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Cem was the younger brother of Sultan Bayezid II. At the death of Mehmet the Conqueror, their father, Bayezid was the governor of Sivas, Tokat and Amasya, and Cem ruled the provinces of Karaman and Konya.
The grand vizier Karamani Mehmet Pasha sent two messengers to the brothers just after the death of Sultan Mehmet. But the messenger sent to Cem had been caught on the way by the Anatolia Deputy, Sinan Pasha, and Cem learned of his father's death four days later than his elder brother. For uncertain reasons, the Janissaries of Constantinople revolted on May 4, 1481 and killed Karamani Mehmet Pasha as a result of this event. In Bayezid's absence his son, Prince Korkut, took the throne as regent.
Prince Bayezid arrived at Constantinople on May 21 and was declared Sultan. Only six days later Cem captured the city of Inegöl with an army of 4000. Sultan Bayezid sent his army under the command of vizier Ayas Pasha to kill his brother. On May 28, Cem had defeated Bayezid's army and he declared himself Sultan of Anatolia and made his capital Bursa. He proposed dividing the empire between them, leaving Bayezid only Europe. Bayezid furiously rejected the proposal and marched on Bursa. The decisive battle between the two took place near the town Yenişehir . Cem lost and fled with his family to Mameluke Cairo.
In Cairo, Cem received a letter from his brother, offering Cem one million akçes (the Ottoman currency) in order to dissuade him from competing for the throne. Cem rejected the offer and in the following year he launched a campaign in Anatolia. On May 27, 1482 he besieged Konya but was soon forced to withdraw to Ankara. He intended to give it all up and return to Cairo but all of the roads to Egypt were under Bayezid's control.
Meanwhile, Pierre d'Aubusson, a member of the Knights of St. John invited Cem to Rhodes. On June 29 he went there as a guest, but the Knights betrayed him and he became a prisoner. Afterwards, Cem was sent to France. Sultan Bayezid sent a messenger to France and requested Cem to be kept there and he agreed to pay an annual of 40,000 in gold for his brother's expenses.
Pope Innocent VIII intended to organise a new crusade using Cem but the European monarches rejected it. The Pope also offered Cem to convert to Christianity but he rejected. Cem came in use anyway, because whenever Bayezid intended to launch a military campaign against Christian nations of the Balkans, the Pope would threaten to release the throne pretendent.
Cem died in Capua on February 25, 1495. Sultan Bayezid declared national mourning for three days. He also requested to have Cem's body for a Muslim funeral, but not until four years after Cem's death his body was brought to the Ottoman lands. He was buried in Bursa.
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