Mehmed II, 7th sultan of the Ottoman Empire, often known as Mehmed the Conqueror and born March 30, 1432, remains a national hero in modern-day Turkey. But under the homophobic regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there’s scant mention of his sexual relationship with Radu the Beautiful, younger brother of Vlad the Impaler.
Mehmed II’s father abdicated and handed him the throne at the age of 12. Then, at 14, Mehmed II handed the throne back to his father. But he became Sultan again at 19 when his father died. During his reign, ‘the Conqueror’ greatly expanded the Ottoman Empire. He defeated the Byzantine Empire and made its capital of Constantinople his own.
Mehmed II married five times and fathered four children but the bisexual sultan also enjoyed sex with handsome young men.
Radu the Beautiful
Radu III of Wallachia is more commonly known as Radu cel Frumos, usually translated as Radu the Fair or Handsome. But ‘cel Frumos’ actually translates from Romanian as ‘the Beautiful’. Another of the small altered details that, either intentionally or inadvertently, work to reshape history so it conforms with heterosexual and gender ‘norms’.
As a child, Radu’s father, the ruler of Wallachia, sent the 7-year-old and his teenage brother Vlad as hostages to the court of Mehmed II’s father. The young hostage became friends with the five-year-older sultan-to-be.
As Sultan, Mehmed II tasked government officials with seeking out good looking youths for his harem. He also took sexual advantage of young male hostages.
The Byzantine historian Laonikos Chalkokondyles noted that the Ottomans didn’t have a problem with same-sex male activity.
“They do not frown upon those who engage in this lifestyle. He [Mehmed II] spent a great deal of time, night and day, with such people.”
A boy of exceptional beauty
A Roman named Doukas lived in Constantinople at the time of its fall and documented his experiences. He wrote that the triumphant Mehmed II initially considered retaining the services of the Megadux Notaras, the Byzantine governor.
However, 5 days after the fall of Constantinople, Mehmed II gave a banquet.
“In the course of it, when he was well flushed with wine, someone whispered to him that Notaras’s 14-year-old son was a boy of exceptional beauty. The Sultan at once sent a eunuch to the house of the Megadux to demand the boy sent to him for his pleasure. Notaras, whose two elder sons had been killed in the fighting, refused to sacrifice the boy to such a fate.”
Mehmed II then ordered the Megadux, his son and son-in-law brought before him. When Notaras still refused to allow the Sultan to have his way with his son, Mehmed ordered all three decapitated on the spot.
Mehmed II and Radu the Beautiful
The aforementioned Laonikos Chalkokondyles also wrote about the relationship between the Sultan and his young Wallachian hostage.
“Mehmed II summoned Vlad, the son of Dracula… He had with him his younger brother (Radu cel Frumos), who became his homosexual lover and lived with him.”
However, when the father of his two hostages died, Mehmed II assisted Vlad to overcome a usurper and succeed his father as ruler of Wallachia. Radu the Beautiful chose to stay at the Ottoman court and rose to prominence by virtue of his place in the Sultan’s affections.
But his older brother eventually refused to pay the required tribute to the Sultan. Mehmed II raised a 150,000 strong army and he and Radu sailed at its head to Wallachia.
Vlad then conducted a nighttime ambush on a town where many of the sultan’s soldiers camped and carried out a gruesome massacre. Vlad previously used impalement against his own people — staking people on long wooden or metal poles driven through the victim’s genitals and out of their mouth. It often took hours or days to die. Laonikos Chalkokondyles described the scene that Mehmed II and Radu the Beautiful encountered as a ‘forest of the impaled’.
“The sultan’s army entered into the area of the impalements, which was seventeen stades long and seven stades wide. There were large stakes there, on which, as it was said, about 20,000 men, women, and children had been spitted… There were infants too, affixed to their mothers on the stakes, and birds had made their nests in their entrails.”
But eventually, the Ottoman army prevailed and Mehmed II placed his young lover on the throne of Wallachia.
Between battles, Mehmed II devoted some of his leisure time to poetry, scribing homoerotic verses to the young men he admired. He was reputedly a fine poet and his lines celebrated for their great beauty. Unfortunately, the beauty of poetry often fails to survive translation, but here are a couple of lines anyway.
You sit on the throne of beauty and I’m downtrodden in dirts of your roads
While I’m like that, like an ant, how can I tell myself to you, my Solomon?
Heinrich (Dora) Ratjen, March 29 <— On this day —> March 31, Gilbert Baker, the Rainbow Flag
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