“Game of Thrones” in the Ottoman Empire. Fatih’s law in action and the emergence of cafes

Execution of Shehzade Mustafa by order of his father – Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Shot from the series “The Magnificent Century”

In the last article we started the story about the “Law of Fatih” (Sultan Mehmed II / Mehmed II), which allowed the son of a deceased ruler who came to power to kill his brothers “for the public good” (Nizam-I Alem). Thus, Mehmed II, who himself, upon accession to the throne, ordered the assassination of his three-month-old brother, hoped to avoid new troubles and internecine wars that threaten the very existence of the Ottoman state. In the above-mentioned article “Game of Thrones” in the Ottoman Empire. The Law of Fatih was told about the struggle for power of the sons of Mehmed the Conqueror himself and about Selim Yavuz (“Cruel”), who ordered the killing of all men of his kind. Now we will continue our story and first talk about Suleiman the Magnificent, Kanunî and the fate of his sons.

The mortal combat of the children of Suleiman I Qanuni

At the time of the death of Selim I (Selim I), he had only one son (out of five born) and therefore his accession to the throne was peaceful and passed without incidents. It was Suleiman I (Suleiman the First), who in the Ottoman tradition is nicknamed Kanunî (“The Lawgiver”), and in Europe he was called Magnificent – “Magnificent”.

Melchior Lorck. Portrait of sultan Suleyman the Magnificent


In the history of the Ottoman Empire, it was an amazing time when the galley slave Giovanni Dionigi Galeni from the Calabrian village of Le Castella turned into Uluj Ali, the Ottoman admiral and beylerbei of Algeria, a hero the Battle of Lepanto, to whom Sultan Selim II bestowed the title Kılıç Ali Paşa – “Sword”.

A rootless boy, found in Hungary in a ditch after the Battle of Mohacs, goes down in history under the loud and formidable name of Piyale Pasha, became the commander of the Ottoman fleet, the second vizier and husband of the granddaughter of Sultan Suleiman I (daughter of the future Sultan Selim II).

A guy from a Greek peasant family suddenly turned out to be a formidable kapudan-pasha Turgut-reis. And a native of a Sephardic family, evacuated from Andalusia under Bayezid II, terrified the Christian shores of the Mediterranean as Sinan Pasha, the Great Jew from Smyrna.

Suleiman I can by no means be called an overly kind and kind-hearted person: such a person simply would not have stayed on the Ottoman throne. But in comparison with his father, he seemed to be a model of humanism, and the Europeans in Constantinople spoke of him:

“This is the meek lamb who inherited the kingdom of the formidable lion.”

But the successors of Suleiman I could not do without a “fight”. This sultan had 5 sons. Two of them died of smallpox in 1521 – the eldest son Mahmud, who was 9 years old, and 8-year-old Murad. Popular among the people, Shehzade Mustafa was accused of trying to organize a conspiracy against his father and was executed in 1553 at the age of 38. At the same time, the seven-year-old son of this shehzade, Mehmed, the grandson of the Sultan, was strangled (recall that, in comparison with Selim I, Suleiman was considered a “meek lamb”).

Soon after Mustafa’s execution, his younger brother Jihangir died – according to the official version, from longing for his brother. Another son of Suleiman, Mehmed, died in 1543. The remaining two sons – Selim (the ruler of Sanjak Amasya) and Bayazid (the ruler of Konya) started the war during the life of their father – in 1559.

Two shehzade – Selim and Bayazid in the series “The Magnificent Century”


Sultan Suleiman sent imperial troops to help Selim, Bayazid’s army was defeated, Shehzadeh himself fled to Iran, but was handed over to his homeland. Together with Bayazid, five of his sons were also executed.

The Ottoman throne went to Selim II (known under the nicknames “Blond” and “Drunkard”), the son of Khyurrem Sultan, the femme fatale of the Ottoman Empire, better known as Roksolana.

Sultan Selim II


Remembering his war with his brother, Selim II sent only his eldest son Murad to sanjak, who was destined to become the new sultan. He will repeat the experience of his father, and his son Mehmed III will completely abandon the practice of sending his sons to the provinces, thus becoming the last sultan to receive managerial and military experience even before accession to the throne. But we got ahead of ourselves.

Selim II became the first sultan who did not participate in any military campaign, and ruled for only 8 years. However, during this time, Cyprus, Tunisia and Yemen were annexed to the Ottoman Empire. But there were also failures. In 1569, the Turkish-Tatar army was defeated near Astrakhan (it was then that the Ottomans tried to dig a channel between the Don and the Volga). And in 1571 the Ottoman fleet was defeated in the famous battle of Lepanto.

Selim II died in 1574 as a result of a traumatic brain injury – after slipping on the marble step of the hamam.

The largest sultan of the Ottoman Empire

After the death of Selim II, his son Murad III ascended the Ottoman throne, who immediately, in accordance with the law of Fatih, ordered to strangle the other sons of Selim – five people.

Murad III, portrait, Scottish National Art Gallery


His mother was a Venetian named Nurganu, and I must say that she had a great influence on the formation of the personality and character of this sultan. In the future, Nurganu competed with another European woman, the Greek woman Safiye, Murad’s beloved wife, for influence on her son. They say that, trying to switch her son to other passions, Nurganu was so actively buying concubines for his harem that the prices for girls in the markets of Constantinople increased 10 times. As a result, Murad III went down in history as the largest sultan of the Ottoman Empire. According to some reports, he had 130 children, including 25 sons.

This sultan, according to the assurances of his biographers, had many talents – he was a good calligrapher, wrote poems and treatises on various currents of Sufism, was interested in astronomy, history and geography, made watches, and was fond of fencing. But, like his father, he was absolutely indifferent to military affairs and did not participate in military campaigns. However, the inertia of the development of the Ottoman state was such that the empire continued to expand: Morocco and some territories previously subject to the Persian shahs were annexed, Ottoman troops captured Tiflis and reached the lands of modern Azerbaijan. As a result, it was under Murad III that the size of the Ottoman Empire reached its maximum, amounting to 19,902,000 square kilometers.

Sultan who killed 19 brothers

As we remember, Murad III was a father of many children, and therefore his successor, Mehmed III, set a record during his accession to the throne: in one day, January 28, 1595, he executed 19 brothers. They said that, listening to the pleas of one of the younger brothers, Mehmed tore out a piece of his beard “out of grief,” but did not change his decision. Also, by his order, several pregnant concubines of his father were drowned in the Sea of ​​Marmara. Later, this sultan also executed his son Mahmud, who was suspected of conspiracy.

Portrait of Mehmed III, painting by Crispijn the Passe


Mehmed III, unlike his grandfather and father, personally took part in military campaigns, and although he did not achieve much success, he also had victories. The biggest and most unusual battle of this sultan was the Battle of Kerestets (October 24-26, 1596), which went down in the history of Turkey under the strange and even funny name “The Battle of Pots and Ladles”. The fact is that when the allied troops of the Catholic states (detachments from Austria, Transylvania, Spain, Poland) had almost overturned the Ottoman army, carried away by the robbery of an enemy convoy, Christian soldiers were suddenly attacked and put to flight by somehow armed Turkish grooms, camel drivers , cooks and ancillary workers. A counterattack of the recovered regular Ottoman units completed the rout. This victory had no strategic significance.

Fearing revolts, Mehmed III stopped sending his sons to rule the provinces (where they were gaining administrative and military experience). When, after 8 years of reigning the empire, this sultan suddenly died, his son Ahmed, who at that time was only 13 years old, was elevated to the throne.

Sultan Ahmed I in his youth


And this is how Ahmed I and his beloved wife Kosem-Sultan saw the audience of the series “The Magnificent Century. Empire Kyosem “:

Ahmed was lucky: he was the third son and his chances for the throne were slim. However, the first son of Mehmed III, Selim, died of scarlet fever, and the second (Mahmud), as we remember, was executed on charges of treason.

Ahmed I lost the wars with Persia and Austria, but was popular among the people, because in 1606 he personally took part in extinguishing a large fire in Constantinople, receiving several serious burns. And during his time, the capital was decorated with the famous Blue Mosque.

Golden cells Çifte Kasırlar

Ahmed I became the first sultan to refuse to kill his brother Mustafa. Instead, he was placed in the Shimshirlik two-story stone house on the territory of the Top-kapa palace complex. Then, a house called Çifte Kasırlar (“double pavilion”), which had 12 rooms, was used as a “gilded prison” for the shehzadeh, one of the sultan’s brothers could live in each of them.

Topkapi, engraving of 1654

Çifte Kasırlar, prison of the Sultan’s brothers in Top-kapy, contemporary photography


These rooms are called “kefes” or “cafe” (literal translation – “cage”). After Sultan Ahmed I, keeping “superfluous” shehzade in cafes became a tradition. And Turkish sources claim that many of these captives went crazy, or became alcoholics and drug addicts.

As an example, we can cite the fate of Ahmed’s brother Mustafa (the future sultan), who had mental problems from childhood, which were significantly aggravated after 14 years of isolation in a “cafe”. As a result, Mustafa’s first reign lasted only 97 days. He was removed from power, and his 14-year-old nephew, the son of Ahmed Osman II (Gench Osman – “Young”), became the new sultan, who ordered the execution of his brother, Shehzade Mehmed. It happened in April 1621 – before the unsuccessful campaign to Khotin. So the appearance of cafes did not guarantee the life of unlucky princes.

The fate of Osman II

Sultan Osman II


It is said that before his death, Mehmed cursed Osman II. And the revolt of the janissaries is associated with the curse, as a result of which this sultan was killed. In fact, the reason was the defeat in the Khotyn battle (lasted from September 2 to October 9, 1621), in which the Turks lost about 40 thousand people, and their opponents (the Poles of Jan Chodkevich and the Cossacks of Peter Sagaidachny) – only 14 thousand. Osman II blamed the failure of the Janissaries, whose corps tried to reform. This attempt ended with the assassination of the Sultan. It is said that 18-year-old Osman strangled the first murderers sent to him in the prison cell of Edikul Castle himself – with his bare hands. But he could no longer cope with the famous metropolitan wrestler Pahlavan. The janissaries again elevated the mad Mustafa to the Ottoman throne, who loved to present gold coins to fish in the palace pond (and sometimes benefited sea fish by throwing money into the waters of the Bosphorus).

Mustafa I, sultan der Turkei, Austrian National Library


His second reign lasted about a year, after which he ceded the throne to another nephew – Murad IV, on whose orders, as many believe, he was then poisoned.

Strongman on the Ottoman throne

Murad IV, sultan der Turkei, Austrian National Library


All sources emphasize the enormous physical strength of Murad IV. It is alleged that during the siege of Baghdad, he single-handedly loaded the cannons, the nuclei of which weighed 60 kg. The Sultan’s club weighed 200 kg, and only two people could hardly pull the string around his bow. But this strong man was very afraid of new rebellions, which could be expected from the Janissaries, Sipahs, members of all kinds of religious sects and Sufi orders. Since the capital’s coffee houses and hookahs were the traditional gathering places for the conspirators, he banned coffee and tobacco altogether. It was also forbidden to walk the streets without a lantern after the night prayer. For almost any offense, the punishment was one – death. So, in the winter of 1634, seeing the road not cleared of snow, Murad ordered to execute first the judge of Iznik province, and then Sheikh-ul-Islam (“Elder of Islam”) of the empire, Ahizade Hussein Effendi, who dared to condemn this decision. In the entire history of the Ottoman state, he became the only main mufti of the country executed by the Sultan. Under Murad IV, Baghdad and Yerevan were conquered, and on the outskirts of the Russian state the Don Cossacks heroically defended the Azov (“Azov seat” 1637-1642).

Banal drunkenness killed this hero – at the age of 28 he died of cirrhosis of the liver.

In the next article, we will continue our story and talk about the latest victims of the Fatih law.

Casper Löken. The exposition of Sultan Mehmed IV

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