Ottoman Sultans: Sultan Selim I (1512-1520) “The Grim”

During a fall day in 1470, Sehzade Selim was born at his father’s posting in the Ottoman palace at Amasya. Being the youngest son of Sehzade Bayezid, Selim like his reigning grandfather, Mehmed the Conqueror, was not seen as a major contender for the Ottoman throne. In 1481, Selim’s father Sultan Bayezid II had taken the Ottoman throne for himself against his half-brother, which secured Selim’s future prospects as a Sehzade. At the age of eleven Selim, like with all previous Ottoman Sehzades before him, was assigned a province to govern around the empire and was given an excellent education. Being sent to the coastal city of Trabzon near the Ottoman-Georgian border, Selim during his youth led raids into Georgia which earned him the admiration from the Ottoman military class.

History Of The Sultan Selim In English Full Details

With tensions rising between the sons of Bayezid during the turn of the century, the elderly Sultan Bayezid II tried placating his sons in hope of preventing a civil war, but to no avail. With civil war erupting in 1511, Selim became the first Ottoman Sehzade to raise up arms against his father and overthrow a reigning Ottoman sultan. For Selim, he could not sit idle and watch one of his older brothers take the Ottoman throne as the Qizilbash movement was sweeping all across Anatolia. After gaining the Ottoman throne in the spring of 1512, one of Selim’s first acts as Sultan was to order the deaths of the sons of his brother Sehzade Mahmud who had died back in 1507 before the start of the Ottoman civil war. Meanwhile, Selim’s other brother Sehzade Koukut had stayed loyal and recognized Selim as Sultan which prevented his murder at the hands of his younger brother. However, wanting to test the loyalty of Koukut, Selim sent out fake letters to his brother of Ottoman statesmen requesting Koukut to overthrow his brother and become the new sultan. After learning that Kourkut responded to the letters positively, Selim ordered the death of his brother. In later years Selim would be regretful of Kourkut’s murder and would often visit his brothers’

mausoleum in Bursa in which he would spend hours next to Kourkut’s grave.

Days after the ascension of Sultan Selim I in Constantinople, the eldest son of the former Sultan Bayezid II, Sehzade Ahmed, rose up in rebellion and hailed himself as Sultan in Konya shortly after seizing the city of Bursa.

In response to his brother’s rebellion, Sultan Selim I mustered up an Ottoman force in Constantinople and marched on his brother during the spring of 1513. The sons of Bayezid met near a plain outside the city of Yenisehir which saw the outnumbered forces of Selim prevail against the forces of Ahmed. Sehzade Ahmed would be strangled on the battlefield on the orders of Sultan Selim while his sons fled to the courts of the Safavids and Mamluks.

Who Was Sultan Selim ? Ottoman Empire Sultans History

After establishing his rule over Anatolia, Sultan Selim I would turn his attention to the ever-growing threat of the Safavids. During the early days of Selim’s ascension to the Ottoman throne, `Shite, Alevi, and Pro-Qizilbash groups were persecuted around Anatolia and many were killed in purges marking one of the darkest chapters in Ottoman history. These events and the strict nature of Selim and his civil war against his father earned the Sultan of the Ottomans the nicknames of “Yavuz” by Ottoman historians and “the Grim” by his opponents.

With the pretext of limiting the growth of Shia Islam across the Middle East, during the summer of 1514, Selim launched a massive military campaign against the Safavids. Leaving his son Sehzade Suleyman in control of Anatolia, Selim marched on the capital of the Safavid Empire Tabriz which served only 13 years ago as the birthplace of the Safavid Empire. After weeks of marching, the Ottoman army of Selim would meet the Safavid Army of Ismail on the Chaldiran field in modern-day Iran. The pursuing battle would see the Ottoman army decisively defeat the army of Ismail. One of the reasons for the decisive nature of the battle was due to the Ottoman army being acquired with gunpowder weapons such as cannons and guns against a cavalry-focused Safavid army. After the battle, the Ottoman army entered the Safavid capital of Tabriz, sacked the city, and proceeded to conquer parts of East Anatolia and Northern Iraq from the Safavid Empire. After a full decade of victories and expansion, the Safavid Empire under Ismail I was stopped and crushed by the forces of Selim. The historic rivalry between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires had just begun with Selim’s victory at Chaldiran.

During Selim’s military campaign against the Safavid Empire, the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt prepared its armies against the Ottomans after years of rising tensions. Selim had accused the Suni Mamluks of allying with the Shia Safavids during the Qizilbash crisis and the Ottoman-Safavid War in order to form a resistance front against the Ottomans. After pacifying his new conquests in the east in 1515, Selim made ready for war against the Mamluks. During the summer of 1516, the Ottoman army crossed over into Syria. Unlike the previous Ottoman-Mamluk war which was fought predominantly in the buffer beyliks of Ramazan and Dulkadir, the Ottoman-Mamluk war of 1516 would be fought on Mamluk soil. The two buffer beyliks were quickly conquered 1515 and 151`6 respectively so the Ottoman army under Selim was able to cross into Syria with ease. During the summer of 1516, near the city of Aleppo, an Ottoman army of 60,000 led by Selim met an 80,000 strong Mamluk army led by Sultan Qansuh II.

Just like at Chaldiran, the Ottoman army equipped with gunpowder weapons blew away the Mamluk army, killing the sultan of the Mamluks in the process. Further Ottoman successes against the Mamluks came during the Battle of Younis Khan in Palestine, and the Battle of Ridaniya in Egypt. By the end of January in 1517, the Mamluk capital of Cairo had fallen to Ottoman forces, thus completing Selim’s conquest of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.

Sultan Selim I’s military campaigns against the Safavids and the Mamluks had almost tripled the territorial size of the Ottoman Empire within only three years. In addition to the conquests in the Levant and Egypt, the region of Hejaz including the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina were also incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The Spice Road from India and the Silk Road from China were also firmly in Ottoman hands as they controlled trade from Asia into Europe. Also the last son of Sehzade Ahmed, Sehzade Kasim who had escaped to Egypt after his father’s defeat was killed by Selim, thus securing the Ottoman throne to Selim’s only son and heir, Sehzade Suleyman. Soon after the conquest of Egypt, holy relics and other treasures from the region were transported back to Constantinople to the Topkapi Palace, the imperial home of the Ottoman sultans.

Ottoman Sultans Sultan Selim 1

Upon returning from his eastern campaigns, the Sultan of the Ottomans would begin preparations for another future military campaign. The Ottoman Navy was being prepared for a potential military campaign against the Knights Hospitaller stronghold Island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. The Island was besieged unsuccessfully during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror, which made Selim extra cautious about invading the fortress Island without the proper preparations to undertake such a siege. During 1518, 1519, and 1520 Selim had built major shipyards in Constantinople and Gallipoli which oversaw the construction of over 250 Ottoman naval vessels. However, Selim’s campaign against the Knights Hospitaller was not meant to be.

During the Fall of 1520, the 49-year-old Sultan had developed boils on his back and succumbed to illness after departing Edirne. For 40 days he was encamped at the town of Corlu where he was treated by doctors and physicians but to no avail. Selim after a month of failed treatments sent out word for his son Sehzade Suleyman who was the governor of Manisa to come to Constantinople at once to succeed him to the Ottoman throne. After weeks in pain and misery, Sultan Selim I passed away.

Sultan Selim I would be buried at the Yavuz Selim Mosque in Constantinople where he lays today overlooking the Golden Horn.

Sultan Selim I’s short eight-year reign had seen one of the most dramatic episodes in Ottoman history. There should be no doubt that Sultan Selim I was one of the most successful Sultans in Ottoman History. The Ottoman Empire’s lands were almost tripled, its rulers were now the heads of the Sunni Muslim world, and its imperial treasury filled to the brim.

According to a common Ottoman legend; After sealing the door of the treasury, Sultan Selim I stated to his viziers “Whichever of my grandchildren who can fill up the treasury as I did, let him seal it with his own Tughra, otherwise the Hazine-i Hümayun should be sealed with my Tughra until that day.” The Ottoman imperial treasury left by Sultan Selim I would never be filled to the brim by his successors. The Tughra of Selim I would seal the Ottoman imperial treasury for over 300 years until the Ottoman State declared bankruptcy during the 19th century. The short but significant reign of Sultan Selim I would serve as the Philip of Macedon period of Ottoman History. Like the famous king of Macedon, Sultan Selim I laid the foundations for a golden age for his son to inherit, before dying too soon to be a part of it. When the news of Selim’s death reached Catholic Europe, bells were rung from churches in celebration from Spain to Hungary.

Phrases such as “the Lion is dead, replaced by a lamb” echoed around the continent. However, the so-called lamb inherited by the Ottomans would prove everybody wrong and he would bring upon the military and cultural golden age of the empire. The reign of the magnificent sultan of the Ottomans had just begun.

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