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Mehmed II (r. 1444-46 and 1451-81) was one of the most illustrious of the long line of Ottoman sultans. His name is the Turkish form of Muhammad, but he is often known by his epithet "the Conqueror" because of his capture of Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453. Not content with their victory alone, Mehmed wanted to complete his mission by establishing the rule of Islam over all the lands once held by the Roman Empire, especially Italy. To this end he conducted an incessant series of campaigns against Venice and Hungary, and in this way, he extended the Ottoman Empire from the Euphrates to the Danube. He also established the ideological basis of the Ottoman state in the concept of an absolute sovereign whose wishes were executed by an extensive bureaucracy. His two law codes, which remained the basis of subsequent Ottoman law for two centuries, dealt with state organization, penal law, and the relations between the state and the military class on the one hand and its taxpaying subjects on the other.

Mehmed took a personal interest in the arts and learning of Europe, Byzantium, and the Latin West, as well as the traditional arts and literature of Islam. He mastered the principles of Christianity, European history, and geography and supported the works of eminent scholars. For example, he commissioned Kritovulos of Imbros to write his biography in Greek, and hired epic poets to extol his accomplishments in Italian.