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Series / Rise of Empires: Ottoman

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Rise of Empires: Ottoman is a 2020 English-language Turkish docudrama miniseries covering The Fall of Constantinople, as seen through the eyes of the young Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet II. Charles Dance narrates.

It received a second season in 2022, Mehmet Vs. Vlad, covering Mehmet's rivalry with the Wallachian ruler Vlad the Impaler.


  • Arch-Enemy: Vlad Dracula from Season 2 serves as one to Fatih Mehmet. While the Ottoman Sultan has faced down the last Roman emperor (Constantine XI) and the renowned sellsword Giovanni Giustiniani before, neither had the kind of It's Personal antagonism that Mehmet has with his stepbrother.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Overall, the series has tended to gravitate to this even as it almost always ends with Mehmet the Conqueror achieving his goals.
    • Season 1, despite showcasing Mehmet's success, gives notable screentime to the defeated Byzantines—portraying Constantine's Last Stand sympathetically, highlighting the pathetic and tragic end of Gustiniani, as well as the execution of Candarli Halil Pasha. Despite clearly raring for the opportunity to finally eliminate his obstructive mentor, Mehmed finds no joy in it, as he did owe his growth into a good ruler to his tutelage..
    • Season 2 also highlights that the Wallachian campaign was emotionally draining for Mehmed. Despite repelling and winning the Night Attack at Targoviste, he and his entire remaining army were reduced into Shell Shocked Veterans after seeing Vlad's "forest of corpses". The fact that among the dead is Hamza Bey—who Mehmet was supposed to rescue—takes away the satisfaction of the victory. In the very last scene of the final episode, an aged Mehmed II finally looks upon Vlad's impaled head, wistfully remembering their childhood before he walks away.
  • Brave Scot: John Grant, a Scottish military engineer, turns up on the Byzantine side in the first season. Incredibly far from home, he has nonetheless found a battle to get involved in.
  • Breaching the Wall:
    • Mehmet has one of the largest cannons ever built constructed solely for the task of breaching Constantinople's famed defensive walls.
    • Constantinople's harbor is defended by a massive cast-iron chain that reaches all the way to the colony of Galata. The Ottoman forces manage to break into the Golden Horn by moving their fleet through the mountains north of Galata.
    • Mehmet's army finally breaks through Constantinople's walls after a Rousing Speech and what appears to be a sign from God, with the Janissaries eventually making the final push that overwhelms Giustiniani's forces.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Impalement on a large wooden stake was a favored punishment and psychological warfare tactic of Vlad Dracula. The boyars who betrayed his father and brother were the first victims of it, and any Ottoman soldiers or scouts that were captured alive would be left on a stake for Mehmet to find. Even Muslim villagers in Vlad's path weren't spared from this fate, and neither was Hamza Bey when Vlad ambushed him. The historians brought on for the interview segments note how, while detailing the precise method it was inflicted, how an excruciatingly painful and 'slow' death it was. Needless to say, it's not for naught that Vlad became known as the Impaler.
  • Determinator: Season 1 has two leaders of this sort, each on opposing sides, going up against each other: Mehmet is determined to take Constantinople, Constantine is determined to hold Constantinople. Lots of bloodshed, cannon fire, and destruction follow.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Lukas Notaras, the Grand Duke of Constantinople. He conspires with Mehmet's vizier to arrange a truce, hoards his wealth when the rest of the city is starving, stays out of the fighting, and tries to offer his fealty to Mehmet after the city falls. Mehmet is so disgusted that he orders him to be immediately beheaded.
    • Downplayed by Giovanni Giustiniani. He's initially a very brave and capable soldier who ties up Mehmet's forces for a considerable length of time, only to flee when Mehmet's forces breach the city walls and dying a few days later of infection on a ship with the sullied reputation as "the man who ran" rather than as the last defender of Constantinople.
  • The Dreaded: Vlad Dracula secures his throne by brutally wiping out his opposition and becoming the arch-nemesis of the Ottomans. He is the only man that Mehmet is shown to truly fear.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: In Mehmet Vs. Vlad, Mehmet is plagued by nightmares in which Vlad the Impaler challenges and defeats him in a Duel to the Death. He is convinced that this is a vision of the future.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: When the Ottomans overwhelm the city's defenses, Emperor Constantine refuses to flee and goes down fighting.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Mehmet goes through a lot of pain and grief to finally take Constantinople, ignoring all his advisor's warnings in the process, but by the end he's walking through the Hagia Sophia and sitting down on the Roman throne.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Vlad and his wife have truly loving marriage. Hearing news of her death makes the war doubly personal for Vlad.
  • Evil Chancellor: Halil Pasha doesn't believe that victory against Constantinople is possible, and makes repeated overtures to the Byzantine court to arrange a truce behind Mehmet's back. Averted by Zaganos Pasha, who remains completely loyal to the Sultan.
  • Inspector Javert: Mahmud Pasha, Mehmet's Number Two in Season 2, has tended to treat Radu (who remained loyal to Mehmet) with hostility due to being Vlad's brother. Many Red Herrings implying Radu's Conflicting Loyalty do not allay his suspicions. It's not until Mahmud finds Radu actively drawing his sword against Vlad that he relents, telling the Impaler that he should be paying respects to Radu as the upcoming "rightful king".
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The historians in the series speculate why Giustiniani left the battle during the siege's final hours. Most likely, he didn't think victory was possible anymore and he was already wounded anyway. He's also a mercenary, not a Roman citizen, so there's no real point to him continuing to fight if his employers won't be there to pay him.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Far from showing mercy, Mehmet let his forces Rape, Pillage, and Burn Constantinople for three days; the custom of the time for a city that had refused to surrender. So many of the Christian inhabitants were enslaved that he had trouble repopulating the city afterwards.
  • How We Got Here: The series opens during the middle of the siege of Constantinople, when one of the Ottoman cannons explodes as a result of overuse with Mehmet knocked to the ground by the force. It then flashes back to his upbringing and the build-up to the siege.
  • Macross Missile Massacre / More Dakka: This battle was one of the first instances of the use of cannon in large amounts in siege warfare. Emphasis on large amounts.
  • Never Found the Body: The only thing that was left of Emperor Constantine XI after his futile last stand, were a pair of "purple slippers".
  • Rising Empire: The Ottoman Empire has already conquered a fair bit of the Balkans and Anatolia, and Mehmet is determined to defeat the Roman Empire so he can turn Constantinople into his new capital.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Both Emperor Constantine and Sultan Mehmet II actively involve themselves in planning, employing, and overseeing the strategies being used in the respective defense of and attack on Constantinople. In the final battle of the siege, they both field themselves, although for Constantine, he does so only after the Ottoman's victory becomes inevitable, making it a Dying Moment of Awesome for him.
    • Vlad is visually presented as this, as his conduct of guerilla warfare against the Ottomans means he is enduring the same kinds of hardships as his men.
  • Running the Blockade: The Ottomans impose a naval blockade on Constantinople to prevent reinforcements and aid from reaching the besieged city. A convoy of Genoan ships does manage to break through, as the western galleons are much larger than the Ottoman ships and can take a lot of damage without foundering. Mehmet is furious.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Giustiniani valiantly defends Constantinople for several weeks of heavy fighting, but when he takes an arrow during the final siege, he flees the city and meets a rather ignominious end a few days later when he dies of infection. If he had simply stayed and fought to the bitter end, he would have been remembered as a hero.
  • Shame If Something Happened:
    • Mehmet gets the governor of the Genoese colony of Galata to collaborate with the Ottomans by just calmly pointing out how much they could profit from doing trade with the new empire, and how disappointed he would be with them if they hindered his success in any way. When the governor tries to assure Mehmet that the Genoese are his allies, Mehmet orders his cannons to start firing over Constantinople and into the Golden Horn, disguising the sound of his army cutting away at the trees and moving his fleet over land and into the Golden Horn behind the iron chain that protects it, and erasing any thought the governor may have had that Mehmet was bluffing and wasn't in range.
    • In the second series, Mehmet's stepmother, Mara, is sent on a diplomatic mission to the Hungarian court to convince King Matthias Corvinus not to support Wallachia. She casually mentions that Constantine's body was never found after Constantinople fell, and that a 2,000 year-old empire was destroyed in a single day. Matthias is understandably unnerved by the implications.
  • Shoot the Messenger:
    • When Mehmed dispatches diplomats to Wallachia to remind Vlad that he's behind on his tribute payments, Vlad pretends to be offended that they won't remove their hats in his presence (knowing full well that Turkish cultural mores insist they keep their hats on in public), and then has their hats nailed to their heads. One of the historians points out what a breach of etiquette this is, even in wartime, especially in Turkish culture.
    • After being given the news that his wife is dead, Vlad does the classic Bad Boss version of this trope and slits the throat of his own messenger.
  • The Siege: The Battle of Constantinople is portrayed through the eyes of both the Ottoman attackers and the Roman defenders, while historians occasionally provide exposition on the mindset of the characters or information one has to know to understand the significance of certain events.
  • Single Tear: Mehmet sheds a single tear when he orders the execution of Halil Pasha, who signed his own death warrant by conspiring against his Sultan, but a man that Mehmet nonetheless considered a beloved mentor.
  • That Man Is Dead: Mehmet is initially reluctant to take up arms against Vlad Dracula in spite of the latter's increasing defiance against the Ottomans since he still considers him a brother. After Vlad captures and tortures Hamza Bey, an important ally of Mehmet and father to his favorite consort Gülbahar Hatun, she states that Vlad is a monster and no longer Mehmet's brother.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Roman Empire is on its deathbed, being reduced to a single city-state which, while heavily defended thanks to its walls and advantageous location, is surrounded by the Ottomans on all sides.
  • War Is Hell: Given that lots of people, both soldiers and civilians, die on both sides, lots of cannon fire is aimed at a populated city, and much of that city is destroyed by the end, this mini-series' first season does NOT stray away from just how nasty war can be. Season 2 is even worse thanks to the presence and actions of Vlad Dracula.
  • We Can Rule Together: After suffering many defeats in the field, Mehmet tries offering Giustiniani a position within the Ottoman Empire. Giustiniani considers it but refuses, although he later flees from the battle during the final hours of the siege.
  • The Un-Hug: Before Mehmet leaves for war, his young son hugs him goodbye. Mehmet is so emotionally stunted he can only awkwardly stand still until he sorta returns the hug.
  • You Have Failed Me: Mehmet considers beheading one of his Admirals who fails to stop the Genoan ships from relieving the defenders, but settles for A Taste of the Lash.
  • Young Conqueror: Mehmet captures Constantinople at the young age of 21.