Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent inherited the throne at the age of 26. Sultan Suleiman was the only son of Selim I, who conquered Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Suleiman, who ascended the throne in 1520, ruled the Ottoman Empire for 46 years until 1566.
The young Sultan soon proved to be a man of many talents. Thanks to his achievements in the 16th century, he was known in the Western world as “Suleiman the Magnificent”. In the east, Suleiman was called “The Lawgiver” because of his codex.
Sultan Suleiman’s marriage and his decisions regarding the successor to the throne have been the subject of debate throughout history. In this article you can find Suleiman the Magnificent facts and his achievements.
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Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent Facts
Suleiman The Magnificent had great ideals when he ascended the throne as a young sultan. He wanted to realize the goals of his great grandfather, Sultan Mehmed II. The basis of these goals was to establish a state to be compared with the Roman Empire.
Mehmed II had taken Constantinople and fought the Venetians for supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean. He had marched into the Balkans with his army, and with his navy he had conquered Otranto in southern Italy. Mehmed II (the Conqueror) had come very close to his ultimate goal, Rome.
On the other hand, Selim I, Suleiman’s father, followed a different route. Marching to the East, Selim conquered cities such as Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, which were among the most important cities of the ancient world.
Selim I had fought the Persians and Mamluks to achieve these goals. During this military expedition, he also captured Mecca and Medina, the most important cities of Islamic history. Thereafter, Ottoman sultans would hold the title of Caliph, an honorary Islamic title.
Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, on the other hand, followed the political and cultural developments in Europe closely. Renaissance, reform and geographical discoveries were on Suleiman’s radar and he wanted to be one of the dominating forces in Western politics.
1. Suleiman the Magnificent Achievements
Sultan Suleiman first organized military expeditions to regions where his great-grandfather Mehmed II had failed. For this purpose, he first captured Belgrade. Soon after, he took Rhodes from the Knights Hospitaller in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Janissaries, the elite infantry of the Ottoman Empire, won a decisive victory against the Hungarian army in the Battle of Mohacs. Thus, the army of Sultan Suleiman was at the gates of Vienna.
The achivements of Suleiman the Magnificent had made him an important force in European politics as he had intended. Thus, an alliance was formed with King Francis I of France against the Habsburg Monarchy.
When Hungary, the buffer state between Sultan Suleiman and Western Europe, fell, the Ottoman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire became neighbors. This triggered a rivalry that would last for decades.
The Ottoman sultan Suleiman I and the Holy Roman emperor Charles V entered a struggle for supremacy in the Mediterranean. Hayreddin Barbarossa, Dragut and Piri Reis, the Ottoman admirals in this period, annexed large lands in Africa to the Ottoman Empire.
Pargali Ibrahim Pasha had greatly contributed to the successes of Sultan Suleiman’s early period. The two men had met at the Topkapi Palace when Suleiman was still a prince. They had studied together at the Enderun School located inside the palace.
Ibrahim Pasha was promoted to the Grand Vizier, the highest bureaucratic level of the state, during the reign of Sultan Suleiman. He was called “Pargali Ibrahim” because he was born in the Greek town of Parga. Ibrahim had a Western mindset and had influence over Sultan.
Sultan Suleiman’s achievements in his first ten years had generated great momentum. The Ottoman advance continued until they stopped at the gates of Vienna. The Ottomans returned from the outskirts of Vienna to come again after 150 years.
2. Contemporaries of Sultan Suleiman
The 16th century was a time of very famous rulers. For example, Henry VIII and Elisabeth I of the Tudors in England, Ivan the Terrible in Russia, Francis I in France, and Charles V in the Holy Roman Empire were contemporaries of Sultan Suleiman.
The Franco Ottoman alliance between Sultan Suleiman and Francis I created a great shock in European politics. However, in the long run, this alliance was in the interests of both countries.
While Francis I, king of France, wanted to oppose the hegemony of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the Ottoman sultan Suleiman I was trying to legalize his presence in Europe.
3. Hurrem Sultan, wife of Sultan Suleiman
Throughout Ottoman history, it was rarely seen that sultans made official marriages. However, Sultan Suleiman married Hurrem, who gave him many children, and it is known that he remained monogamous after this marriage.
Hurrem (aka Roxelana) was born in Ruthenia, which was part of the Kingdom of Poland in the past, and is now in Ukraine. She was taken prisoner during the looting of her hometown and somehow ended up in the Palace in Istanbul.
The relationship between Suleiman and Hurrem is one of the most interesting love stories in history. Suleiman, who spent most of his life on the battlefields, wrote letters to Hurrem regularly.
Sultan Suleiman, like many Ottoman sultans, was trained in handicrafts. Suleiman was a skilful goldsmith and had designed most of the rings he made for Hurrem Sultan. It is also known that Suleiman wrote poetry under the pen name “Muhibbi”.
Hurrem Sultan’s influence on the sultan caused the Harem Rooms to be moved from the old palace to the Topkapi Palace. Thus, the influence of women in state affairs in the empire increased. This started the period referred to as the Sultanate of Women in some sources.
Hurrem Sultan’s rising influence in state affairs led to the deterioration of Suleiman’s relations with his prime minister and close friend Pargali Ibrahim Pasha. There are also allegations that Hurrem had some influence on Suleiman’s execution of the crowned prince Mustafa.
If you are interested in this period, you can read this article, which introduces the family of Sultan Suleiman and his wife Hurrem Sultan, and summarizes the events that took place during this period.
4. Magnificent Century TV Series
Sultan Suleiman’s reign was the subject of the TV series Magnificent Century, which was broadcast in Turkey between 2011 and 2014. The series was also released in the Middle East, Russia and Eastern European countries, and increased interest in this period of history.
Halit Ergenc, the most popular actor in Turkey, played the role of Sultan Suleiman in the Magnificent Century TV series. The main characters of the series were Suleiman’s first love Mahidevran and his next wife Hurrem Sultan.
Sultan Suleiman’s comrade Pargali Ibrahim Pasha, his eldest son Mustafa, his daughter Mihrimah Sultan and his son-in-law Rustem Pasha were among the leading figures of the series.
Much of the script coincided with events during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. If you want to have an idea about the events in the series, you can find a summary in the article named Sultan Suleiman and Hurrem Sultan.
5. Legacy of Suleiman the Magnificent
Sultan Suleiman and his close circle left a great legacy to Istanbul. Since this period was the peak of the empire, large mosques, baths and mausoleums could be built.
The fact that an architectural genius named Mimar Sinan became the palace architect in the 16th century added a new dimension to Ottoman architecture. Thus, Sultan Suleiman, his wife Hurrem Sultan, and his daughter Mihrimah Sultan had beautiful works built.
Architectural development in this period continued after Suleiman’s death. Mimar Sinan also served during the reign of Suleiman’s son Selim II and his grandson Murad III. Sinan built the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne (formerly Adrianople) when he was at his best.
Although the most popular work of this period is the Suleymaniye Mosque, the mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul, the list is not limited to this. The legacy of the Suleiman the Magnificent period is spread throughout the Historical Peninsula. (The core of Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople)
If you want to get to know the 16th century, the pinnacle of Classical Ottoman architecture, you can also take a look at the article titled Works of Mimar Sinan in Istanbul. In this article, you can find all the structures built during the reign of Sultan Suleiman.
6. Tomb of Sultan Suleiman
The last years of Sultan Suleiman were restless due to the struggle for the throne between his sons. The sultan, who spent half of his life on the battlefields, led another military expedition, despite his old age and suffering from gout.
Sultan Suleiman died during the Siege of Szigetvár, which lasted about a month. However, it was not disclosed to the army so as not to lower the morale of the soldiers. While the army was returning to the capital, Selim II ascended the throne in Istanbul.
Many Grand Viziers had served in Sultan Suleiman’s long reign. Among them, Ibrahim Pasha and Rustem Pasha remained in office for many years. Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, who was prime minister in Suleiman’s last years, was a brilliant bureaucrat.
Suleiman’s successor Selim II and his grandson Murad III remained in the shadow of the great sultan. However, thanks to the wisdom of Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, the momentum that started during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent continued.
The tomb of Sultan Suleiman is located in the Suleymaniye Mosque in the heart of Old Istanbul. In the same tomb, there is also the beloved daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent, Mihrimah Sultan. His wife, Hurrem Sultan, is buried in a second tomb in the garden.
The tombs in the Suleymaniye Mosque give many clues to Classical Ottoman architecture. Inside the tombs, there are beautiful examples of Iznik Tiles, one of the famous decoration items of the 16th century.
Mimar Sinan, who had a large share in Sultan Suleiman’s contributions to Istanbul, was also buried very close to his master. It is possible to visit the tomb of Mimar Sinan near the Suleymaniye Mosque.
In this article, I shared the facts about Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his achievements. In the history category of this site, you can find the biographies of many important figures who have left their mark on the history of Istanbul.
If you are interested in Ottoman history, you can also review the Ottoman Empire Map article, which describes the history of the Ottoman Empire in the form of a timeline with visual support.
In addition, if you want to read the history of Istanbul through the eyes of the Ottomans, the article called The Story of Ottoman Istanbul, which depicts Istanbul in the Ottoman period through 25 historical buildings, may attract your attention.
Written By Serhat Engul