Zagan Pasha

Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
In office
1 June 1453  1456
Monarch Mehmed II
Preceded by Çandarlı Halil Pasha the Younger
Succeeded by Mahmud Pasha Angelovic
Kapudan Pasha
In office
Preceded by Yakup Bey
Succeeded by Mahmud Pasha Angelovic
Personal details
Died 1462 or 1469
Balıkesir, Turkey, Ottoman Empire
Nationality Ottoman
Spouse(s) Sitti Nefise Hatun
Fatma Hatun
Anna Hatun
Religion Sunni Islam
Ethnicity Unknown; thought to be Albanian, Greek, or Serbian
Military service
Allegiance  Ottoman Empire
Service/branch  Ottoman Navy
 Ottoman Army
Rank Kapudan Pasha (grand admiral; 1463–1466)
Battles/wars Fall of Constantinople

Zaganos Pasha (Turkish: Zağanos Paşa; fl. 1446 – 1462 or 1469) was an Ottoman military commander, with the titles and ranks of kapudan pasha and the highest military rank, grand vizier, during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror". Originally a Christian who was conscripted and converted through the devşirme system, he became a Muslim and rose through the ranks of the janissaries. He became one of the prominent military commanders of Mehmed II and a lala – the sultan's advisor, mentor, tutor, councillor, protector, all at once. He removed his rival, the previous Grand Vizier Çandarlı Halil Pasha the Younger, amid the fall of Constantinople. He later served as the governor of Thessaly of Macedonia.


Origin and early life

Zaganos was conscripted through the Devşirme system and rose through the ranks of the janissaries. He was originally Christian.[1][2] Sources do not mention his descent.[3] D. Nicolle, J. F. Haldon and S. R. Turnbull believes that he was of South Slavic or Albanian origin.[4] M. Philippides believes that he was of either Greek or Albanian origin.[5] According to İnalcık he was possibly the son of Vrana Konti.[6] He became a committed Muslim after conversion.[4]

When Mehmed II was exiled in 1446, Zagan accompanied him.[4]

Second Vizier

Young Mehmed II had after his return and accession (18 February 1451) confirmed Çandarlı Halil Pasha the Younger as his first Vizier (even though he seems to have disliked him), and raised Zaganos Pasha from third to second Vizier.[4][5] Halil Pasha had been appointed first Vizier in 1439, after the demotion of Ishak Pasha.[7] Zaganos, who was younger, was jealous of the position of Halil Pasha.[8]

Conquest of Constantinople

Sultan Mehmed II's entry into Constantinople, painting by Fausto Zonaro (1854–1929).

During the Siege of Constantinople, the bulk of the Ottoman army were encamped south of the Golden Horn. The regular European troops, stretched out along the entire length of the walls, were commanded by Karadja Pasha. The regular troops from Anatolia under Ishak Pasha were stationed south of the Lycus down to the Sea of Marmara. Mehmed himself erected his red-and-gold tent near the Mesoteichion, where the guns and the elite regiments, the Janissaries, were positioned. The Bashi-bazouks were spread out behind the front lines. Other troops under Zaganos were employed north of the Golden Horn. Communication was maintained by a road that had been constructed over the marshy head of the Horn.[9] After the inconclusive frontal offensives, the Ottomans sought to break through the walls by constructing underground tunnels in an effort to mine them from mid-May to 25 May. Many of the sappers were miners of German origin sent from Novo Brdo by the Serbian Despot. They were placed under the command of Zaganos Pasha. However, the Byzantines employed an engineer named Johannes Grant (who was said to be German but was probably Scottish), who had counter-mines dug, allowing Byzantine troops to enter the mines and kill the Turkish workers. The Byzantines intercepted the first Serbian tunnel on the night of 16 May. Subsequent tunneling efforts were interrupted on 21, 23, and 25 May, destroying them with Greek fire and vigorous combat. On 23 May, the Byzantines captured and tortured two Turkish officers, who revealed the location of all the Turkish tunnels, which were then destroyed.[10] On 21 May, Mehmed sent an ambassador to Constantinople and offered to lift the siege if they gave him the city. Constantine XI accepted to pay higher tributes to the sultan and recognized the status of all the conquered castles and lands in the hands of the Turks as Ottoman possession. Around this time, Mehmed had a final council with his senior officers. Here he encountered some resistance; one of his Viziers, the veteran Halil Pasha, who had always disapproved of Mehmed's plans to conquer the city, now admonished him to abandon the siege in the face of recent adversity. Halil was overruled by Zaganos, who insisted on an immediate attack. Having been accused of bribery, Halil Pasha was put to death later that year.[11] Mehmed planned to overpower the walls by sheer force, expecting that the weakened Byzantine defense by the prolonged siege would now be worn out before he ran out of troops and started preparations for a final all-out offensive.

After the Ottoman occupation of Constantinople, the Sultan ordered Zaganos to set out with his galleys for Galata, to prevent the Byzantine ships from setting sail.[12]

The stories of Halil Pasha's collaboration with the Byzantines were most likely spread by the faction of Zaganos.[4] Zaganos succeeded Halil Pasha as Grand Vizier.[4] In 1456, however, Zaganos was made scapegoat after a failed expedition against Hungarian-held Belgrade.[4] Zaganos' daughter was expelled from the Sultan's harem, and the two were expelled to Balıkesir, where he probably had property.[4] In 1459, Zaganos returned and became kapudan pasha of the fast-growing Ottoman navy, and the next year he was the governor of Thessaly and Macedonia.[4]

Personality and appearance

Zaganos was said to be a tall and intelligent man. He has been called the most cruel Ottoman captain of his time,[13] and was said to be an enemy of Christians.[8] He was in absolute loyalty to Mehmed II, even when he was just a prince, knowing that his prospects depended on his master's success.[4] Zaganos was a soldier who believed that the Ottoman Empire must always expand in order to keep the enemies off-balance.[4] He was known for his warlike beliefs and played an important role in the 1453 Fall of Constantinople.

He was one of the prominent Ottoman military commanders of Mehmed II (Mehmet the Conqueror) and a lala, at once an advisor, mentor, tutor, councilor, and protector, for the sultan.

Military achievements

During the final siege of Constantinople, Zagan Pasha's troops were the first to reach the towers. Ulubatlı Hasan was the first soldier who reached the tower. During the siege many of the sappers were placed under the command of Zagan Pasha. Mehmet took Zaganos' advice almost exclusively.

Mehmet II honored him for his loyalty and honesty, along with the Sultan's two other Viziers, Halil Pasha and Sarica Pasha, by naming the three great towers of Rumeli Hisari after them. The tower to the south is named after Zaganos Pasha.


He married three times:

  1. Sitti Nefise Hatun, daughter of Timurtaşoğlu Oruç Pasha, governor-general of Anatolia under Murad II;
  2. Fatma Hatun[14] (m. 1444), daughter of Sultan Murad II and sister of Mehmed the Conquer;
  3. Anna Hatun[15][16] (m. 1481 - div.), daughter of Emperor David of Trebizond and Helena Kantakouzene, daughter of Demetrios I Kantakouzenos.

He had two sons Mehmed Bey and Ali Çelebi. His daughter from his first wife Sitti Hatice Hatun married Mehmed the Conqueror and another daughter Selçuk Hatun married Mahmud Pasha Angelovic.


His, as well as his family's, mausoleum is located in his endowment (1454), Zagan Pasha Mosque, in Balıkesir.[4]



  1. Stavrides, p. 63
  2. Jones 1973, p. 7
  3. Goldberg-Kasaba-Migdal 1993, p. 153
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Nicolle 2007, p. 189
  5. 1 2 Philippides 2007, p. 95
  6. İnalcık, Halil (1995), From empire to republic : essays on Ottoman and Turkish social history (in French), Istanbul: Isis Press, p. 76, ISBN 978-975-428-080-7, OCLC 34985150
  7. Philippides 2007, p. 171
  8. 1 2 Jones 1973, p. 32
  9. Runciman 1965, pp. 94–95.
  10. Crowley, Roger. 1453: the holy war for Constantinople and the clash of Islam and the West. New York: Hyperion, 2005. pp. 168–171. ISBN 1-4013-0850-3
  11. Runciman 1965, pp. 126–128, 169–170
  12. Jones 1973, p. 53
  13. Philippides 2007, pp. 177–179
  14. Babinger, Franz (1992). Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 173. ISBN 9780691010786.
  15. Nicol, Donald (1994). The Byzantine lady : ten portraits, 1250-1500. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press. p. 124. ISBN 9780521455312.
  16. Babinger, Franz (1992). Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 230. ISBN 9780691010786.


Political offices
Preceded by
Çandarlı Halil Pasha the Younger
Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
1 June 1453 – 1456
Succeeded by
Mahmud Pasha Angelovic
Military offices
Preceded by
Yakup Bey
Kapudan Pasha
Succeeded by
Mahmud Pasha Angelovic
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