Suleiman I was acknowledged in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in his realm as Suleiman the Lawgiver. He was the eleventh and longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He reigned from 1520 to 1566. The Ottoman caliphate controlled over at least 25 million people during his reign. In September 1520, Suleiman succeeded his father, Selim I, as the sultan and began his rule with battles against Christian kingdoms in central Europe and the Mediterranean. In 1521, he conquered Belgrade; then, in 1522–23, he beat the island of Rhodes. Suleiman defeated Hungary's military might at Mohács in August 1526. Suleiman rose to prominence as a 16th-century European monarch, ruling over the Ottoman Empire's economic, military, and political pinnacle. Before his conquests were interrupted at the siege of Vienna in 1529, Suleiman personally led Ottoman soldiers in seizing the Christian strongholds of Belgrade and Rhodes and much of Hungary. In his struggle with the Safavids, he captured most of the Middle East and significant swaths of North Africa as far west as Algeria. The Ottoman fleet dominated the oceans from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf during his reign. Suleiman personally enacted substantial judicial changes relating to society, education, taxation, and criminal law while at the helm of an expanding empire. His reforms, which he carried out in collaboration with the Empire's leading judicial official, Ebussuud Efendi, brought the two types of Ottoman law together: sultanic (Kanun) and religious (Sharia). He was a renowned poet and goldsmith who became a significant patron of culture, directing the Ottoman Empire's artistic, literary, and architectural development throughout its "Golden" period. Suleiman married Hürrem Sultan, an Orthodox Christian of Ruthenian origin who converted to Islam and became known in the West as Roxelana due to her red hair, defying Ottoman custom. Following Suleiman's death in 1566, their son, Selim II, ascended to the throne after 46 years of dominance. Mehmed and Mustafa, Suleiman's other potential heirs, had died; Mehmed died of smallpox in 1543, and Mustafa was strangled to death on the sultan's orders in 1553. After a mutiny, his other son Bayezid was murdered on Suleiman's orders in 1561 and Bayezid's four sons. Although experts prefer the term "crisis and adaptation" to "decline" after Suleiman's death, the end of his reign marked a turning point in Ottoman history. The Ottoman Empire began to undergo enormous political, institutional, and economic changes in the decades following Suleiman's death, a phenomenon known as the Transformation of the Ottoman Empire.
Suleiman the Magnificent was also known as Suleiman the First (Sulṭān Süleymān-ı Evvel), and Suleiman the Lawgiver (Ḳānūnī Sulṭān Süleymān) for his reform of the Ottoman legal system. It's unclear when Suleiman was originally called Kanunî (the Lawgiver). It is completely missing from Ottoman sources from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and it could be from the early eighteenth century.
Suleiman was born on November 6, 1494, in Trabzon, Turkey, to Şehzade Selim (later Selim I). Hafsa Sultan, a Muslim convert from unknown ancestors who died in 1534, was his mother. Suleiman started studying science, history, literature, theology, and military tactics in the imperial Topkapı Palace schools in Constantinople when he was seven years old. He befriended Pargalı Ibrahim, a slave who became one of his most valued counsellors (who was eventually murdered on Suleiman's orders) while he was a young man. He was named governor of Kaffa (Theodosia) at seventeen, then Manisa, then Edirne for a short time.
Suleiman entered Constantinople after his father (Selim I, r. 1512–1520) died and ascended to the throne as the tenth Ottoman Sultan.
Conquests in Europe
Suleiman began a series of military conquests after replacing his father, culminating in a revolt headed by the Ottoman-appointed governor of Damascus in 1521. Suleiman started making plans to take Belgrade from the Kingdom of Hungary, something his great-grandfather Mehmed II had failed to do due to John Hunyadi's strong defence in the area. Following the defeats of the Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Byzantines, Albanians and Serbs, its acquisition was critical in removing the Hungarians and Croats, who remained the brutal last force capable of stopping further Ottoman gains in Europe. Suleiman ringed Belgrade and launched a series of massive bombardments from a Danube island. Belgrade fell in August 1521, with a garrison of barely 700 soldiers and no help from Hungary. The way to Hungary and Austria was clear, but Suleiman chose to focus his attention on Rhodes, the Eastern Mediterranean island where the Knights Hospitaller call home. Suleiman constructed Marmaris Castle, a considerable stronghold that functioned as a base for the Ottoman Navy. Rhodes capitulated after a five-month siege in 1522, and Suleiman permitted the Knights of Rhodes to leave. The Ottomans lost 50,000 to 60,000 men in battle and sickness during their conquest of the island (Christian claims went as high as 64,000 Ottoman battle deaths and 50,000 disease deaths). When Suleiman was at war in Hungary, Turkmen tribes in central Anatolia (in Cilicia) revolted under the leadership of Kalender Çelebi. Following prior agreements that the Habsburgs would seize the Hungarian crown if Louis died without heirs, some Hungarian nobles requested that Ferdinand, the ruler of neighbouring Austria and married to Louis II's family, be King of Hungary. On the other hand, other aristocrats turned to the nobleman Ioan Zápolya, who Suleiman backed. The Habsburgs reoccupied Buda and took control of Hungary under Charles V. His brother Ferdinand I. Suleiman retaliated in 1529 by marching along the Danube valley and regaining control of Buda autumn; his army besieged Vienna. The most ambitious expedition of the Ottoman Empire and the pinnacle of its Westward expansion. For the first time, the Austrians defeated Suleiman with a garrison of 16,000 troops, setting the seeds of a violent Ottoman–Habsburg rivalry that lasted until the twentieth century. In 1532, his second effort to take Vienna was thwarted when Ottoman forces were held up by the siege of Güns and were unable to reach Vienna. The Ottoman army was beset by inclement weather in both cases, forcing them to abandon vital siege equipment and hampered by overstretched supply lines. A revival of the fight in Hungary in the 1540s gave Suleiman the opportunity to avenge his defeat in Vienna. In 1541, the Habsburgs tried to lay siege to Buda. Still, they were unsuccessful, and the Ottomans conquered more Habsburg fortresses in two consecutive battles in 1541 and 1544, forcing Ferdinand and Charles to sign a humiliating five-year contract with Suleiman. Ferdinand gave up his claim to the Kingdom of Hungary and was forced to pay the sultan a fixed annual payment for the Hungarian territory he still controlled. The pact referred to Charles V as the 'King of Spain,' rather than the 'Emperor,' prompting Suleiman to identify as the actual 'Caesar.' Suleiman's armies besieged Eger, located in the northern section of the Kingdom of Hungary, in 1552. Still, the defenders, led by István Dobó, resisted the attacks and successfully defended Eger Castle.
Suleiman's father had prioritized the conflict with Persia. Suleiman first focused his attention on Europe, satisfied to restrain Persia, which was distracted with its foes to the east. Suleiman turned his attention to Persia, the home of the Shi'a Islamic faction, after stabilizing his European borders. After two episodes, the Safavid dynasty became the primary antagonist. First, Shah Tahmasp assassinated Suleiman's Baghdad governor and replaced him with one of his own. Second, Bitlis' governor had switched to the Safavids and sworn loyalty to them. As a result, Suleiman dispatched his Pargal Ibrahim Pasha to command an army into eastern Asia Minor in 1533, when he retook Bitlis and captured Tabriz without opposition. In 1534, Suleiman joined Ibrahim. They advanced on Persia to discover the Shah surrendering territory rather than fighting pitched combat, relegating the Ottoman army to harassing as it marched into the complex interior. Suleiman made a magnificent arrival in Baghdad in 1535. By repairing the mausoleum of Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanafi school of Islamic law, which the Ottomans followed, he bolstered his local popularity. Suleiman launched a second expedition in 1548–1549 in an attempt to finally overthrow the Shah. Tahmasp, like the previous effort, avoided fighting the Ottoman army and instead chose to flee, employing scorched earth tactics and exposing the Ottoman force to the severe Caucasus winter. Suleiman ended the campaign with short Ottoman successes in Tabriz and the Urmia region, a long-term presence in Van province, Azerbaijan's western part, and some forts in Georgia. Suleiman launched his third and final assault against the Shah in 1553. Suleiman reacted to losing territory in Erzurum to the Shah's son by recapturing Erzurum, crossing the Upper Euphrates, and destroying sections of Persia. The Shah's army maintained its avoidance tactic, resulting in a stalemate in which neither army gained significant ground. A treaty known as the Peace of Amasya was signed in 1555, defining the boundaries of the two empires. Western Armenia, western Kurdistan, and western Georgia (including west Samtskhe) fell into Ottoman hands, while Eastern Armenia, eastern Kurdistan, and eastern Georgia (including eastern Samtskhe) remained in Safavid hands. With possession of much of Iraq, including Baghdad, the Ottoman Empire acquired access to the Persian Gulf. At the same time, the Persians kept their former capital Tabriz and all of their other northwestern Caucasus territories, including Dagestan and all of what is now Azerbaijan, as they were before the wars.
Movements in the Indian Ocean
Since 1518, Ottoman ships have been travelling in the Indian Ocean. Kurtoğlu Hızır Reis, Hadim Suleiman Pasha, Seydi Ali Reis are among the Ottoman admirals known to have visited the Mughal imperial ports of Thatta, Surat, and Janjira. Six documents are known to have been exchanged between Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great and Suleiman the Magnificent. Suleiman launched multiple naval wars against the Portuguese to drive them out of the Mughal Empire and resume trade. In 1538, the Ottomans conquered Aden in Yemen to use it as a springboard for operations against Portuguese territories on the Mughal Empire's western coast. The Ottomans continued sailing, and in September 1538, they were defeated by the Portuguese at the siege of Diu. Still, they returned to Aden and fortified the city with 100 pieces of artillery. Sulayman Pasha was able to take control of the entire country of Yemen, including Sana'a, from this base. Suleiman's substantial reign of the Red Sea enabled him to contest Portuguese dominance of trade channels and retain a significant level of trade with the Mughal Empire throughout the 16th century. During the Conquest of Abyssinia, Suleiman stationed about 900 Turkish soldiers alongside the Somali Adal Sultanate led by Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi from 1526 to 1543. The Ottoman Empire would incorporate the weaker Adal Sultanate into its dominion in 1559, following the first Ajuran-Portuguese conflict. Ottoman power in Somalia and the Horn of Africa was strengthened as a result of this expansion. This helped it compete with the Portuguese Empire and its close ally, the Ajuran Empire, to influence the Indian Ocean. In 1564, Suleiman received an envoy from Aceh, a sultanate on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, requesting Ottoman aid in fighting the Portuguese. As a result, an Ottoman expedition was despatched to Aceh, providing the Acehnese with significant military assistance. Western European states were able to bypass the Ottoman trade monopoly by discovering new marine trade routes. The discovery of the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese in 1488 sparked a series of Ottoman-Portuguese naval battles in the Atlantic during the 16th century. The Ajuran Sultanate, which was associated with the Ottomans, opposed the Portuguese economic monopoly in the Indian Ocean by introducing a new currency modelled after the Ottoman pattern, thus declaring financial independence from the Portuguese.
The Mediterranean and North Africa
Suleiman was welcomed with the news that the castle of Koroni in Morea (modern Peloponnese, peninsular Greece) had been surrendered to Charles V's admiral, Andrea Doria, had consolidated his conquests on land. Suleiman was alarmed by the presence of the Spanish in the Eastern Mediterranean, which he interpreted as an early indication of Charles V's intention to challenge Ottoman authority in the region. Suleiman recruited an extraordinary naval commander in Khair ad-Din, known to Europeans as Barbarossa, to reassert maritime preeminence in the Mediterranean. Barbarossa was given the task of rebuilding the Ottoman fleet after being appointed Admiral-in-Chief. After defeating the Ottomans in Tunis in 1535 with a Holy League of 27,000 soldiers (10,000 Spaniards, 8,000 Italians, 8,000 Germans, and 700 Knights of St. John), Suleiman accepted overtures from Francis I of France to establish an alliance against Charles. Vast swaths of Muslim territory in North Africa have been annexed. The Barbary pirates of North Africa continued piracy after then, which can be seen in the context of Spain's battles. During the Italian Wars in 1542, Francis I wanted to revive the Franco-Ottoman alliance in the face of a shared Habsburg foe. Polin successfully negotiated the terms of the coalition in early 1542, with the Ottoman Empire promising to send 60,000 troops and 150 galleys against the German king Ferdinand's territories, while France pledged to attack Flanders, harass the Spanish coasts with a naval force, and send 40 galleys to assist the Turks in their Levant operations. The Ottomans were furious by the Knights Hospitallers' operations against Muslim vessels when they were re-established as the Knights of Malta in 1530. The latter rapidly gathered another massive army to drive the Knights from Malta. In 1565, the Ottomans invaded Malta, launching the Great Siege of Malta, which lasted from May 18 to September 8 and is depicted vividly in Matteo Perez d'Aleccio's frescoes in the Hall of St. Michael and St. George. At first, it appeared that the war on Rhodes would be repeated, with most of Malta's cities destroyed and half the Knights killed in battle; however, a relief force from Spain entered the battle, resulting in the loss of 10,000 Ottoman troops and the victory of the Maltese citizens.
In the West, Sultan Suleiman was renowned as "the Magnificent," but to his Ottoman subjects, he was always Kanuni Suleiman, or "The Lawgiver." The Shari'ah, or Sacred Law, was the imperial rule, and as the divine law of Islam, it was beyond the sultan's power to amend. However, an element of law known as the Kanuns (canonical legislation), which covered topics such as criminal law, land tenure, and taxation, was solely dependent on Suleiman's will. He gathered all of the verdicts issued by the nine Ottoman Sultans who had come before him. After removing duplications and choosing between contradicting phrases, he created a single legal code, all while remaining mindful of Islam's essential laws. With the help of his Grand Mufti Ebussuud, Suleiman attempted to revise the law to adapt to a quickly changing empire within this framework. The Kanun laws were known as the kanuni Osmani, or "Ottoman laws," when they reached their ultimate form. Suleiman's law code was expected to last over 300 years. For generations, the sultan was instrumental in ensuring the safety of his Empire's Jewish subjects. On the advice of his favourite doctor and dentist, the Spanish Jew Moses Hamon, the sultan issued a firman denouncing blood libels against the Jews in late 1553 or early 1554. Suleiman also adopted new criminal and police regulations, which established a set of sanctions for particular acts and reduced the number of cases needing death or mutilation. Taxes were imposed on various goods and products, including animals, minerals, trade earnings, and import-export charges. Higher medreses provided university-level education, with graduates becoming imams or teachers. Libraries, spas, soup kitchens, houses, and hospitals were among the various facilities that surrounded the courtyards of mosques to benefit the general population.
The Ottoman Empire reached its golden period of cultural development under Suleiman's patronage. At the Imperial seat, the Topkapı Palace, hundreds of imperial artistic groups (Community of the Craftsmen) were controlled. Artists and craftspeople might progress in status within their field after completing an apprenticeship and were paid comparable salaries in quarterly annual increments. The earliest of the papers, dating from 1526, identify 40 groups with over 600 members, demonstrating the scope of Suleiman's patronage of the arts. The sultan's court drew the Empire's most brilliant artisans, both from the Islamic world and newly conquered European areas, resulting in a fusion of Arabic, Turkish, and European cultures. Painters, bookbinders, furriers, jewellers, and goldsmiths were among the court's artisans. Suleiman's encouragement of the arts saw the Ottoman Empire claim its creative legacy, whereas earlier monarchs had been inspired by Persian culture (Suleiman's father, Selim I, penned poetry in Persian).
Suleiman was a talented poet who wrote in Persian and Turkish under the pen name Muhibbi (Lover). Suleiman's poems have been turned into Turkish proverbs, such as the well-known. Although everyone is aiming for the same idea, there are many different versions of the story. In 1543, when his infant son Mehmed died, he wrote a touching chronogram to mark the year: Peerless among princes, my Sultan Mehmed. The Turkish chronogram reads (Şehzadeler güzidesi Sultan Muhammed'üm), with Arabic Abjad numbers totalling 955, which corresponds to 1543 AD in the Islamic calendar. Many notable talents, notably Fuzûlî and Bâkî, enlivened the literary world during Suleiman's reign, in addition to Suleiman's accomplishments. Suleiman was also known for supporting several monumental architectural projects around his realm. Through a succession of projects, including bridges, mosques, palaces, and many philanthropic and social institutions, the sultan hoped to transform Constantinople into the hub of Islamic culture. The best of these were designed by the sultan's top architect, Mimar Sinan, credited with bringing Ottoman architecture to its pinnacle. Sinan oversaw the construction of nearly 300 structures around the Empire, including his two masterpieces, the Süleymaniye and Selimiye mosques. The latter was completed at Adrianople (now Edirne) Suleiman's son Selim II's tenure. Suleiman also reconstructed the Kaaba in Mecca, built a complex in Damascus, and restored the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Walls of Jerusalem (which are the Old City of Jerusalem).
Wives and concubines
Family of Suleiman
Relationship with Hurrem Sultan
Suleiman was smitten by Hurrem Sultan, a Ruthenian harem girl who was then a part of Poland. Because of the palace talk surrounding her, Western diplomats dubbed her "Russelazie" or "Roxelana," referring to her Ruthenian ancestors. She was the daughter of an Orthodox preacher abducted by Tatars in Crimea, sold as a slave in Constantinople, and rose through the Harem ranks to become Suleiman's favourite. Hurrem, a former concubine, was made the sultan's legal bride, much to the surprise of all who watched from the palace and the city. He also allowed Hurrem Sultan to live with him at court for the rest of her life, breaking another tradition. When imperial heirs reached adulthood, they were sent to govern remote provinces of the Empire with the imperial concubine who bore them, never to return unless their progeny succeeded to the throne.
Grand Vizier Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha
Suleiman's buddy Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha had known him since before he acceded to the throne. Ibrahim was a Christian from Parga (in Epirus) who was taken in a raid during the Ottoman–Venetian War in 1499–1503 and most likely sold as a slave to Suleiman in 1514. Suleiman made Ibrahim the royal falconer once he converted to Islam and later advanced him to the Royal Bedchamber's first officer. In 1523, Ibrahim Pasha was promoted to Grand Vizier and Commander-in-Chief of the Armies. Suleiman also bestowed the title of beylerbey of Rumelia (first-ranking military governor-general) on Ibrahim Pasha, granting him the administration of all Ottoman possessions in Europe and command of forces stationed there during wartime. Ibrahim had acquired many enemies in the sultan's court during his thirteen years as Grand Vizier, thanks to his quick climb to power and colossal wealth. A fight between Ibrahim and the finance secretary (defterdar) İskender Çelebi aggravated Suleiman's suspicions about him. Ibrahim persuaded Suleiman to sentence the defterdar to death, resulting in İskender Çelebi's disgrace on intrigue charges. Suleiman's successor, Şehzade Mustafa, was likewise backed by Ibrahim. This sparked a feud between him and Hürrem Sultan, who wanted her sons to take the throne. With the sultan and his wife, Ibrahim gradually fell out of favour. Suleiman sought the advice of his Qadi, who recommended Ibrahim's execution. Instead, the sultan enlisted assassins to strangle Ibrahim while he slept.
Sultan Suleiman had six sons from his two known consorts (Hürrem and Mahidevran); four lived into the 1550s. Mustafa, Selim, Bayezid, and Cihangir were their names. The eldest of these was not Hürrem's son but Mahidevran's. Although there is no evidence to corroborate this, Hürrem is sometimes blamed for the intrigues surrounding the nomination of a successor. Even though she was Suleiman's wife, she had no official public position. This did not, however, stop Hürrem from wielding significant political power. Because the Empire lacked any legal procedures of nominating a successor until the reign of Ahmed I, successions frequently needed the death of contending princes to avoid public turmoil and rebellions. Intrigues against Mustafa began in 1552, when the campaign against Persia began, with Rüstem designated commander-in-chief of the expedition. Rüstem dispatched one of Suleiman's most trusted men to report that, because Suleiman was not in command of the army, the soldiers believed it was time to install a younger prince on the throne; at the same time, he propagated rumours that Mustafa was open to the notion. Suleiman summoned Mustafa to his tent in the Ereli valley the following summer after returning from his campaign in Persia, enraged at what he believed was Mustafa's ambitions to grab the throne. Suleiman's eunuchs attacked Mustafa when he entered his father's tent to speak with him, and after a protracted battle, the mutes killed him with a bowstring. Cihangir is claimed to have died of despair after learning of his half-murder brother's a few months later. Selim and Bayezid, the two surviving brothers, were given charge in various sections of the Empire. However, within a few years, civil war broke out between the brothers, each backed by their respective armies. Selim defeated Bayezid in Konya in 1559 with the help of his father's army, forcing him and his four sons to seek sanctuary with the Safavids. Following diplomatic discussions, the sultan asked that Bayezid be deported or executed by the Safavid Shah. In 1561, the Shah allowed a Turkish executioner to strangle Bayezid and his four sons in exchange for vast sums of wealth, paving the way for Selim's ascension to the throne five years later.
Suleiman, who had left Constantinople to lead an expedition against Hungary, died on September 6, 1566, before the Ottoman victory at the Battle of Szigetvár in Hungary. The Grand Vizier kept back his death a secret during the retreat for Selim II's enthronement. The ill sultan died in his tent the night before his 72nd birthday, just two months before he would have turned 72. The sultan's body was returned to Istanbul for burial, while his heart, liver, and other organs were buried in Turbék, just outside of Szigetvár. A mausoleum built atop the burial spot became known as a holy place and a pilgrimage destination. A mosque and a Sufi hospice were built nearby within a decade, and the location was guarded by a salaried garrison of several dozen men.
Suleiman's legacy began to take shape long before he died. During his reign, literary works glorifying Suleiman and establishing a picture of him as an ideal ruler were commissioned, most notably by Celalzade Mustafa, the Empire's chancellor, from 1534 until 1557. Later Ottoman writers used this idealized image of Suleiman to encourage sultans to follow his model of rulership and keep the Empire's institutions in their sixteenth-century shape in the Near Eastern literary genre of naṣīḥatnāme. Such writers fought against the Empire's political and institutional transition after the middle of the sixteenth century, portraying divergence from the standard as proof of the Empire's demise. Because Western historians failed to recognize that these 'decline writers' were working within a well-established literary genre and often had deeply personal reasons for criticizing the Empire, they took their claims at face value for a long time. As a result, they adopted the idea that the Empire began to decline after Suleiman's death. This viewpoint has been widely reexamined since the 1980s, and modern researchers have come to overwhelmingly reject the idea of decline, calling it an "untrue myth." Suleiman's conquests had brought the Empire important Muslim towns (such as Baghdad), many Balkan provinces (including modern-day Croatia and Hungary), and most of North Africa under his authority. In addition, the Ottoman Turks had gained a significant position in the European power balance due to their advance into Europe. Even thirty years after his death, the English playwright William Shakespeare referred to "Sultan Solyman" as a military prodigy in The Merchant of Venice. The Moroccan Prince brags about his skill, claiming to have beaten Suleiman in three battles. Suleiman reigned over a Golden Age in Ottoman arts, witnessing tremendous achievement in architecture, literature, art, religion, and philosophy, thanks to the distribution of official patronage. The Bosphorus skyline and the skylines of numerous cities in modern Turkey and former Ottoman regions are still ornamented by Mimar Sinan's architectural masterpieces. Suleiman's last resting place is the Süleymaniye Mosque, buried in a domed mausoleum next to the mosque. Nonetheless, historians have repeatedly fallen prey to the Great Man view of history while assessing Suleiman's reign. Suleiman's administrative, cultural, and military achievements were a result of the many talented figures who served him, including grand viziers Ibrahim Pasha and Rüstem Pasha, the Grand Mufti Ebussuud Efendi, who was instrumental in legal reform, and chancellor and chronicler Celalzade Mustafa, who was instrumental in bureaucratic expansion and construction. In addition, Suleiman is depicted on one of the 23 relief portraits that hang over the gallery doors of the House Chamber of the United States Capitol, depicting historical personalities who contributed to the development of American legal ideas.