The recent events around the situation in the Middle East, which were initiated by the “sultan” of modern Turkey, Recep Erdogan, forced all kinds of experts to analyze the actions of this politician. At the same time, the researchers approached the process of analysis from various angles: from simple self-interest in the energy market to the old, and therefore traditional Turkish imperial complexes, which the West also traditionally used in its games. However, it seems that they have forgotten about several options of the Turkish rulers. The options of Turkish rule have always included the possibility of an inadequate approach to decision-making, complete ignorance of possible consequences and desperate intrigue.
So, Selim II, the son of the famous Suleiman I the Magnificent, who became the protagonist of many cheap serials for divorced ladies, went down in history not only under his nickname – the Drunkard, but as petty tyranny and a tendency to self-confidence.
Selim and his “gray eminence” – a wine merchant
Selim ascended the throne after the death of his famous father and with the support of Joseph Nasi, whose figure will have a tremendous impact on the Sultan. Nasi, in fact, was the gray cardinal of the Ottoman Empire in those years. Joseph, a Jew by birth, changed more than one name and traveled a lot because of his own ethnicity, so over time he became well versed in diplomacy, banking, which his family was partly involved in, and commerce. The son of a Portuguese court physician liked Suleiman II, so he was invited to Constantinople and took up a number of high posts, including the position of a diplomat.
Sultan Selim II
But Joseph himself liked one of Suleiman’s children – Selim. Even before his ascension to the throne, accompanied by the execution of Selim’s brother Bayazid, Joseph indulged the young man’s passions in every possible way. Having an extensive network of commercial agents, Joseph obtained not only information, but also the best food for Selim II. Whole carts with the best wines and snacks went as a gift to the future sultan from Nasi. Some time later, Joseph was unusually favored by the new ruler – he was appointed a member of the guard of honor, the ruler of the city of Tiberias (now Tiberias in northeastern Israel), and later became the duke of the island of Naxos (the Cyclades, currently owned by Greece). In addition, Joseph received a monopoly on the wine trade throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Thus, Nasi wielded tremendous power. In addition, she was emphasized by the fact that Selim was not at all like his father. Military affairs were of little interest to him, and he did not go on campaigns, giving this right to his viziers. With much more enthusiasm, Selim visited his harem and pounced on another cart of “gifts” from Joseph. However, it is difficult to call Selim an alcoholic, of course, but this passion for his abundant libations will become one of the reasons for unleashing a war, which, on the one hand, will precede his death, and on the other hand, will become the decline of a powerful favorite.
Reign from the harem
In fact, the Ottoman Empire during the period of Sultan Selim was ruled by two rival persons – Mehmed Sokollu and the above-described Joseph Nasi. At the same time, the conquest campaigns of the Turks continued while Selim basked among his concubines and enjoyed wine. So, with his approval in 1569, a campaign was undertaken against Astrakhan, during which the Turks planned to dig a channel between the Volga and the Don, which would be of major strategic importance in future expansion.
The commander of the campaign was Kasim Pasha, under whose command there was an army of about 20 thousand soldiers, including the janissaries and irregular units. Later they united with the troops of the Crimean Khan Devlet-Giray and moved to Astrakhan, and the workers who were in the ranks of the military expedition began to dig the future canal.
But the expedition turned out to be a complete failure. The commanders could not take into account the weather conditions, did not achieve coordination with the Crimean troops and local Nogais and Tatars, as well as their own fleet. In addition, it was not possible to achieve the necessary supply of troops, so soon the soldiers revolted, and the workers also revolted.
After the failure of the Astrakhan campaign, which was partly initiated by the grand vizier Mehmed Sokollu, the sultan became more lenient towards his rival, Joseph. Meanwhile, Joseph was already hatching plans for a war against Venice at the head of a whole party within the Ottoman Empire, dreaming of Cypriot land, which Venice actually owned. There were, of course, many reasons for the outbreak of the war. This is competition with Venice, and the natural inertia of the empire to the growth of possessions, and the wealth of the island, and the presence of Cypriot pirates who robbed Muslim ships.
But Joseph’s reasons are more hidden. Some believed that Nasi had a purely ethnic dislike for Venice, which, among others, sometimes persecuted Jews. Other sources say that Selim conferred the title of King of Cyprus on his favorite in absentia. However, Nasi’s status and the ramification of his interests suggest that his desire to start a war could be dictated by a dozen different reasons.
At the same time, according to legend, Joseph Nasi, being a monopolist in the wine trade of the Ottoman Empire, hoped to get full possession of the Cypriot wine trade, whose fame went throughout the Mediterranean. According to the same legend, one of the arguments that eventually persuaded the sultan to start a war was just Cypriot wine. Of course, the argument seems ridiculous and far-fetched already in mythology. However, there is still a degree of objectivity in this, since for Selim such an argument, expressed in private, would be quite logical. After all, it is Selim who is credited with the following words:
“The true happiness of a king or emperor does not lie in military labors or glory gained in battles, but in inaction and peace of mind, in enjoying all the pleasures and comfort in palaces full of women and jesters, and in their fulfillment of all desires. whether it is jewels, palaces, indoor camps and stately buildings. “
Joseph Nasi and his aunt Grazia
One way or another, the Cyprus war began. The Sultan, out of habit, watched her from afar, periodically from the harem with a glass of wine in his hand. Direct hostilities were led by Lala Mustafa Pasha (mentor of the sons of the Sultan, nicknamed the Cypriot Conqueror) and Piyal Pasha (admiral and second vizier of the Sultan). The ubiquitous Nasi also played a role. So, it was his agents who were suspected of organizing the undermining of the Venetian shipyards, however, the sabotage had few consequences than was later reported to the Sultan.
In 1570, the Ottomans attacked Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. The war lasted until 1573. The Ottomans captured all the important cities of Cyprus and even ravaged the island of Hvar in the Adriatic (now it belongs to Croatia). The people of Nasi also took part in the battle, in particular, Francisco Coronello, who actually commanded the personal fleet of the powerful Joseph. It would seem that the sultan and his clever favorite could celebrate victory if the results of the war were not so ambiguous in view of the colossal defeat of the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto. This defeat inflicted enormous damage on the Ottoman Empire and its invincible reputation at sea. It was impossible to speak of any dominance in the Mediterranean by the Ottomans now.
Sunset Selim and his favorite
In part, the outbreak of the Cypriot War was one of those dominoes that, falling, eventually led to the weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the late 17th century. From the beginning of the middle of the 16th century, the Ottomans entered a period of uprisings and intrigues, which was facilitated by Selim, who was resting on his laurels. His tyranny and immoderation in passions led to a shameful end.
Battle of Lepanto
The favorite, who continued to feed his benefactor with wine and food, without taking into account his far from young age, went a little too far. As a result, in 1574, 51-year-old Selim died in Topkapi Palace, drowning drunk in the bathtub of his own harem. The death was hidden for several days so that the son of Selim Murad could come to the capital. Upon the arrival of the heir, who was proclaimed Murad III, all his younger rival brothers were killed. Nasi’s opponent Mehmed Sokollu played a significant role in this.
Murad III continued to rule in the style of his father. However, Joseph Nasi lost all his influence at court. For him, of course, they left their former positions and his income almost did not decrease, but it was impossible to dream of the former brilliance. Nasi could no longer fully protect the rights of Jews in the empire and build rabbinical schools. He barely retained his past patronage. Joseph, who once influenced the politics of all of Europe, spent the rest of his life in seclusion away from business, fearing for his life. Immediately after the death of Nasi in 1579, Sultan Murad seized all his property. Ironically, in the same year 1579, Nasi’s main competitor, Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokollu, also died at the hands of assassins.