Sultan Selim II
After the death of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who rose the Ottoman Empire to its great extent, only Prince Selim II was alive. So, Prince Selim II became the 11th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire on 07th September 1566 CE at the age of 42. He was the son of Sultan Suleiman and the Hurrem Sultan. He was the 90th Caliph of Islam. Luckily he was rewarded with the services of a brilliant and faithful Vizier Mehmed Sokollu Pasha. He proved a great helping hand to Sultan in handling the matters of the empire.
Persian Resistance and the Vizier Suggestions
The ruler of Khwarazm complained Sultan Selim about the ruler of Persia that he arrested the pilgrims of Turkestan just because they are passing through his state and after being captured by Moscow, pilgrims are also not allowed to pass through Astrakhan. So, he asked Sultan for help and to conquer Astrakhan to open the doors to pilgrims. His request was accepted and the Grand Vizier also offered two more suggestions.
One suggestion was to join the river Volga and Don by a canal. With this method, the Ottomans Naval force would be able to enter the Caspian Sea and attacked Persia. But for this purpose, it was necessary to conquer Astrakhan. So, a host of Janissary consisting of 25,000 warriors moved towards Azov in 1568 CE, where 30,000 Crimean also joined them. For conquering Astrakhan, they collide with the Russians. The Ottomans Army couldn’t conquer this city and while coming back, they lost most of their warriors in a storm while passing through the Black Sea. Russia wasn’t able to attack the Ottomans, therefore, there was a reconciliation between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. After this reconciliation, they didn’t face each other in the battlefield for the next whole century.
The second suggestion of Vizier Sokollu was to dig a canal in order to join the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea so that the Ottomans ships could enter the Red Sea easily. But this suggestion was also postponed for an unknown duration because there started a rebellion in Yemen and Ottomans had to send a host in the command of Sunnan Pasha. He succeeded in crushing this rebellion and Yemen, Aden and Sana’a became the permanent part of the Ottoman Empire. In order to take Tunisia from Spain, a naval host in the command of Aluj Pasha, the ruler of Algeria, was sent towards it in 1569 CE. Aluj Pasha successfully took Tunisia by defeating the Spanish but the Spanish army was besieged in the fort and occupied it till 1574 CE. Afterward, this city was conquered completely.
In 1570 CE, Sultan Selim II decided to conquer Cyprus. This Island was under the control of Venice which was the competitor of the Ottoman Empire. Because of this reason, Vizier Sokollu Pasha was against this suggestion. According to some historians, Sultan Selim II invaded Cyprus because its natural wine of the fruits was of much good quality. But the British historian, Caroline Finkel says that there was still a competition between Venice and the Ottoman Empire but they avoided war. She also says that according to Ottoman historians of that age Venice helped those pirates who invaded the Ottomans ships heading towards Egypt. This urged Sultan Selim II to conquer Cyprus. So, in 1570 CE, Ottomans attacked Cyprus with 100,000 warriors under the command of Mustafa Pasha. But the defenders of this city fought with valor. After a long time under siege, they surrendered on August 1571 CE and the Ottomans conquered Cyprus too.
Battle of Lepanto
After this victory, the Ottoman Empire became an apple of the bad eyes in all other empires of Europe. In this regard, they decided to weaken the Ottoman’s naval power. For this purpose, an alliance was created by the Christian states alongside the Mediterranean Sea under the supervision of the commander of Austria Don Juan (Don John). The Ottomans Naval host was in Lepanto under the command of the Sea Minister (Emir-ul-Behr) Ali Pasha. Both the naval armies faced each other in Lepanto on 7th October 1571 CE. Within few hours, Ottoman had to face a huge defeat in the Battle of Lepanto and Ali Pasha was killed. In this war, 30,000 Turks were martyred. The Ottomans Naval fleet was occupied by the Christians and many ships sunk down. Because of this defeat, Ottomans control over the Mediterranean Sea got weakened as compared to the Christians. But Ottoman started to overcome this disaster without wasting time.
Sultan Selim II took part in the construction of the naval fleet again with great enthusiasm. For this purpose, he spent his own money even that the royal garden was sold in order to complete this project as soon as possible. Within a very short time, a new naval fleet was ready for action. The vast alliance got frightened by the unexpected preparation of the Ottomans. So, Venice made reconciliation with the Ottoman Empire on very insulting conditions. After huge defeat in Lepanto, Ottoman Empire’s main purpose was to conquer the holy cities and sacred places. By empowering their Navy, Ottomans succeeded in creating a strong army to rescue the sacred places. Along with these preparations, Sultan Salim II set the clever guards for the protection of the holy cities Mecca and Medina.
All Sultans of the Ottoman Empire took great interest in serving Islam. Sultan Selim II, like his ancestors, kept following this tradition and served Sacred Hejaz a lot especially the Harem. According to Caroline Finkel, Verandah of the Harem was reconstructed as per Ottomans style. The Selimiye Mosque was also built in the reign of Sultan Selim II in Edirne. Mosques, libraries, markets, eating places, hospitals and a cemetery was also constructed. According to a famous tourist of 17th century, Sultan Selim II built the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne instead of Istanbul because he dreamt of Hazrat Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) saying him to do so. During his reign,Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent used to come to the royal court for a short time. But during Sultan Selim II’s reign, this tradition was empowered. He was the first Sultan who spent most of the time in the court of the palace. Because of this, the doors of speculation opened at the character of Sultan Selim II. That’s why most of the historians wrote about him as a Drunken. At the same time, some historians have rejected these views about him.
Sultan Selim II returned all wealth and belongings of Mahidevran Sultan which was occupied in the reign of Sultan Sulieman. And also restored her royal rank. When Sultan Selim II came into power, the area of the Ottoman Empire was 14,893,000 sqkm. During the reign of Selim II, the expansion of the Ottoman Empire continued. When Sultan Selim II died on 15th December 1574 CE at age of 50, the area of the Ottoman Empire was 15,193,000 sqkm. Western historians claimed that he died because of drinking wine excessively. But the Muslim historians wrote that he slipped in the washroom and fell down. After some days struggling with this accident, he died. He was buried in the Mausoleum in Hagia Sophia Mosque, Istanbul.
Sultan Selim II married to Nurbanu Sultan in 1545 CE. Sultan Selim’s sons named Murad III, Prince Mehmed, Prince Abdullah, Prince Cihangir, Prince Mustafa, Prince Osman, and Prince Suleiman. And five daughters named as Ismihan Sultan, Gevherhan Sultan, Sah Sultan, Fatma Sultan, and Ayse Sultan.
References & Sources:
- “Sultanate Usmania” by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Sallabai
- “Dolat-e-Usmania” by Dr. Muhammad Uzair
- “Osman’s Dream” by Caroline Finkel