia, Germiyan and upper Phrygia, Menteshe of Caria, the lords of Mitylene and Chios in their triremes" -- who submitted to him and offered their help against Cüneyt Bey. Doukas states they did this for two reasons: "Mehmed's goodness and gentle nature and superior military strength, on the one hand, and Juneid's cunningness and rapacity, on the other." At the same time, Cüneyt's mother, wife and children presented themselves and made their obeisance, begging that they be forgiven for their crimes; İzmir was surrendered.[5]

His mother continued to plead on Cüneyt's behalf until Mehmet pardoned him, at which point Cüneyt presented himself and made his obeisance. His beylik was incorporated into Ottoman realm, and Cüneyt was appointed as the sanjak bey (governor) of Nikopol, today in Bulgaria.[6] Not long afterwards, Mustafa Çelebi, another son of Beyazıt, who had not been active during the interregnum, appeared in Rumeli; not trusting Cüneyt, Mehmet sent two trusted servants to kill him, but Cüneyt joined Mustafa before they could find him. Mehmet defeated Mustafa's forces, and both Cüneyt and Mustafa managed to escape to Byzantine territory.[7] There, in return for a subsidy, the emperor Manuel II Palaiologos interned Mustafa on the island of Lemnos while Cüneyt was cloistered in the monastery of Pammakaristos Church in Constantinople.[8]

During the reign of Murad II (after 1421)

In 1421, Mehmet I died. Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaiologos saw this as a chance to regain Gallipoli -- although his father Manuel II disagreed -- and released both Mustafa and Cüneyt from their detention and helped them to assert Mustafa's claim to the Ottoman throne against Murat II, Mehmet's 17-year-old son. Murat sent his father's vizer Bayezid Pasha to raise the army of Europe and defeat the pair. However, once Bayezid Pasha met Mustafa and his followers outside of Edirne, the soldiers deserted to Mustafa's side and Bayezid Pasha was forced to surrender. According to Doukas, Cüneyt executed the vizer but spared the life of his brother Hamza, not knowing "he was restoring to life the man who was to bring him death and that the man man to whom he showed compassion would shortly take his life without compassion.[9]

The following year, Cüneyt accompanied Mustafa to Anatolia; their army numbered so many men, according to Doukas, it took three days for the force to cross at Lampsakos.[10] But when Murat's army confronted them at Ulubat, Cüneyt deserted Mustafa in the middle of the night. The reasons why Cüneyt left differ in the primary sources. Laonikos Chalkokondyles writes that the soldiers feared the Byzantines would occupy the Hellespont and prevent them from retreating; when Cüneyt fled, "the rest of the lords then escaped too without any hesitation or delay, no longer trusting in Mustafa's good fortune."[11] But Doukas provides a detailed tale that Murat's advisors used Cüneyt's brother, Hamza, who was a lifelong close friend of Murat, to meet Cüneyt during the night and convince him to desert.[12] Despite the reason for his desertion, once Cüneyt left, Mustafa fled across the Hellespont into Europe, where he was later caught and executed.

Cüneyt fled to his homeland, İzmir, where he was warmly received. Hearing of Mustafa, a member of the Aydinids, who was active in the region, Cüneyt raised an army of 2000 men and engaged Mustafa at Mesavlion, which was a marshy and thickly wooded place. There Mustafa's army was scattered and Cüneyt personally slew Mustafa with an iron mace.[13]

Once he was secure in his former territory, Cüneyt declared himself sultan. He also tried to form alliances with the Republic of Venice and Karamanids against the Ottoman Empire. Murad placed the Asian army under Halil, whom Doukas described as "a Roman by nationality and the brother-in-law on his sister's side of Vizer Bayazid."[14] Halil proceeded to march on Cüneyt; Cüneyt raised a sizable army and met the Ottoman forces on the plain of Thyateira. In the clash of the armies, Cüneyt's youngest son Qurt was captured and sent to Sultan Murad; Murad had the boy and Cüneyt's brother Hamza sent to Gallipoli, put in chains, and confined to the tower.

As a result of the battle, Murad was rewarded with the province of Aydin, and the army was put under the command of Hamza, "the brother of Bayezid whom Juneid had killed in the days of Mustafa".[15] Cüneyt retreated to Ìpsili, today Doğanbey, a town in İzmir Province. Hamza put the fortress Cüneyt had retreated into under siege, but could not force his way into the fortress. Hamza asked for help from the Sultan, who recruited a Genoese acquaintance Persivas Pallavicini to enable an assault from the sea. Cüneyt lost confidence and negotiated a surrender with Halil and was escorted from the fortress to Halil's presence. When Cüneyt arrived with his brother and family, Halil provided them with tents for the night. Later that evening, Hamza learned from Halil the events of the day; Hamza sent four men to the tents, where they found Cüneyt snoring loudly because he had not slept the previous night; the men bashed in Cüneyt's head then cut off the heads of his brother, his son, and his grandsons. When the Sultan learned of their deaths, he ordered that the prisoners in Gallipoli, Qurt and his uncle Hamza, be executed. "Thus did Juneid end his life with his entire household," concludes Doukas.[16]


  1. Prof. Yaşar Yücel-Prof. Ali Sevim: Türkiye tarihi Cilt I, AKDTYKTTK Yayınları, İstanbul, 1991 pp 215-217
  2. Halil İbrahim İnal:Osmanlı Tarihi, Nokta Kitap, İstanbul, 2008, ISBN 978-9944-174-37-4, p.120
  3. Doukas, 18.5-7; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1975), pp. 101f
  4. Nicholae Jorga: Geschichte des Osmanischen Reichs (Trans :Nilüfer Epçeli) Vol 1 Yeditepe yayınları, İstanbul, 2009, ISBN 975-6480-17-3 p. 314-340
  5. Doukas, 21.4; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 116f
  6. Doukas, 21.6, 10; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 188, 119f
  7. Doukas, 22.3; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, p. 123
  8. Doukas, 22.5; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 124f
  9. Doukas, 24.8-9; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 142f
  10. Doukas, 25.10; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, p. 152
  11. Chalkokondyles, 5.7; translated by Anthony Kaldellis, The Histories (Cambridge: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 2014), vol. 1 p. 375
  12. Doukas, 26.1-4; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 153-156
  13. Doukas, 26.4; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, p. 157
  14. Doukas, 28.11; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 165
  15. Doukas, 28.12-3; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, pp. 16f
  16. Doukas, 28.14; translated by Harry J. Marguoulias, Decline and Fall, p. 167-9