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The origins of the Ottomans are indicated by early tales of the Oghuz and Turks attributed to the soothsayer Dede Korkut. According to historian Rashid al-Din (d. 1318), Dede Korkut went on an embassy for Oghuz Khan Inal Syr Yavkuy to the prophet Muhammad and was converted to Islam but lived to be 295 years old. The Oghuz migrated west from the Altai mountains and Lake Baikal to the Caspian Sea region. They became Muslims and helped the Seljuq family conquer Persia and Anatolia in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The army of the early Ottoman dynasty was mostly Oghuz. The Book of Dede Korkut was finalized about 1400 but describes the primitive life of the early warriors in heroic terms. The Oghuz warriors prided themselves on telling the truth, courage in battle, and family loyalty. They were devoted to the one God of their Muslim religion and had no qualms about "cutting off heads" and taking booty from infidels. Even a princess could fight in battle or wrestle a prospective husband. The wisdom of Dede Korkut noted, "When a man has wealth as massive as the black mountain, he piles it up and gathers it in and seeks more, but he can eat no more than his portion."2
The most important Oghuz relationship was between father and
son. In the story of Dirse Khan's son Boghach, forty jealous warriors
slander Boghach, causing the father to shoot his son with an arrow
for supposed immorality. The boy is nursed back to health by his
mother and is reunited with his father. In these tales the just
win their rewards, but the unjust are disgraced. The heroes often
win phenomenal victories over the unbelievers or monsters, sometimes
for the love of a princess. An Oghuz warrior tells the son of
Ushun Koja that every noble has to win his place with his sword
and bread, asking him, "Have you cut off heads and spilled
blood? Have you fed the hungry and clothed the naked?"3 Young
Egrek replies that if this is a clever thing to do, he would like
to go on a raid. Egrek is captured by six hundred infidels, but
he is rescued by his brother Segrek and is brought home to his
Ahmad ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) was a religious critic in Syria and Egypt. He was arrested at various places for his decrees and writings, and he spent the last two years of his life in prison at Damascus. In his Book on Religious Law he argued that Islam is superior to Judaism and Christianity because the religious duty of commanding right and forbidding wrong is made effective by the power and authority of a leader (imam). Yet the ruler is morally and legally obligated to consult with others, and even the executive is subordinate to Islamic law.
The founder of the Ottoman dynasty was Osman Ghazi (r. 1299-1326), son of Ertoghrul, whose band of warriors converted to Islam and grew from four hundred to four thousand. Ghazi implies a holy warrior for Islam, and Osman's army managed to defeat a Byzantine force of 2,000 men at Baphaeon in 1301. After a nine-year siege, Brusa (Bursa) was conquered the year Osman died. He was succeeded by his son Orkhan (r. 1326-60), who was chosen by Osman for his military ability over his scholarly older brother Ala-ed-Din. Traveler Ibn Battuta called Orkhan the greatest of the Turkman kings, noting that his wealth included a hundred fortresses. Orkhan defeated the Byzantine army of Andronicus III at Pelekanon in 1329 and took over Nicaea two years later. Raiding in the Aegean Sea by a Turkish navy led by Umur Bey caused the Christian nations to begin planning a crusade in 1332. Nicomedia fell to the Turks in 1337.
The Ottomans tolerated Christians, but only Muslims were obligated to serve in the military and thus could have tenure over tax-free land. While Orkhan led the military conquests, Ala-ed-Din organized the Ottoman government in a civilized way. The Ottomans drove out the Greek and Latin landlords that had oppressed the peasants, who found their taxes were lower when the Turkish Sultan "owned" their lands. Bordering lands could be held by Christians if they became vassals of the Sultan and paid tribute; but the Turks outlawed using the forced labor of peasants by feudal lords or monasteries. The Ottomans encouraged immigration, and many nomad Turks settled in Europe. The motive of holy war (ghaza) continually expanded their empire into Christian lands; but they needed a legal decree (fatwa) from an Islamic cleric ('ulama) to justify attacking other Muslims.
Orkhan gave John Cantacuzenus military aid and married his daughter Theodora in 1346. About 6,000 Turkish troops had crossed over into Europe the previous year and ravaged Thrace, besieging Constantinople and enabling Cantacuzenus to return there in 1347. Three years later the Ottoman cavalry helped Cantacuzenus dislodge Serbian Dushan from Salonika; but the Turks did not stay in Europe, returning to Asia Minor with their booty. In 1352 the Ottomans granted their first commercial capitulation to Genoa. The next year Orkhan's son Sulayman Pasha led an Ottoman force that captured the fortress of Tzympe near Gallipoli, which was occupied by the Turks after a devastating earthquake in 1354. The Ottomans made an alliance with the Genoese that year and also took over Ankara. Sulayman Pasha extended their conquests west and cut off Constantinople from Adrianople; but he died in a horse accident. When Theodora's son Khalil was captured by pirates in 1357, his father Orkhan ordered John V to besiege Phocaea. However, John could not persuade his Byzantine navy to maintain the siege, and in 1359 he made a treaty with Orkhan acknowledging his holdings in Thrace.
Orkhan's son Murad I (r. 1361-89) and the Turks spread terror by taking Demotika and massacring the garrison at Chorlu. Adrianople submitted and replaced Bursa as the Ottoman capital Edirne. The Turks defeated the Serbians and Hungarians at the Maritza River in 1364. Two years later Amadeo of Savoy answered a papal crusade and regained Gallipoli before sailing into the Black Sea to attack Bulgarian Christians. He also fought Greeks who would not submit to the Roman Church. However, Sultan Murad accepted thousands of Christian troops into his army and exempted them from taxation on the imperial lands allotted to them. The Turks enslaved those captured in war if they did not convert to Islam, and the Ottoman government received one-fifth of their value; many Greeks bought their freedom. Orkhan had begun the devshirme practice of training enslaved Christian boys to be Muslim soldiers called Janissaries; they were selected for their ability and were strictly disciplined to serve the Sultan, not being allowed to marry, own property, or do other work. Christians criticized this system of military slavery.
By 1369 the Ottomans had taken over the Maritza valley and most of southern Bulgaria, making Shishman a vassal. The Serbian army was defeated again at the Maritza in 1371, and the Turks conquered eastern Macedonia, colonizing Drama and Serres and converting their churches into mosques. Murad was the Sultan who had his son Sauci blinded and ordered the same done to the Greek rebels. In the 1380s the Ottoman empire extended into Serbia by taking several major cities; resistance in Anatolia was crushed at Konya in 1387, and they completed the conquest of Bulgaria in 1388. However, Murad was assassinated prior to the Turks' climactic victory over the Serbians at Kosovo in 1389.
Murad's son Bayezid I (r. 1389-1402) was called the Thunderbolt and began his reign by having his brother Yaqub strangled with a bowstring so that the popular commander would not challenge his rule. After killing many Serbian nobles at Kosovo, Bayezid made an alliance with Prince Lazar's son Stephen Bulcovitz, who paid tribute from Serbian silver mines and provided Serbian troops for the Ottoman army, sharing in the booty. In 1390 Bayezid got the Byzantines to help his army defeat the Karamanids and the last Greek city in Asia Minor, Philadelphia. After invading Bulgaria and blockading Constantinople, Bayezid was the first Turk to cross the Danube and raid Hungary, supporting Wallachians who wanted to revolt from Hungarian rule. King Sigismund reacted by invading Bulgaria and capturing Nicopolis, though he was soon driven from there by the Ottoman army. Not trusting his vassal Shishman, Sultan Bayezid had him executed and annexed Bulgaria to his Ottoman empire. Bayezid besieged Constantinople, and Emperor Manuel II had to accept a Muslim quarter in his capital under an Islamic tribunal; 6,000 Ottoman troops were garrisoned at Galata. The Turks then conquered Thessalonica and raided Morea. Hungarian King Sigismund's crusade of 1396 was defeated at Nicopolis after the French led a foolish advance; ten thousand were killed as Bayezid had many prisoners beheaded.
Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) was born in 1336 south of Samarqand in Transoxiana and became the leader of the Jagatai tribes, becoming sovereign at Balkh in 1369. Timur was a brilliant strategist and a ruthless warrior. In the next thirty years he led his mobile army in numerous conquests, including over the Golden Horde of Mongols who had been ruling in Russia. He conquered Persia before 1386, and his army of perhaps 800,000 men gained the attention of Bayezid in Anatolia by executing captured Ottomans at Erzinjan. In 1395 while Bayezid was in the Balkans, Timur's forces captured the city of Siwas and massacred 120,000 captives. He then defeated the Egyptian army and had the people of Aleppo slaughtered. In 1398 he crossed the Indus River, and his army sacked Delhi.
The restless Timur quickly returned to his capital at Samarqand and destroyed the rest of the Egyptian army at Damascus. Only a plague of locusts prevented Timur from conquering Jerusalem and Egypt. He conquered "impregnable" Baghdad in 1401; after sparing the lives of imams, scholars, and children, Timur ordered his 90,000 soldiers each to bring a decapitated head as the rest of the inhabitants were slaughtered. He sent messages to his fellow Muslim Bayezid about his encroachments on the western part of his empire; but Bayezid's haughty replies led in 1402 to the battle at Ankara. Bayezid was criticized for his licentiousness that set a bad example and for not paying his soldiers. After the Tatars in the Ottoman army went over to Timur's side, Bayezid was defeated and captured. Timur humiliated the former sultan by keeping him in an iron cage and making Bayezid's wife serve them naked until Bayezid died the next year, probably by suicide. Also in 1402 Timur drove the Knights of Rhodes out of Smyrna. He let his son and grandson rule Samarqand and died on his way to China in 1405.
Bayezid's son Musa was also captured in the battle of Ankara; but his other three sons escaped and began a civil war that lasted a decade. In 1405 Sulayman attacked and killed his brother 'Isa. The next year Musa attacked the combined force of Sulayman and the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II in Thrace; but when Musa's Serbians and Bulgarians deserted, Sulayman occupied Edirne. Sulayman married a granddaughter of Manuel but lost the Janissaries because of his drinking and debauchery. In 1409 Musa used Turks and Wallachians to attack Sulayman, who fled and was later killed when he was found sleeping off a binge. Another brother Mehmed was ruling Bursa and was allied with Emperor Manuel. After the Janissaries deserted him, Musa's army was defeated; he was captured, and Mehmed ordered him bowstrung. The youngest brother Qasim was a hostage of Manuel.
Mehmed I (r. 1413-21) was called the Gentleman, and he made peace with envoys from Venice, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Wallachia. In 1416 he allowed the Knights of Rhodes to build a castle in Lycia for those fleeing from Muslims. That year he went to war with Venice because their ships were plundering Turkish coasts; but the Turks were badly defeated as 27 of their vessels were captured. Mehmed had several forts erected along the Danube and brought Ottoman organization to that conquered region. When he tried to do the same for the Serbs, Hungarian King Sigismund attacked and defeated the Turks between Nish and Nicopolis in 1419. Young Mehmed had a fit and died when he fell from his horse at Edirne. He was succeeded by his son Murad.
Murad II (r. 1421-51) began his reign by besieging Constantinople in 1422; but he had to abandon this to quell a challenge to his throne by Mustafa, who had captured Gallipoli. After defeating Mustafa, Murad made a treaty with Byzantine Emperor John VIII in 1423 and resided at Edirne (Adrianople). The Turks fought the Venetians for the next seven years over Salonika (Thessalonica), which was captured in 1430 as the Turks sold 7,000 of its inhabitants into slavery; a treaty allowed Venice trading rights in the Ottoman empire. Murad had signed a truce with Hungary in 1428, and the princes of Wallachia, Serbia, and Bosnia swore allegiance to the Sultan.
Hungarian King Sigismund died in 1437, and the next year Murad invaded Transylvania, capturing Semendria and driving out its despot George Brankovich. Serbia was annexed to the Ottoman empire in 1439, but Murad's siege of Belgrade failed. Further Turkish raids into Transylvania were defeated by John Hunyadi, who captured Nish and Sofia. After stopping this army, Murad agreed on a treaty with Hungary's Vladislav and Serbia's George Brankovich in June 1444; but Hunyadi refused to sign. Murad gained a fatwa from an Egyptian 'ulama in order to subdue Karaman for having collaborated with Christians. After accomplishing that, he retired and let young Mehmed II rule.
Cardinal legate Julian Cesarini declared that an oath made to an infidel was not binding, and a crusade was organized against the advice of Hunyadi. The Janissaries at Edirne revolted and gained a raise in pay. Murad's son Mehmed II was only twelve years old and ordered his father to lead the army. About 20,000 Christians met some 60,000 Turks at Varna in November 1444 and were defeated. Vladislav was killed, but Hunyadi escaped. Albanians led by Alexander Bey (Scanderbeg) fought the Turks, and Pope Nicholas V urged the Hungarians and Poles to battle the Muslims also. Hunyadi was appointed to lead an army of 24,000 but did not wait for Scanderbeg and was defeated at Kosovo in 1448 by a large army as 40,000 Turks were killed. Scanderbeg managed to defeat the Turkish army several times, defended Kroja, and fought on for two decades.
After Murad II died, Mehmed II (r. 1451-81) had to choose between the advice of Vizier Chandarli Kahlil Pasha, who warned him not to provoke the western Christians, and Zaganuz Pasha, who urged him to conquer Constantinople. Mehmed, who became known as the Conqueror, began his reign by having his infant brother Ahmad murdered, arguing that this was necessary for the peace and order of the world. After making a treaty with the Byzantine Emperor, Mehmed went to quell a rebellion by the Karamanids. While preparing to besiege Constantinople, he made peace with Venice and Hunyadi. A fortress was built in 1452; a Turkish navy of 125 ships was built, and two large Venetian galleys were captured. The next spring a huge cannon manufactured at Edirne hurled projectiles weighing over a thousand pounds to blast the walls of the Byzantine capital. After six weeks the stockade was damaged enough for the Turks to invade the city and kill the last Byzantine Emperor. Three days of pillaging ensued, but Mehmed ordered St. Sophia to be converted into a mosque. The last patriarch had fled to Italy in 1451, and Mehmed appointed the monk Gennadius, also known as the scholar George Scholarius, allowing the Christians to use the Church of the Holy Apostles. Orthodox Christians were encouraged to return to the city, now called Istanbul; within a generation the Jews also had their own millet (nation) in the Ottoman capital.
Mehmed II promulgated state laws that were enforced along with the Shari'a (Islamic law) by the local qadis (judges). He ordered a large market built in Istanbul and repaired roads, bridges, and aqueducts. Pious foundations (waqfs) were funded to provide social services in public buildings, mosques, trading facilities, lodgings for travelers, baths, schools, and hospitals. The Sultan collected large revenues by allowing private individuals to have provincial monopolies on such items as salt, soap, and candle-wax. In 1454 Mehmed granted Venice freedom of trade, and their customs duty was fixed at two percent; this was raised to four percent in 1460. Genoese colonies on the Black Sea were forced to pay tribute as the Turks occupied them; the tribal leaders cooperated because the Turks protected them from the Genoese and the Golden Horde of Mongols in the north.
Mehmed the Conqueror was intent on eliminating any threatening king and began by subduing Serbia; but in 1456 his army of 100,000 was not able to conquer the Hungarians aided by Hunyadi and the crusading monk Capistrano at Belgrade. Serbian despot George Brankovich died in 1458, and the next year Serbia was annexed by the Ottoman empire. Moldavia also paid tribute. Mehmed tried to subjugate Morea in 1458 and returned two years later. During his second campaign the Paleologus prince Demetrius fled and then surrendered the city of Mistra. The other prince Thomas tried to resist by appealing to Venice but then also fled. Venice held onto some cities, but the Turks took over Athens. Trebizond on the Black Sea was conquered by 1461, and many captives were sold into slavery or raised as Janissaries. The remaining males of the Comnene family were massacred.
Hunyadi's son Matthias Corvinus had succeeded Ladislas V as king of Hungary in 1458, and he made an alliance with the cruel Vlad Dracul of Wallachia in 1461. Vlad was called the Impaler for torturing to death 25,000 prisoners in that manner. His forces won some surprise victories against the Ottomans but were eventually defeated and sold into slavery. Sultan Mehmed II invaded Bosnia in 1463 after King Stjepan Tomashevich was crowned by Pope Pius II and withheld tribute. Mehmed saw to it personally that Stjepan was beheaded. Albania was invaded in 1466. The Sultan also intervened on the side of Shahsuwar in a conflict with his brother Budak over the throne of Albistan in 1467. Shahsuwar resisted pressure from Egypt's Mamluk Qait Bay but was captured and executed in 1472. Budak Beg then ruled Albistan as Qait Bay's vassal until Mehmed managed to establish Budak Beg's younger brother 'Ala ad-Daula in 1480.
When Greeks surrendered the castle at Argos to the Ottomans in 1463, Venice counter-attacked, launching a war with the Ottoman empire that would last until 1479. Venetians tried to assassinate Mehmed II fourteen times. By 1468 Mehmed had annexed the Anatolian territory of Karaman, but in 1471 Persian ruler Uzun Hasan invaded Anatolia and the next year joined the alliance with Venice, Cyprus, and the Knights of Rhodes, pillaging the city of Tokat. Mehmed gathered his Turkish army of perhaps a hundred thousand and defeated the Persian forces at Bashkent, causing Uzun Hasan to make peace. After having faced the Persian threat, the Crimea became a vassal state of the Ottomans in 1475. Mehmed turned west and approached Venice, besieging the castle at Scutari in 1474 and 1478. Venice finally surrendered Scutari, Croia, and the islands of Lemnos and Negroponte (Euboea) to the Ottomans for trading rights. Venice also agreed to pay 100,000 gold ducats and 10,000 a year, but the latter was canceled in 1482 by Bayezid II. In 1480 the Turks even crossed over to the heel of Italy as they attacked Otranto. They ruined the city of Rhodes but were unable to take it from its valiant knights. Bellini painted a portrait of Mehmed while he was ill before the sultan died in 1481.
Near the end of his reign Mehmed II relied on his Vizier Karamani Mehmed Pasha, who was disliked for allowing the cavalry officers (sipahi) to use land transfers to gather taxes. When the Conqueror died, the Janissaries, allied with Ishak Pasha and Gedik Ahmed Pasha in their support of prince Bayezid. They managed to keep Mehmed Pasha's envoys from reaching crown prince Jem so that Bayezid could arrive at Istanbul first to become sultan. Jem gathered Turkmen tribes in Karaman and proclaimed himself Sultan at Bursa. After his forces were defeated by the Janissaries led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha at Yenishehir, he fled to Mamluk Sultan Qait Bay in Egypt. Then Jem joined Karaman exile Kasim Beg, who had been at the court of Uzun Hasan's son Yaqub Beg (r. 1478-90) at Tabriz, for an attack on Konya; this time Jem fled to the Knights at Rhodes. The knights sent Jem to France, where his annual pension of 45,000 ducats was paid by Bayezid II to keep him there. In 1486 Jem was transferred to Pope Innocent VIII. Borgia Pope Alexander VI in 1495 sent Jem to crusading Charles VIII of France; this concerned Bayezid; but Jem died, perhaps of poison, before he arrived there.
Muslims and Christians fought on their borders by the Sava and Danube rivers from Bosnia to the Black Sea, and Hungarian Governor Pal Kinizsi of Temesvar ravaged the province of Semendria. Sultan Bayezid II had the defenses strengthened on the river Morava and took over Herzegovina; but in 1483 Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus (r. 1458-90) made a truce with Bayezid that lasted until the Ottomans invaded in 1492. Bayezid agreed to another truce with Hungary in 1495 for three years. After Bayezid took the Kilia fortress on the Danube, Moldavian prince Stephen became the vassal of Poland's Casimir IV to repel the Ottoman invaders. Since Poland was occupied fighting the Tatars of the Volga, Stephen resumed paying tribute to the Sultan in 1487. Poland made three truces with Bayezid that lasted from 1489 to 1497. The Ottoman fleet was built up to enhance trade, and in 1492 many of the Jews expelled from Spain settled in Istanbul and other cities of the Ottoman empire. An Ottoman war with Venice began in 1499, and the Turkish navy took Lepanto, Modon, Coron, and Navarino in Greece; but they made peace with Venice in 1503. At the same time the Hungarians agreed to a seven-year truce that included other Christian states so that Bayezid would not have to worry about Europe.
War between Mamluk Egypt and the Ottoman empire broke out in 1485 when the Ottoman’s Governor Karagoz Pasha of Karaman seized Adana and Tarsus in Cilicia. Qait Bay sent Mamluk forces that defeated and captured the Ottoman's Hersekoghlu Ahmed Pasha. In 1487 Bayezid II sent Grand Vizier Da'ud Pasha to occupy Cilicia; but when 'Ali Pasha was defeated the next year, 'Ala ad-Daula deserted to the Mamluks. So Bayezid tried to restore exiled Budak Beg in Albistan in 1489, but he was captured and taken to Egypt. The next year 'Ala ad-Daula and a Mamluk army besieged Kaysari. A truce was called in 1491, recognizing Egypt's sovereignty over Cilicia, but the revenues from Adana and Tarsus were to be sent to the Islamic sanctuaries in Mecca and Medina.
Prince Selim in Trebizond had been raiding the Safavids since 1505, and he gained the province Kaffa in the Crimea for his son Sulayman. Selim combined these forces with Tatar cavalry and crossed the Danube in 1511 with the intention of attacking Christians. His father Bayezid II reluctantly granted him the province Semendria. Fearing the combined armies of his brother Ahmed and 'Ali Pasha, Selim marched on the capital at Edirne (Adrianople) to dethrone his father. The Janissaries liked the warlike Selim but remained loyal to the Sultan and defeated Selim's Tatars in August 1511. Nonetheless the Janissaries at Istanbul refused to accept Ahmed as the next sultan, and so Ahmed took over Karaman without his father's permission and was reported to be seeking an alliance with the Persian Emperor Isma'il. Bayezid reacted by restoring Semendria to his son Selim. Bayezid's oldest son Korkud governed Tekke but traded it for Sarukhan so that he could be closer to Istanbul; but he was also rejected by the Janissaries. In April 1512 the Janissaries made Selim Sultan, and retiring Bayezid died on his way to Demotika the next month. Machiavelli commented that Bayezid II had maintained the empire peacefully because of the conquests of Mehmed II; but he asserted that a peaceful approach by Selim would have ruined the Ottoman empire.
Learning that Ahmed's son 'Ala ad-Din had seized Bursa, Sultan Selim drove Ahmed's forces from there back to Amasya and then had his five nephews in Bursa killed. Korkud was captured in Tekke and was also eliminated. Ahmed was defeated in a battle at Yenishehir, captured, and killed. Selim still feared the Safavids in Anatolia and had 40,000 of them slain or imprisoned. In 1514 Albistan prince 'Ala ad-Daula declined to provide food for the Ottoman army, and his Turkmen attacked them. Selim forced the Persians to defend Tabriz, and at Chaldiran the Ottomans with superior guns defeated the Persian army in August 1514. Prisoners in Tabriz were massacred, but a thousand skilled artisans were sent to Istanbul. The silk trade was banned, and Selim sent the Persian silk merchants from Bursa to the Balkans. He also tried to stop the Mamluk slave trade of Circassians from the Caucasus. In 1515 Janissaries led by Sinan Pasha defeated and killed 'Ala ad-Daula and four of his sons, as the nephew Shahsuwar-oghlu 'Ali was made the Ottoman vassal over Albistan. Kurdish begs asked Selim for help against the Safavids and were led by Idris, who later became an Ottoman historian. After their victories, Idris wisely allowed the independent Kurds to have 24 governments under their own chieftains.
In Egypt Mamluk Sultan Qansawh al-Ghawri had lost revenues to the Portuguese, and his increased taxes and raids by soldiers were resented. Selim sent him diplomats, but Qansawh reacted to the taking of Albistan by imprisoning them. The Egyptian sultan sent word to Selim to give back Albistan and warned him not to attack the Persians. Selim replied he would invade Syria instead, intimidating Qansawh into releasing the envoys from Aleppo. In August 1516 the Ottoman army defeated and killed Qansawh at Marj Dabik as the Mamluk army fled and found the gates of Aleppo closed against them. Syria became part of the Ottoman empire as Selim appointed governors for Aleppo, Tripoli, Damascus, and Jerusalem; he installed a strong garrison at Gaza. Selim sent an ambassador to Cairo offering to let Tumar Bay govern Egypt as his vassal, but Tumar Bay had already sent 10,000 men to reconquer Gaza. They were met by 5,000 Janissaries led by Sinan Pasha, and using superior fire-power they scattered the Mamluks. Selim joined Sinan Pasha, and together they conquered Cairo and hanged Tumar Bay in 1517. The former Mamluk Governor Khayr Bey was named Pasha of Egypt, and on the way home to Istanbul a rebellion in Anatolia was crushed by Selim's army. In 1520 Selim's son Sulayman inherited a vastly enlarged Ottoman empire.
In an era of powerful monarchs, Sulayman came to be known as the Magnificent. Born in 1495, Sulayman began his reign by giving the expected money to the Janissaries for making him Sultan; but he also freed 600 Egyptian prisoners and compensated some merchants his father had wrongly punished. Senior officers accused of cruelty were tried, convicted, and executed. Sulayman first conquered the two places Mehmed the Conqueror had failed to take-Belgrade in 1521 and Rhodes the next year. After 145 days the surviving knights capitulated and were allowed to leave Rhodes, wandering for five years until they found a home on Malta. After Pasha Khayr Bey died in Egypt in 1522, his successor Pasha Ahmed rebelled with Mamluk begs and Arab chieftains against the Janissaries to make himself independent. After this revolt was suppressed by the Ottoman forces, Grand Vizier Ibrahim implemented extensive administrative reforms by 1525 that established Ottoman government in Egypt that would last nearly three centuries.
After three years without a war the bored Janissaries mutinied by plundering customs, the Jewish quarter in Istanbul, and the houses of officers. Sulayman was threatened; but the rebellion was suppressed; the leaders were executed, and others lost their positions. Most of the Janissaries were appeased with gifts of money and a new military campaign. Sulayman led his Ottoman forces against the Hungarians in 1526. King Louis of Hungary was defeated on the battlefield at Mohacs and died while escaping with a head wound; 24,000 Hungarians were killed, and Sultan Sulayman ordered the 2,000 prisoners executed. Mohacs was burned, and the Akinjis ravaged the countryside. After stealing the treasures and library from Buda, the entire city was burned down except for the palace occupied by the Sultan. A bridge was constructed with boats, and the Turks also ignited the city of Pest. Hungarian nobles elected John Zapolya as their new King, and he was recognized by Sulayman. However, Germans supported Bohemian King Ferdinand, resulting in a civil war. His envoys went to Istanbul but were imprisoned there. Meanwhile Turkmen had revolted in Cilicia and were not subdued by Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha until 1528.
Ferdinand was allied with Emperor Charles V. Delayed by rains and floods, Sulayman's Ottoman army had to abandon the siege of Vienna in October 1529; about 40,000 Turks and 20,000 Christians were killed in the useless war. Sulayman led a campaign against the imperial forces in 1532 but encountered stubborn resistance by the town of Guns. The Akinjis and the Tatar allies plundered Styria in Austria as Sulayman retreated back to Belgrade. Ferdinand sent an envoy and was granted a truce in 1533.
Meanwhile Persian Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76) was fighting off rivalries with his own brothers and Turkmen emirs. In Kurdistan the khan of Bitlis was fighting for the Shah, and the Persian Governor of Baghdad was murdered before Ottoman aid could reach him. Grand Vizier Ibrahim forced Shah Tahmasp to retreat, and Sulayman arrived at Tabriz in 1534, entering Baghdad amid snow in November. Thus Iraq was conquered, and the new province of Erzerum was added to the Ottoman empire. In Persia the Ottoman Treasurer Chelebi hated Vizier Ibrahim and was accused by him of embezzlement. Before he was executed, Chelebi wrote a letter to Sulayman charging Ibrahim with treason for calling himself sultan. Ibrahim, a Christian, was suspected of disrespecting the Qur'an, plotting with the French, and was resented for his enormous wealth. In 1536 Sulayman invited Ibrahim to dinner, and the Vizier was found murdered the next morning. For six generations Ottoman sultans had had children by women in their harem without marrying; but a year after the Sultan's mother died, Roxelana persuaded Sulayman in 1534 to marry her and exile Mustafa's mother Gulbehar. After Ibrahim was removed, Roxelana had more influence than the succeeding viziers.
The Ottoman navy used galleys that were rowed by war captives in miserable conditions. The successful pirate Khayr al-Din was given command and captured Tunis in 1534. This city was attacked by Emperor Charles and his armada led by admiral Andrea Doria the next year and sacked as drunken Spaniards and Germans murdered, raped, and looted. Khayr al-Din, known as Barbarossa for his red beard, fled and then dressed his men as Spaniards and under that flag plundered the Balearic Islands, taking 5,700 prisoners from Port Mahon in Minorca. In 1536 the Ottomans built two hundred ships in order to invade Italy, and Otranto was taken the next year; ten thousand Italians were sold in the slave markets of Istanbul. In 1537 Venetians joined a "holy league" with the imperial forces against the Turks, but the Ottoman navy defeated them enough at Corfu and in the Gulf of Arta to enable the Turks to dominate the Mediterranean for the next third of a century. They agreed on a truce in 1540, but Venice had to give up Morea and its Aegean islands. Meanwhile ghazi soldiers were fighting a jihad in Austria, and in 1538 Sulayman had occupied Suceava, the capital of Moldavia.
Sulayman was praised by imperial envoy Busbecq for his justice and for appointing men of ability and merit to government offices. In 1535 the Grand Vizier Ibrahim had made a treaty with the French that enabled them to trade freely with the Ottoman empire. Sulayman's empire included twenty different ethnic groups and 21 governments; most of it was in Muslim Asia, but he treated European Christians with some tolerance after conquering them. His law code was updated by Mullah Ibrahim of Aleppo from the traditional Islamic law. Christians came under the Code of the Rayas, and their tithes and capitation taxes were so moderate that some peasants fled Christian lords in Hungary to be under Ottoman rule. Punishments were modernized with fines replacing corporal punishment, mutilation and death in many cases, although efforts to enforce honesty still could mean severing a hand for false witness, forgery, or passing bad money. Interest rates were limited to 11%. Beasts of burden were to be treated kindly.
Sulayman was fabulously rich with an annual income of about twelve million ducats; his wars were paid for by booty (including selling many as slaves) and by tribute from Christian vassals. Later in his reign he began demanding gifts from officers he appointed to higher positions. Judges (qadis and muftis) were immune from taxation and confiscation of their property, making them a privileged elite. Eight colleges met at principal mosques, and schools studied grammar, syntax, logic, metaphysics, philology, metaphors, rhetoric, geometry, astronomy, and astrology. Higher education usually emphasized Islamic law.
In 1541 Emperor Carlos V failed to take Algiers, and two years later Khayr al-Din ravaged Naples and Sicily. After their landing at Marseilles, the French let the Ottoman navy go to Toulon; but the Turks' raiding of French villages caused many to flee. In 1544 an epidemic killed many galley slaves, and the Turks captured French Christians to replace them. Francis I suggested they attack Nice, which was held by the Emperor's ally, the Duke of Savoy, whose castle was sacked. Khayr al-Din died in 1546. Finally in 1554 Francis ended this alliance by bribing the Turks with gifts. Turghut, who had been captured and spent four year years as a galley slave before being ransomed, eventually became Ottoman admiral and took Tripoli from the Knights of St. John in 1551; but they got their revenge when Turghut was killed in the failed siege of Malta in 1565.
John Zapolya, urged by Hungarian nationalist Martinuzzi, married Polish princess Isabella shortly before he died in 1540. Their one-year-old son Stephen was proclaimed King of Hungary, but the Ottomans still occupied his country. After Ferdinand tried to retake Pest, Sulayman in 1543 returned to Hungary and converted a Buda cathedral into a mosque. A treaty was eventually worked out in 1547 that included France, Venice, and Pope Paul III; Ferdinand agreed to pay the Sultan 30,000 ducats annually. This enabled Sulayman to invade Persia again to recapture Tabriz and take the city of Van the next year. In 1551 the monk Martinuzzi persuaded Isabella to give Transylvania to Ferdinand as part of Austria in exchange for land in Silesia. Sulayman reacted to this by imprisoning the Austrian envoy for two years, but Martinuzzi was made an archbishop and cardinal. The Sultan sent Mehmed Sokollu with an army that took over and garrisoned Lippa in Transylvania. Ferdinand besieged Lippa and had Martinuzzi murdered for plotting with the garrison. Turkish troops invaded and defeated Ferdinand again in 1552. The next year Sulayman left on his last Persian campaign that recaptured Erzerum and devastated Persian land across the Upper Euphrates. A truce led to a treaty of peace at Amasya in 1555.
Roxelana’s daughter married the Bulgarian financier Rustem Pasha, who was made Grand Vizier in 1543. She also lobbied for her three sons Selim, Bayezid, and Jehangir; but Sulayman preferred Gulbehar's son Mustafa, who was governing Amasya in Asia. The aging Sultan sent Mustafa to lead the third Persian invasion; but intrigues and suspicion of his ambition caused Sulayman to have his own son strangled with a bowstring. Mustafa had been popular with the Janissaries, but the Sultan pacified them by dismissing Rustem and giving them a half million ducats. However, his successor Ahmed Pasha was beheaded for treason within two years. Rustem was re-appointed and had 1,700 slaves at his death. After Roxelana died, the Janissaries preferred the more capable Bayezid to the alcoholic Selim; Jehangir had died. When Sulayman gave his two sons positions away from the capital, Bayezid refused to go. In the civil war the Sultan supported Selim, and Bayezid was defeated at Konya in 1559. The prince fled to the Persian court, where Shah Tahmasp was bribed with 400,000 gold coins to have him turned over for execution in 1561. Bayezid's five sons were also strangled with bowstrings.
The Turks besieged Malta in May 1565, and 700 Knights of St. John held out until Spaniards arrived in September and forced the Turks to depart. More than 20,000 Turks died fighting and from disease while 7,000 Maltese and Spaniards lost their lives. The aged Sulayman left in a carriage before an army of 200,000 on his last campaign to Hungary. The target was Count Nicholas Zrinyi, who had murdered the favored Muhammad of Trikala at Siklos in 1552. They besieged the fortress at Szigetvar; but before the victory Sulayman died of a heart attack on September 6, 1566.
Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha concealed the Sultan's death, executed the doctor for secrecy, and had Sulayman's body embalmed and not buried until the battle was won and Selim II could take power in Istanbul. In his last years Sulayman had restricted alcohol and became more religious; but the first edict of Selim "the Sot" was to make wine easily available. For a while Sokollu managed the government. In 1568 he made a treaty with the Habsburg Emperor and sent an Ottoman army to attack Astrakhan and to dig a canal between the Don and Volga rivers to unite the Ottoman Black Sea with the Caspian Sea. Astrakhan on the mouth of the Volga on the Caspian Sea had fallen to the Muscovites in 1554 and could not be taken, as the Crimean Tatar khan Devlet Ghiray (r. 1551-77) also opposed them; thus the canal project failed. A similar project at Suez was abandoned because of a revolt in Yemen.
The Ottoman navy tried to help the Moors against Spain in North Africa. Istanbul renewed its treaty with Venice in 1567, but then the mufti Abu'l Su'ud issued a fatwa decreeing that treaties could be broken to retake lands that had once been Muslim. A Portuguese Jew and financier, Joseph Nasi, persuaded Selim to attack Cyprus for its fine wine and gold ducats, and Sokollu's objections to taking on Venice were to no avail. Sokollu's rivals Lala Mustafa commanded the army and Piala Pasha the fleet. Nicosia was taken by 50,000 Ottomans in six weeks; but Farmagusta, the second fortress on Cyprus, held out for eleven months before surrendering. Mustafa accused Bragadino of torturing Ottoman prisoners and had him tortured to death. Pope Pius V formed another Holy League with Spain and Venice in 1571 for the thirteenth crusade against the Ottoman Turks with two hundred galleys including six large galleasses. The Turkish fleet was even larger and sailed out of the Gulf of Lepanto only to be badly defeated by the Christians, who had superior artillery. About 230 Ottoman galleys were sunk or captured, while the Christian alliance lost only fifteen galleys and half as many men as the Turks. Selim reacted by ordering the Spaniards and Venetians in his empire executed; but Sokollu canceled that horrendous edict.
By 1572 a new Ottoman fleet of 250 ships with eight galleasses was built and deterred the Christians from trying to retake Cyprus. Venice made a treaty, ceding the island of Cyprus. Tunis had been taken along with Cyprus but was lost the next year to the navy of the Lepanto victor, John of Austria; but now Uluz 'Ali Pasha recaptured the La Goletta fortress, and Tunis became part of the Ottoman province that included Algiers and Tripoli. In 1578 Fez was captured from the Portuguese. In 1574 Moldavia led by Ivan Ivonia revolted with help from Polish grandees and Zaporozhian Cossacks; the Ottomans suppressed this with aid from the Crimean Tatars led by 'Adil Giray.
The drunk Selim II fell and cracked his skull, dying in 1574. He was succeeded by his son Murad III, who ordered his five brothers strangled. The vices of Murad were avarice and lust. He had so many concubines that the price of girls in the slave market at Istanbul doubled, and he sired more than a hundred children. He was influenced by the Venetian sultana Safiye Baffo, who also swayed her son Mehmed III. Ottoman diplomacy renewed treaties with Poland and the Habsburgs in 1577 so that they could turn toward Persia. Corruption increased as the favorite Shemsi Pasha sold offices in revenge for the Ottomans supplanting his ancestral Seljuq dynasty. He and Mustafa Pasha hated Sokollu and led a campaign against Persia by way of the Crimea in 1578. The Sultan was concerned that Sunni travelers were finding it difficult to make pilgrimages through Safavid Persia to Mecca and Medina. Sokollu warned the Sultan that the troops would get out of hand, and increased expenses could not be met, that the peasants would be oppressed, and even if Persia was conquered, they would not become subject to Sunni rule. Sunni 'ulama issued a fatwa declaring Shi'i enemies of the faith so that those captured could be sold as slaves.
Simon Luarssab became King of Georgia in 1558; but when he refused to conform to Shi'i policies of the Persian Safavids, he was imprisoned in 1569 and replaced by his brother Davud, who converted to the Shi'i faith. Simon became a Muslim and was released in 1576. After Georgia’s King Davud abandoned Tiflis (Tbilisi) to the Turks in 1578, it was garrisoned by Ottoman forces under Mustafa Pasha, gaining the Shah's income from silk, salt, rice, and petroleum. Ottoman convoys and reinforcements were often harassed by Safavids and their Georgian allies. Simon with released Georgian prisoners led their struggle against the Ottomans until he was captured in 1600.
Sokollu's enemies had him murdered in his council chamber in 1579. The poet Mustafa 'Ali (1541-1600) wrote Counsel for Sultans in 1581 to promote the Ottoman empire. He urged Murad III to rule for himself and warned against tyrannical viziers and the influence of women in the harem. He suggested that the learned 'ulama could help select better officials, and he approved of the patrimonial state as the economic provider. Osman Pasha led successful victories for the Ottomans against the Persians culminating in his victory by the Samur River in 1583 that conquered Daghistan and Shirvan. He had help from the Giray family, but the Tatars refused to give up their raiding to follow the Ottoman policy of protecting the lives and property of Muslims. The next summer Murad III rewarded Osman by making him Grand Vizier. In 1585 Osman died after capturing Tabriz, but in the next three years the Turks took over Azerbaijan. The Persians were vulnerable, because they lacked artillery. Operating as beglerbeg of Baghdad, Chigala-zade Sinan Pasha occupied the western Persian provinces of Luristan and Hamadhan. Three years after the Turkmen chiefs deposed Shah Khudabanda, the Persians made peace with the Ottomans in 1590 and ceded them much of Azerbaijan, Shirvan, Georgia, Derbend, and Kurdistan. That year Druze leader Fakhr al-Din II took control of Lebanon.
Border raids were threatening to break the 1568 treaty with Austria. In 1591 and 1592 Bosnian beglerbeg Hasan Pasha raided Croatia and besieged Sisak, which was lost when he was killed the next year after the Ottomans went to war with Austria. The Turks now learned that the Christians had developed better handguns and cannons. The Hungarian war (1593-1606) was aggravated by the 1594 revolt of Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania. The Ottomans captured the fortress of Raab, but in 1595 they lost the bulwark of Gran. The Crimean Tatars made a treaty with Moscow in 1594, and led by Gazi Giray Khan, they helped the Ottomans in their war with Hungary.
Sultan Mehmed III (r. 1595-1603), after having his nineteen brothers strangled and six pregnant concubines drowned, tried to turn the tide by campaigning himself in 1596 as they took the Hungarian fortress of Erlau, killing thirty thousand Germans and Hungarians despite mass desertion by the sipahi officers. In 1598 the Christians retook Raab, but their siege of Buda failed. Many bloody battles were stalemates, though the Christians gained Pest in 1602. Transylvania, led by Stephen Bocskai, came back over to the Ottomans in 1605, enabling them to regain Gran and other strongholds. The treaty of 1606 recognized the independence of Transylvania, and Emperor Rudolf II gave the Sultan 200,000 gulden but then was regarded as an equal with no further tribute. In thirteen years of bloody war the Turks had only gained Erlau and Kanizsa. Ahmed (r. 1603-17) was only 13 years old when he became Sultan and was the first who had not served as a provincial governor; but he allowed his only brother to live, because he was insane. Ahmed spent most of his short life in his harem and was influenced by his favorites.
The Janissaries could no longer be replaced by capturing Christians as children (devshirme). Since the reign of Murad III, they were allowed to marry; they often became artisans, and positions became hereditary. English merchants had been granted commercial privileges by the Ottomans in 1580 and supplied them with tin for bronze cannons as well as iron, steel, lead, copper, arquebuses, muskets, sword-blades, brimstone, saltpeter, and gunpowder. In exchange the Levant Company received silk, mohair, cotton, wood, carpets, drugs, spices, and indigo. The Ottomans banned the export of iron, lead, copper, and grain; but contraband trading was active. In 1583 British ambassador William Harborne (1583-88) negotiated a trade treaty with the Turks that reduced taxes on English goods to 3%. He and Edward Barton (1588-98) tried to persuade the Ottoman navy to attack Spain, and Barton accompanied Mehmed on the 1596 campaign that took Erlau.
The imperial wars caused much inflation in the Ottoman empire as gold and silver imports from the new world also raised prices. Their currency was debased in 1584 to pay soldiers, and the ratio of the akche to the ducat went from 60 to 200. Officials on fixed incomes turned to corruption and malpractice. The Janissaries rebelled in 1589 when they were paid with debased coins. The sipahi (cavalry) mutinied three years later because they were not fully paid. In 1596 thirty thousand sipahi refused to fight at Mezo-Keresztes in Hungary and lost their lands.
This mutiny so shocked the Bosnian Hasan Kafi al-Aqhshari (1544-1616) that he resigned his position as judge and wrote Sources of Wisdom in the World Order to try to reform the government. He was the first of many to see four main classes in Ottoman society. Men of the sword included governors and soldiers, men of the pen scholars and writers, farmers both Muslims and Christians, and business people merchants and artisans. He believed government is based on justice, counsel, weapons, and piety. Yet he appealed for peace and the observance of treaties, because it is a great sin to make war on those who want peace. The Ottoman decline was explained in a treatise by Hasan al-Kafi in 1597. Justice was no longer being administered, because less capable men were given the highest offices. The armies had lost their discipline, courage, and skill as the sultans languished in self-indulgence. Soldiers exploited subjects and failed to use the latest weapons. Viziers intrigued against each other as corruption, favoritism, greed, and negligence spread through the Ottoman government.
A revolt in the capital by the sipahi in 1603 was suppressed by Grand Vizier Hasan Pasha and the Janissaries. Increased population was also a factor, and in Asia Minor peasants called levendat turned to brigandage and rebellions that lasted from 1596 to 1610. It took Grand Vizier Murad Pasha four years to crush these Jelali rebels. Land became concentrated in fewer hands with absentee landlords. Heredity and nepotism often replaced merit. Tax collectors squeezed people and pushed them off their lands. Uncultivated soil resulted in famines, and private estates were turned into ranches for livestock. Interest rates reached 50%. Judges became corrupt and took bribes. The Dutch were given a capitulatory treaty in 1612, and they introduced tobacco into Turkey, which had first starting drinking coffee under Sulayman. Tobacco, coffee, wine, and opium were called the "four cushions of the sofa of pleasure," but to the Muslim clergy these four drugs of the devil were debauchery.
The Ottoman Turks wrote fables and poetry. A fine example is "The Rose and the Nightingale" by Fasli (d. 1563), who was a secretary to the council (Divan) of prince Mustafa. Near the end of his poem Fasli explained the deeper meaning of the story.
The Shah, the radiant monarch of the Spring,
Is intellect that bides for evermore.
The Rose, which is the daughter of the Shah,
Is genius, offspring of the intellect.
The city which is named the rose garden
Is life when spent on beds of luxury.
The Nightingale upon the rose parterre
The human heart, which after genius longs.
The heart by genius is perfected,
And therefore is of genius amorous.
The East Wind is the breath of suffering,
Which ever blows between the heart and soul,
And the clear vision which in life abides
Is the narcissus in the rose parterre.
The tulip, in a circle bends its cup,-
'Tis friendship with its tender-heartedness.
The cypress, I would fain expound to you,
Is the free symbol of integrity.
The rivulet is purity of soul,
Wherein the well-beloved is mirrored clear.
And in the dew which serves the flowers for wine
Is seen the shining tenderness of God.
What is the lily else but bravery?
The violet is loveliness of heart,
The hyacinth is bitter jealousy,
The thorn is anger which estranges all.
And that which Summer I and Winter call,
Must also have a double sense to thee.
For one brings many blessings to thy life,
The other desolates this world of ours;
And on the character of each of these
All of the year's vicissitudes depend.
The one is strong as anger in its day,
And with it carries off the strength of man;
For man when fiery ardor rules the sky
Finds all his life with flames of heat consumed.
And this is August burning like a brand,
Which desolates the city of the soul.
Thus will be clear to thee how any fire
Destroys the happiness of monarch Spring.
So soon as suffering seizes on the life
It overcomes the soul and intellect.
For intellect its office fails to fill,
So anger has with all things laid it waste.
The other source of strength is love of kind,
Which always brings a blessing in its train.
Its action is to deepen graciousness,
And give new color to the sense of life.
And so I name it Autumn: well is known
Its character as separate and distinct-
Since rage and passion then are satisfied,
And life into a mellow twilight comes.
While all the time nature in calm decay
Is like the chill of man's declining day.
And thus the king of winter seems at last
The human life and spirit to usurp.
The king who does the rose garden restore
Is but the light and health that clears man's soul.
Anger and passion both give way to him,
And God's own light at last pours blessing down.
This king brings help to heart and intellect,
And takes possession of the whole domain.
He frees the spirit from the charge of sense,
And widens out the prospect of the soul;
Then heart and spirit in a kiss unite,
The bridal of the Rose and Nightingale.3
As Ottoman imperial power declined, in Anatolia and the Balkans tax farms were converted into life tenures and eventually became private property. The wealthy hired private armies, and banditry increased. Despite Ottoman prohibitions, corn (maize), rice, and animals were raised for export. Jelali rebellions by military officers seeking independent power continued throughout the 17th century.
Ahmed I (r. 1603-17) was succeeded by his brother Mustafa I, who was removed three months later for mental incompetence. Osman II (r. 1618-22) was only fourteen years old, but he aimed to reform the Ottoman government by ending the devshirme slave system of the Janissaries and replacing them with peasant soldiers (sekban) from Anatolia, Kurds, and other tribes. Against his ministers' advice, Osman went to war with his vassals, the Crimean Tatars, against the Cossacks in the Ukraine. He assembled a large army and led them himself in 1621; but after heavy losses, he withdrew and made a treaty with Poland. When Osman planned a pilgrimage to Mecca through Anatolia, the Janissaries and the sipahi officers gathered at the Hippodrome and then plundered palaces. Osman and the Grand Vizier Dilawar Pasha were killed. Mustafa was put back on the throne; but provincial governors refused to recognize him or send in taxes. After fifteen months the nobles deposed him again and enthroned his young nephew Murad IV (r. 1623-40). Army pay riots broke out in 1622 and 1631, and Istanbul was looted. Murad managed to find some money to pay off the Janissaries. The revolts spread to eastern Anatolia, Yemen, Crimea, Syria, Egypt, and other provinces. Erzurum’s Governor Abaza Mehmed Pasha massacred Janissaries in eastern Anatolia, but in 1628 he was mollified by being made Governor of Bosnia.
In 1621 Bakr Subashi killed his rival Muhammad Qanbar and took control of Baghdad. When he asked Istanbul to let him be pasha, Diyar Bakr Governor Hafiz Ahmed was sent to restore Ottoman authority. Bakr Subashi appealed to Persian Shah Abbas, who invaded Iraq. Hafiz Ahmed withdrew the Turkish troops and recognized Bakr. The Persians besieged Baghdad in 1624 with the support of Bakr's son Muhammad. Bakr Subashi was executed, and the Persians persecuted the Sunnis. The Ottoman army tried to retake Baghdad in 1625 and again in 1630 but failed.
Mustafa Kochu Bey wrote his Epistle (Risal) in 1631 advising the Sultan to take control of the government by restoring the authority of the Vizier and suppressing factions. He criticized bad appointments and misallocation of military fiefs, harping on the need to reform the timar system which gave land to corrupt officials. When Murad IV was 22 years old in 1632, the sipahi officers massed again in the Hippodrome for three days, threatening to kill seventeen top officials. Murad let them execute the Grand Vizier, his friend Hafiz Pasha; but then he ordered their leader Rejeb Pasha beheaded. Murad thus took control of the government and began radical reforms. He had numerous governors, Janissaries, and officials arrested and executed for bribery and malfeasance. He ended the abuses of feudal landholding and made laws to protect peasants. Jelali (Celali) revolts in Anatolia were crushed, and rebels and bandits were killed by the thousands throughout the Ottoman empire. Believing that coffee and tobacco were depraved and stimulated seditious conversations, he restricted both these and alcohol. In the 1630s scholars following Kadizadi (d. 1635) protested the moral laxity of the upper class, and their well read catechism condemned these activities as well as dancing.
In his 1656 book The Balance of Truth Turkish writer Katib Chelebi (1609-57) commented on the issues. Coffee had been introduced from Yemen in 1543, but fatwas against it were ignored. The ban on coffee was removed in 1592. When tobacco came to Turkey in 1601, many clerics preached and wrote against it. Murad banned it after a fire burned down one-fifth of Istanbul in 1633; but people continued to smoke. Chelebi noted that the addict does not consider its evil consequences. Coffee houses in Istanbul were closed down, but in the rest of the country they remained open. Years before, after Murad IV had asked him to explain the public deficit, Katib wrote The Code of Action for the Rectification of Defects in which he opposed increased taxes but instead suggested balancing the budget by reducing the armed forces. He was the first official to use government records to cite statistics. Like many, he advocated removing corrupt officials.
Fakhr al-Din had been driven out of Lebanon in 1613 by the beglerbeg of Damascus, but he was allowed to return five years later. Murad sent another Damascus beglerbeg against him again in 1634; Fakhr al-Din was sent to Istanbul the next year and executed. That year Murad led his revived military, capturing Revan in Anatolia and Tabriz. In 1636 the Persian army captured the Ottoman fortress at Erivan. The devshirme system of enslaving Christian youths and training them for the military was abandoned in 1637. Murad led the retaking of Baghdad the next year; in the treaty the Ottoman empire gave up Azerbaijan to Persia while retaining Baghdad, Shahrizor, Van, and Kars. Murad drank too much and died of illness in 1640 after ordering his only surviving brother Ibrahim executed, but their mother Kosem protected Ibrahim.
Sultan Ibrahim (r. 1640-48) removed Murad's reformers, and corruption returned to the empire, depleting the central treasury. He loved furs and scents like amber, placing taxes on those items. He had the effective Grand Vizier Kemankes Qara Mustafa killed for not obeying his every whim, replacing him with the obsequious Sultanzade Pasha in 1644. When three ships belonging to his chief of the black eunuchs were captured by corsairs from Malta, Ibrahim put all the Christian ambassadors under house arrest. Despite Venetian naval domination, the Turks invaded Crete and managed to take Canea in 1645 and Retimo in 1646, beginning a long siege of Candia the next year. Even the Mufti joined the Janissaries and cavalry officers demanding that Ibrahim stop selling offices, remove his favorite sultanas, and dismiss his Grand Vizier. When he refused, Sultana Kosem enthroned her seven-year-old grandson Mehmed IV in 1648; the Mufti then approved the killing of Ibrahim. During this decade after Murad's death, the Jelalis took control over most of Anatolia. The Tatar Khans paid no tribute but defended the northern frontier with 30,000 cavalry. They raided Poland and Russia annually to capture prisoners that supplied the slave markets in Istanbul and Egypt.
Kosem Sultana was supported by the Janissaries and plotted to replace Mehmed with his brother Sulayman, but Mehmed's mother Turhan Sultana had Kosem murdered in 1651. Thus the Janissaries lost influence to Turhan and the palace eunuchs. She appointed Tarhondju Ahmed Grand Vizier the next year, and he tried to restore the economy and balance the budget by reducing military pay and corruption while confiscating estates of the rich. After only nine months of reform, the powerful got him dismissed and executed. Venice destroyed the Ottoman fleet in a major battle off the Dardanelles in 1656 and then took the nearby islands of Lemnos and Tenedos. In the past eight years the Ottoman empire had had ten grand viziers. Koprulu Mehmed Pasha rose from being a palace servant to a powerful official in Anatolia. He would only agree to be Grand Vizier in 1656 at the age of 71 if he was given complete authority. Like Murad, he purged corrupt officials and strictly enforced laws, executing in five years about 35,000 offenders. He had two fortresses constructed to guard the Straits of the Dardanelles and rebuilt the Ottoman fleet, which broke through the Venetian blockade to recapture Lemnos and Tenedos in 1657. A revolt in Anatolia led by Abaza Hasan Pasha was suppressed with difficulty in 1658. Koprulu Mehmed was criticized for having many rich people killed to confiscate their estates. He died in 1661 and was succeeded as Grand Vizier by his son Koprulu Ahmed.
Unlike his intolerant father, Koprulu Ahmed protected the rights of Christians and Jews. He reduced household troops, revised the tax system to help the peasants, and patronized literature. While Mehmed IV was preoccupied hunting, the Ottoman army invaded Hungary and Transylvania, taking Ujvar in Slovakia in 1663 before being defeated at the Raab River the next year. The Treaty of Vasvar with the Habsburgs recognized Transylvania as an Ottoman domain. Also in 1664 Pope Alexander VII called for a Holy League to fight the Muslims. Turkish forces stepped up their siege of Candia on Crete in 1666, but it took 27 more months to conquer it. When Russia and Poland divided the Ukraine at the Dnieper River, the Cossacks appealed to the Turks, who used the opportunity to capture Kaminiec in 1672 and advance to Lvov in Poland. Treaties that year and in 1676 gave the Ottomans Podolya and Kaminiec. Koprulu Ahmed tried to revive the system of military slavery by capturing 3,000 boys in 1675, but this policy was terminated after his death. He was considered a just administrator, but he drank excessively and died in 1676. Instead of appointing his brother Mustafa Zade, Mehmed chose Ahmed's foster brother, his own son-in-law Qara Mustafa, who had a harem of 1,500 concubines attended by 700 black eunuchs. He sold offices and allowed much corruption. The Turkish army advanced on Kiev in 1678, but military losses forced them to return most of the Ukraine to Russia in the treaty of 1681.
Hungarian count Imre Thokoly revolted against the Habsburgs and appealed to the Sultan, who demanded the Austrians surrender the fort at Gyor. In 1683 Mehmet led a large army that was joined by the Hungarians. They besieged Vienna but with inferior artillery they depended on mining as they had at Candia. Poland’s King John Sobieski arrived with reinforcements, supported by troops from Bavaria and Saxony. The Ottoman army was unprepared for an attack and fled as 10,000 were killed. This battle was a turning point that showed European military superiority. Seven thousand were killed or drowned crossing the Danube. Qara Mustafa executed top officers and in turn was beheaded by order of the Sultan. Pope Innocent XI proclaimed the 14th crusade, and in 1684 Austria, Poland, and Venice formed the Holy League. Venice invaded Dalmatia, Albania, Bosnia, and the Morea. In Athens the Venetians bombarded the Parthenon, which was being used as a powder magazine. The Poles failed to retake Kaminiec; but the Austrians occupied Croatia and recaptured Neuhausel.
In 1686 the Turks had to abandon Buda, and the next year they lost 20,000 men in Hungary and in 1688 Belgrade. The Grand Mufti warned the Sultan of an uprising if he did not give up hunting; but Mehmed could do without it for only one month. The army joined the opposition, and Mehmed tried to reform; but the army marched on Istanbul, and the 'ulama approved replacing Mehmed IV with his brother Sulayman II. For four months the Janissaries ruled arbitrarily and looted the seraglio until civilians regained control and executed some of the officers. After the Habsburg army took Belgrade in 1688, the Sultan led the Ottoman troops; but they lost Nish and Vidin the next year. Sulayman appointed Fazil Mustafa (Koprulu III) Grand Vizier, and in 1690 he led a campaign into Serbia that recaptured Nish and Belgrade. About 200,000 Serbs led by the patriarch of Pec migrated into south Hungary, and Koprulu let them build churches. The next year Koprulu led the troops up the Danube but was killed in a desperate charge. The Ottoman army fled, losing Hungary and Transylvania as Thokoly was expelled. Sultan Sulayman II (r. 1687-91) died and was succeeded by his brother Ahmed II (r. 1691-95). Peace negotiations between the Ottomans and Habsburgs failed, and in 1694 a large Venetian fleet captured Chios; but they abandoned it the next year.
Ahmed died of dropsy and was replaced by his nephew Mustafa II (r. 1695-1703), who took command of the army and won a few small victories over the Austrians. Higher taxes on coffee, tobacco, and official salaries along with confiscated estates raised funds for the constant war expenditures. The Crimean Tatars had managed to fight off the Poles and Russians, but in 1696 Russia's Peter captured Azov with his newly built fleet. Sultan Mustafa personally led a campaign to Belgrade. However, Savoy’s prince Eugene caught them crossing the Zenta River, killing 20,000 Turks while another 10,000 drowned. While Eugene invaded Bosnia and plundered Sarajevo, Mustafa retreated back to Belgrade and Istanbul. Koprulu Huseyn was appointed Grand Vizier. Finally a peace conference was held at Karlowitz in Croatia, and in 1699 all agreed to treaties for 25 years, except Peter only signed a two-year truce for Russia. For the first time the Ottoman empire lost substantial territory to Europeans. Huseyn cancelled compulsory war payments and arrears. He tried to alleviate the suffering of the Christian peasants, but he was unable to remove the illegal owners of estates. He reduced military expenditures, but the army and navy still had 196,227 men. Huseyn was opposed by Mufti Feyzulla.
In 1295 the Mongol ruler Ghazan and ten thousand others had converted to Islam. He conquered Damascus in 1299 but lost it when he was defeated by the Egyptians in 1303. Ghazan represented the height of the Il-khan era with Islamic justice and financial reforms. His Jewish Vizier Rashid al-Din continued to serve Ghazan's brother Uljaytu Khudabanda (r. 1304-16), who confirmed the shari'a laws; but converting Jews had to eat camel's meat soaked in milk. Uljaytu conquered Herat in 1307 and was succeeded by his only surviving son, 13-year-old Abu Sa'id. Those resenting Rashid al-Din accused him of poisoning Uljaytu, and he was put to death in 1318. A rebellion by Yasawur in Khurasan was put down by Abu Sa'id and his Emir Chuban in 1319. Egyptian sultan Nasir married a Mongol princess in 1320, and a treaty was agreed upon three years later. Court intrigues led to a conflict with the Chuban family, which was eventually eliminated. Abu Sa'id had fallen in love with Chuban's married daughter Baghdad Khatun; but Ibn Battuta reported that when Abu Sa'id died of poisoning in 1335, she was executed for the deed.
Shaikh Safi al-Din (1252-1334), a descendant of 'Ali, founded the Safavi religious order in Azerbaijan about 1300, making the city of Ardabil a pilgrimage center and a refuge for the persecuted and oppressed. The Mongol rule over Persia faded after the death of Il-Khan Abu Sa'id (r. 1316-35), as a struggle for the throne resulted in several murders until Hasan-i Buzurg, who knew Safi al-Din, founded the Jalayarid dynasty at Baghdad in 1340 by defeating Jahan Temur. The Aq Quyunlu (White Sheep) and the Qara Quyunlu (Black Sheep) began to feud over the destruction of Erzerum in 1332. The last Chobanid coins were minted in 1353, the year Togha Temur, the last Chingizid ruler, was murdered by a Sarbadar. For two generations until the invasion by Timur, Iran was ruled by local chieftains, who often fought with each other.
In Fars and Isfahan the house of Inju dominated; their last ruler, Abu Ishaq, claimed Shiraz and invaded Kirman in 1347 and Yazd three years later. The Muzaffarid Mubariz al-Din Muhammad besieged Shiraz; but Abu Ishaq escaped back to Isfahan with help from the Jalayarid Hasan-i Buzurg. There he was besieged again by Mubariz, who captured and executed him in 1357. Mubariz overthrew the Golden Horde’s Governor in Tabriz but was forced to retreat by Jalayarid forces. His tyranny was resisted by his son Shah-i Shuja, who captured Mubariz and put his eyes out; but Shah-i Shuja was defeated by his brother Shah Mahmud, who ruled Isfahan and was assisted by Baghdad's Uvais, son of Hasan-i Buzurg. Uvais (r. 1356-74) had been a vassal of the Golden Horde but conquered Azerbaijan in 1360. Husayn (r. 1374-82), brother of Uvais, fought his Muzaffarid brother-in-law, Shah Mahmud, who marched from Isfahan to Tabriz but could not hold it. When Shah Mahmud died in 1375, Isfahan reverted to Shah-i Shuja. He occupied Tabriz but could not keep it either because Fars was too unstable. The conflicted Muzaffarids ruled in Kirman and Yazd until they were conquered by Timur in 1393.
In the east the Sarbadar reformers were primarily Shi'a and governed from Sabzavar in Khurasan until 1381. 'Ala' al-Din Muhammad got help from Jalayarid troops but had to raise taxes to pay his soldiers. Emir 'Abd al-Razzaq killed a government official and led a rebellion in Sabzavar, taking over the city in 1337; but he was stabbed to death by his brother Vajih al-Din Ma'sud. In Khurasan Shaikh Khalifa was murdered for preaching to Shi'as, but he was replaced by his disciple Hasan Juri. Ma'sud considered Khurasan part of the Il-Khanid empire, which was Sunni; but he accepted the popular Hasan Juri into his government. Ma'sud used his 12,000 soldiers and 700 Turkish slaves along with Hasan Juri's dervishes to conquer Nishapur and expand the Sarbadar state; but in a battle at Zava in 1342 against Kartids of Herat led by Mu'izz al-Din Husayn, who was allied with Togha Temur, Hasan Juri was killed. Believing he was assassinated by Ma'sud's agent, the dervishes fled. As the Sarbadar army retreated, Ma'sud was captured and executed.
After a struggle for power, Sabzavari dervish Shams al-Din
'Ali (r. 1347-52) was praised by historian Daulatshah for reforming
the tax system, living simply, and regulating prostitution, drugs,
and alcohol. His successor Yahya Karavi (r. 1352-56) took some
men into the Mongol winter camp and assassinated Togha Temur.
Like many Sarbadar rulers in this period, Yahya was murdered;
but after a civil war 'Ali-yi Mu'ayyad (r. 1361-81) drove out
the dervishes. The Kartid sons of Husayn forced 'Ali-yi Mu'ayyad
to retreat to Emir Vali, where in 1381 he asked for help from
the powerful Timur.
'Ubayd-i-Zakani was from Qazvin but moved to Shiraz, where he wrote ribald satire during the reign of Shaikh Abu Ishaq Inju and until he died in 1371. He poked fun at the decadent morals of the time in his "Ethics of the Aristocracy," which was written in 1340. The seven chapters portrayed the upper classes rejecting the four classical virtues of wisdom, courage, chastity, and justice as well as generosity, fidelity, and mercy. Instead of recognizing the rational soul that gets wisdom from God, they believed that there is nothing beyond the body. Courage is avoided as stupid foolishness that results in being killed. Scholar E. G. Browne found the chapter on chastity too ribald to translate. Justice is considered disastrous. The aristocrats point out that Genghis Khan gained wide sovereignty by destroying millions of people, and Hulagu Khan devastated Baghdad; but when Abu Sa'id adopted justice, the Mongol dynasty soon came to an end. In 1350 'Ubayd-i-Zakani mixed good sense with satire in his "Hundred Counsels," and his "Joyous Treatise" told funny stories in Arabic and Persian. Here is an example:
A certain man claimed to be God.
He was brought before the Caliph, who said to him,
"Last year someone here claimed to be a prophet,
and he was put to death."
"It was well done," replied the man, "for I did not send him."4
Shams al-Din (1320-89) of Shiraz became known as Hafiz for having memorized the Qur'an. Hafiz worked in a bakery and fell in love with the aristocratic Shakh-i-Nibat, passing by her window every day; but the legend is that having met the angel Gabriel, the mystic Hafiz declared he wanted God. After staying awake for forty consecutive nights at the tomb of poet Baba Kuhi, Hafiz found a spiritual teacher named Muhammad Attar. Hafiz was strongly influenced by the poets 'Attar, Rumi, and Sa'di, and his verse was patronized at the court of Abu Ishaq. Hafiz lost his position teaching Qur'anic studies when Mubariz Muzaffar closed the taverns and wine-shops in 1353; but he regained it after Shah-i Shuja blinded his dictatorial father in 1358. After Shiraz was taken over by Shuja's brother Mahmud, the enemies of Hafiz forced him to go into exile to Isfahan in 1368 for four years. After studying with Attar for forty years, Hafiz became enlightened in 1381, and half of his poetry was written in his last eight years. Much of his poetry is about the joys of wine and romantic love; but many believe these are metaphors symbolic of divine intoxication and mystical love.
Hafiz wrote 569 ghazals, which were collected into his Divan. After his death these poems were used by some as an oracle. Hafiz also wrote Rubaiyat quatrains. Here are four examples:
You, Your eye: deceit and sorcery keep raining from it;
Hey, many swords, war's weaponry, keep raining from it;
Too quickly You become wearied and upset with friends;
Your heart: stones that do injury, keep raining from it.
My soul is sacrificed for that One, Who worthwhile is;
If you place my head at those feet, it a peaceful pile is.
Do you desire to understand all the truth about hell?
Truthfully, hell the society of the worthless and vile is.
If winning the hearts of the poor is what you wish to do,
Gaining respect of those who today are discreet too,
Don't criticize the Christian, the Muslim and the Jew,
And all the world will be thankful and recommend you.
Although it is the right thing to be careful of mankind,
It's best that to no one in word or action one is unkind.
Although you will not find any faithfulness in this life,
It's best to leave all the seeds of all tyranny far behind.5
In "A Mad Heart" Hafiz wrote of a man who loved God well but did not know that God was in him. In "Not All the Sum of Earthly Happiness" he warned that the Sultan’s precious crown is dangerous, because the conqueror's reward is not worth the army's long-drawn woes; it is better to find treasure in a mind at rest than to ask the slightest favor from the base. In his later poems Hafiz spoke of unity and his soul yearning for paradise like a homing bird. He compared pilgrims looking for God in a temple to his own direct experience of God. Because he knows God, he knows that God loves all. Here are some passages from the Ghazals:
Hafiz, don't take offense at autumn's wind over the field of the world.
Think rationally: where is the thornless rose?
The philosopher's stone that turns the black heart to gold
Is the intimacy of dervishes.
The face that kings desire and seek with prayer
is found in the mirror of their face.
From one border to the other rides the army of cruelty, but
from before creation to beyond time is the domain of dervishes.
Everyone who has a clear mind and a lovely friend
is an intimate of bliss and a companion to good fortune.
I speak frankly and that makes me happy:
I am the slave of love, I am free of both worlds.6
The following two ghazals are presented in their entirety:
Preachers who display their piety in prayer and pulpit
behave differently when they're alone.
It puzzles me. Ask the learned ones of the assembly:
"Why do those who demand repentance do so little of it?"
It's as if they don't believe in the Day of Judgment
with all this fraud and counterfeit they do in His name.
I am the slave of the tavern-master, whose dervishes,
in needing nothing, make treasure seem like dust.
O lord, put these nouveaux-riches back on their asses
because they flaunt their mules and Turkic slaves.
O angel, say praises at the door of love's tavern,
for inside they ferment the essence of Adam.
Whenever his limitless beauty kills a lover
others spring up, with love, from the invisible world.
O beggar at the cloister door, come to the monastery of the Magi,
for the water they give makes hearts rich.
Empty your house, O heart, so that it may become home to the beloved,
for the heart of the shallow ones is an army camp.
At dawn a clamor came from the throne of heaven. Reason said,
"It seems the angels are memorizing Hafiz's verse."
O ignorant one, try to become a master of knowledge.
If you are not a traveler, how can you become a guide?
In the school of truth listen carefully to the tutor of love
so that one day, O son, you can become a father.
Like those worthy of the path, wash your hands of the copper of existence
so that you can find the philosopher's stone of love, and become gold.
Sleeping and eating have kept you far from your station.
You will arrive at your self when you give up sleeping and eating.
If the light of the love of truth falls on your heart and soul,
by God, you will become lovelier than the sun in heaven.
For a moment drown yourself in the sea of God and don't believe
that the seven seas will wet a single hair.
From head to toe you will become the light of God
when you lose yourself on His glorious road.
Once God's face becomes the object of your sight,
there is no doubt that you will become a master of vision.
When the foundations of your existence become topsy-turvy,
have nothing in your heart, for you will also become topsy-turvy.
O Hafiz, if desire for union fills your head,
you must become dust in the doorway of those who see.7
Timur was born on April 9, 1336 near Shahrisabz and became a warrior leader during civil wars in Sistan. After the Qara'unas Emir Qazaghan was murdered in 1358, Timur was appointed Governor of Qashqa-Darya by Tughluq-Timur Khan. Timur soon allied himself with Emir Husayn by marrying his sister. Timur and Husayn led a wild life of raiding; but both were captured and imprisoned for two months near Marv in 1362. The next year Timur was wounded by arrows in his right arm and leg, giving him his Persian name Timur-i-lenk, meaning "the Lame," which became Tamerlane or Tamburlaine in Europe. In a 1365 battle against Mughal Khan Ilyas-khoja, Husayn fled before Timur did, and their army lost ten thousand men. In Samarqand the Sarbadars had been named for their willingness to risk hanging in standing up to Mongol tyranny. They survived a siege by Ilyas-khoja's army and established their own government in 1366. Husayn and Timur treacherously invited their leaders and then charged them with crimes; but Timur defended their rights. Husayn was also disliked for being greedy and parsimonious. For the next four years Timur and Husayn were rivals and plundered Transoxiana.
In 1370 Timur met the Sayyid Shaikh Baraka, who became his spiritual advisor. Timur besieged Husayn at Balkh but allowed the chief Kay-Khusrau to kill Husayn for having murdered his brother; Husayn's men then killed Kay-Khusrau. Timur had the Chagatai khan, who had supported Husayn, killed and installed his own man in Balkh. Timur married Husayn's widow, a Chaghatayid princess descended from Genghis Khan, enabling him to take the imperial title Gurgan (son-in-law) when he was enthroned and crowned "Conqueror of the World." Timur abandoned the completely nomadic life of the Mongols by fixing his capital at Samarqand, which he fortified and enhanced over the years. He combined the nomadic asceticism of the Mongols with feudal discipline. All his warriors were assigned to units which they were not allowed to leave. He fed their predatory appetites by continually providing them with new lands to conquer and plunder. His motto was "Truth is safety," and he punished theft by requiring nine times the value or severe punishment. The Mongols had learned about gunpowder from the Chinese and used it for mining and sapping.
In 1372 Timur attacked the Sufis at Khwarazm but came to terms with them when they offered to let a Mongol princess marry his son Jahangir. In 1375 Timur invaded Mughalistan, forcing Qamar al-din to flee and marrying his daughter. When Jahangir died, his widow was married to Timur's son Miran Shah. Timur helped Tokhtamish become Khan of the White Horde by 1378. Miran Shah was proclaimed Chaghatayid Governor of Khurasan, which they invaded in 1381. The Kartid capital at Herat submitted, and Timur released two thousand war captives. When Khurasan revolted two years later, the city of Isfizar was destroyed with live captives cemented into its walls. The next year Sistan was ravaged, and its capital at Zaranj was destroyed; Qandahar was also taken. Sultan Ahmad Jalayir fled Azerbaijan as Timur seized Sultaniya.
Timur invaded Persia in 1386 and spent the next three years there, plundering Georgia, Armenia, and the Muzaffarids in the southwest. He offered special protection to Muslim clerics, Sufis, and others who provided him with useful intelligence. He transferred human and material resources to Transoxiana. His usual method for those surrendering was to seal off all the gates of a city but one and then send in torturers and tax collectors to confiscate valuables, including pack-animals to transport them. His plundering soldiers treated those resisting cruelly, killing or enslaving them and leaving the very young and old to die of starvation. Isfahan in 1388 made the mistake of attacking his tax collectors, and historians reported that 70,000 heads were piled up in pyramids. After that, Fars and Shiraz submitted as the Muzaffarids became his vassals. Timur returned to punish Khwarazm and Mughalistan while Miran Shah destroyed the Kartid dynasty of Khurasan in 1389. Tokhtamish and his Golden Horde had been harassing the Chaghatayid empire from the north for several years, and so in 1391 Timur forced him to flee and then celebrated his victory on the Volga, wintering in Tashkent.
Timur began a five-year campaign to the west in 1392, attacking the Kurds in Persia. Georgia was devastated so that the Golden Horde could not use it to threaten northern Iran. Muzaffarid prince Shah Mansur was finally defeated in 1393. That year Timur caught Baghdad by surprise in August by marching there in eight days from Fars; Sultan Ahmad Jalayarid fled to Syria, where the Mamluk Sultan Barquq protected him and killed Timur’s envoys. Timur left the Sarbadar prince Khwaja Mas'ud to govern Baghdad; but he was driven out when Ahmad returned. Ahmad was unpopular but got some dangerous help from Qara Yusuf of the Qara Quyunlu but fled again in 1399, this time to the Ottomans. Meanwhile Timur attacked Tokhtamish several times and crushed his Qipchaq army in 1395. The next year Timur left Yazda intact after a siege in order to preserve its textile manufacturing. Timur returned to Samarqand and spent some time overseeing building.
Timur conquered India in 1398. After returning to Samarqand, the next year he ravaged Georgia. In 1400 Timur took Sivas from the Ottomans and captured Aleppo from the Mamluks in Syria. The next year Chaghatai warriors pillaged both Damascus and Baghdad. In 1402 Timur clashed with the Ottoman army near Ankara, captured Sultan Bayezid, and kept him in a cage, demanding a ransom of 9,000 gold florins. Timur then captured the Smyrna stronghold of the Knights of St. John. Having overcome the rulers of the Golden Horde, Persia, India, the Mamluks, and the Ottomans, Timur turned his ambition to China, where the Mongol dynasty had been overthrown in 1368, and now the first Ming Emperor had just died. He held an assembly near Samarqand in September 1404 and then marched east in the winter cold; but after three days of drinking wine, Timur died on February 18, 1405.
'Usman Beg was the son of an Aq Quyunlu chief and a Trebizond princess; he began ruling the Aq Quyunlu in 1389 and ten years later did homage to Timur, gaining the fief of Diyarbakr after helping in the battle at Ankara in 1402. Ahmad Jalayarid came back to Baghdad again with Qara Yusuf; but they quarreled, and Yusuf expelled Ahmad. In 1403 Timur's grandson Aba Bakr drove out Yusuf, who was imprisoned with Ahmad by the Mamluks. They agreed that Ahmad should rule Baghdad while Qara Yusuf would have Azerbaijan with Tabriz. Qara Yusuf overcame Aba Bakr by 1408; but learning that Ahmad had taken Tabriz, he defeated and executed Ahmad two years later. Qara Yusuf's son Shah Muhammad took over Baghdad in 1412 and ruled it until his younger brother Aspand drove him out in 1433.
Timur had left his empire to his grandson Pir Muhammad ibn Jahangir, who governed Qandahar but was murdered by his Vizier in 1407. Another grandson, Khalil Sultan ibn Miran Shah, governed Farghana and took over Samarqand. His wife Shad Mulk was resented for raising the lowly to high positions, and after a famine Khalil Sultan went back to Farghana. In 1409 Timur's son Shah Rukh, Governor of Herat, occupied Samarqand, appointed his son Ulugh Beg Governor of Transoxiana, captured Shad Mulk, and sent her back to Khalil Sultan, whom he made Governor of Ray. When Kahlil Sultan died in 1411, his wife committed suicide. Shah Rukh moved back to Herat, from where he governed the Timurid empire until his death in 1447. Qara Yusuf fought the Aq Quyunlus in eastern Anatolia and invaded Georgia and Shirvan, conquering Sultaniya, Tarum, Qazvin, and Sava in 1419. The next year Qara Yusuf died as Shah Rukh invaded Azerbaijan and Armenia. Yusuf's son Iskander regained control until Shah Rukh returned in 1429 to install the Qara Quyunlu prince Abu Sa'id as his vassal; but two years later Iskander reoccupied Tabriz and had Abu Sa'id executed. In 1434 Shah Rukh installed Iskander's brother Jahan Shah as his Timurid governor in Tabriz. Iskander was defeated by Jahan Shah in 1436, fled, and was murdered by his own son.
Shah Rukh was succeeded by his son Ulugh Beg, who had reigned as a prince of Transoxiana in Samarqand for forty years and was known for his erudition and entertaining court. He tried to subjugate rebellious Khurasan but was Shah for only two years, being defeated by his son 'Abd al-Latif in 1449. Ulugh Beg was allowed to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca but was executed along the way after a questionable trial. 'Abd al-Latif was killed by a conspiracy after ruling only six months. The Timurid Abu Sa'id, using military aid from the Uzbek Abu'l-Khair Khan, overcame his rival in 1451 and ruled until 1469. The Qara Quyunlu led by Jahan Shah's son Pir Budaq conquered most of Persia and Mesopotamia in 1452; but in the east Abu Sa'id was able to hold on to Herat and regain much of Khurasan. Yet the Timurid empire west of there was lost when Abu Sa'id was defeated and executed by the Aq Quyunlu in 1469. Abu Sa'id was influenced by the Sufi Shaikh Khwaja 'Ubaid-Allah Ahrar, who persuaded him to reinstitute the religious law (shari'a) in Samarqand and Bukhara. The Timurids governed a feudal society, but Shah Rukh, Ulugh Beg, and Abu Sa'id were famous for constructing irrigation systems that improved agriculture.
Shaikh Junaid was the great great grandson of Shaikh Safi. When the Safavids developed military power, Jahan Shah banished him from Ardabil in 1449; Junaid fled to Karaman, and his teachings spread. He tried to conquer Trebizond in 1456. He was a Persian, but in 1458 he married the sister of Turkman Uzun Hasan, the Aq Quyunlu leader. Junaid was banished again by Jahan Shah in 1459 and was able to defeat the Circassians; but the next year Junaid was attacked and killed by Shirvan-Shah Khalil-Allah.
Uzun Hasan had seized Diyarbakr in 1453. He defeated the Qara Quyunlu and killed Jahan Shah in 1467, and two years later he overcame the Timurid Abu Sa'id and made Tabriz his capital. In 1471 Uzun Hasan invaded Anatolia, and the next year he allied himself with Venice, Cyprus, and the Knights of Rhodes, pillaging and destroying Tokat; but he was defeated by the Ottomans' firearms and artillery in 1473. Uzun Hasan revised the law code and protected people from arbitrary taxation. He was succeeded by his son Khalil Sultan, who was quickly overthrown by his younger brother Ya'qub (r. 1478-90). In Transoxiana Shaikh Khwaja Ahrar said that his task was not to teach but to protect the innocent from tyrants and to prevent wars; he was influential until his death in 1490. The poet Jami (1414-92) was popular and also wrote extensively on Sufism. Sultan Husayn Baiqara (r. 1469-1506) reigned over a long and peaceful era in Herat. The Uzbeks rose to power, and in 1501 Muhammad Shaybani conquered Samarqand. The Persian Kashifi (d. 1504) wrote The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry to spread the Sufi ideas of helping others. The idea is to keep the inner self attuned to God while directing the outer self to help humanity.
Junaid's son Haidar married Uzun Hasan's daughter, and he campaigned against the Circassians from 1483 until he was killed in battle in 1488. Haidar began the custom of wearing the red hat (qizilbash) that became the name of the Turkmen who supported the Safavids. The Aq Quyunlu kept four Safavid brothers in prison for several years. Sultan 'Ali was released but was killed in 1494. His brother Isma'il managed to escape, and in 1500 without the aid of the Aq Quyunlu, he led the Safavids to a victory over the same Shirvan-Shah, Farrukh-Yasar, who had killed his father. Isma'il fought his way to the Turkmen capital at Tabriz, where at the age of fourteen in 1501 he founded the dynasty that ruled Persia for more than two centuries. He kept the Aq Quyunlus Vizier Shams al-Din Zakariya Kujuji as his vizier. Isma'il combined the Turkmen warriors with Iranian civil servants as lords of the sword and the pen, winning religious devotion as a Shi'i Twelver. The Qizilbash soldiers gave the battle cry, "My spiritual leader and master, for whom I sacrifice myself."9 Though most Persians had been Sunni, Isma'il made his domain Shi'a by confiscating Sunni property and their religious endowments while executing or exiling many Sunnis. In 1502 Sultan Bayezid II reacted by ordering the Qizilbash persecuted in Anatolia.
Isma'il defeated the Aq Qunyulu at Hamadan in 1503 and ended their Turkmen dynasty in 1507. That year his Safavid army defeated 'Ala ad-Daula to conquer Kharput and Diyarbakr and occupy Kurdistan while assuring the Ottomans and Mamluks that he was not hostile to them. Baghdad was captured the next year. The death of Timurid Husayn Baiqara in 1506 had allowed the Uzbeks’ Khan Shaybani to take Herat the next year; but Isma'il defeated the Uzbeks at Marv in 1510 when Shaybani was killed. That year the Ottomans quelled a Safavid revolt in Tekke led by Shah Kuli. The next year grand vizier 'Ali Pasha with 4,000 Janissaries and prince Ahmed's forces from Amasya defeated and killed Shah Kuli near Kaysari; but 'Ali Pasha died too. The rebels fled to Isma'il. Prince Ahmed and his son Murad rebelled against the Ottoman Sultan and negotiated with the Qizilbash. Bayezid abdicated and was replaced by his son Selim, who had 40,000 Qizilbash massacred in his Ottoman empire.
In 1511 Safavid forces helped Babur conquer Samarqand and Bukhara; but the Qizilbash warriors deserted Isma'il, because he chose another Iranian vakil (viceroy). Sultan Selim took advantage of this dissension by invading Persia in 1514. Isma'il considered the use of firearms and artillery cowardly, and at the battle of Chaldiran the Safavid army was decisively defeated. This shattered Isma'il's aura of invincibility; he went into mourning and never fought another battle. Selim pursued him and took Tabriz but later abandoned it. In 1516 Sultan Selim banned trade imports from Persia. Khunji had emigrated from Persia to the Shaybani court of the Uzbeks at Bukhara. After Shaybani's son 'Ubayd Allah recaptured Samarqand, Khunji wrote The Conduct of Kings in order to try to restore the Sunni faith to Persia. Shah Isma'il sent officers to fight the Uzbeks in 1521. He favored Iranian landowners and died in 1524, the year after his Iranian viceroy was assassinated.
Tahmasp (r. 1524-76) was only ten years old when he became Shah, and for a decade his tutor (atabeg) and the Qizilbash emirs governed his empire, resulting in many battles between the Turkmen tribes. He continued the tradition of appointing Iranians as viceroy and bureaucrats. Al-Karaki (d. 1534) propagated the Shi'a faith in eastern Iran, promulgating that congregational prayer was now legal, because a well qualified jurist (mujtahid) was present. Claiming that the mujtahid represented the hidden imam, he persuaded other Twelvers to collaborate with Tahmasp. Wars with the Uzbeks over Khurasan were fought until 1540. Tahmasp began commanding in 1533 and won victories over the Uzbeks, Ottomans, and Mughals, overcoming his own Qizilbash as well, though Baghdad was lost to the Ottomans in 1534. Four Persian expeditions to Georgia and Armenia resulted in about 30,000 women and children being brought back as slaves; the children were raised to serve in the government and provided a new generation of leadership that lessened the influence of the Qizilbash. Tahmasp moved his capital in 1548 from the western Tabriz to Qazvin. After a second war with the Ottomans, Tahmasp made a peace treaty at Amasya in 1555. He fell ill in 1575 but recovered and died from poison the next year.
After the 52-year reign of Shah Tahmasp, an ethnic struggle in Persia was won by Isma'il II. He had been in prison since 1558, but the Qizilbash tribes, the Kurds, and the Daghistanians helped him overcome the Georgians and Persians and beheaded their candidate Haidar Mirza. Shah Isma'il tried to reinstitute the Sunni faith, and he ruthlessly killed or blinded nine of his Safavid relatives. This hated monarch was killed by poisoning his opium in 1577, and the Turkmen emirs enthroned his half-blind brother Muhammad Khudabanda (r. 1578-87). Grand Vizier Mirza Salman vied for influence with the princess Pari Khan Khanum and Queen Khair al-Nisa Begum, both of whom were murdered. The Ottoman war that began in 1578 did not prevent Shah Khudabanda from subduing the rebellion by 'Ali Kuli Khan in Khurasan in 1581, but two years later Mirza Salman was executed by the Turkmen emirs. Young prince 'Abbas was groomed in Mashhad and became Shah in 1587 when these emirs seized the capital at Qazvin and deposed Khudabanda. The Qizilbash left Herat to do this, and in the next two years invading Uzbeks of Transoxiana captured Herat, Mashhad, and Nishapur in Khurasan. This threat persuaded 'Abbas to make peace with the Ottomans in 1590, and he ceded them much of Azerbaijan, Shirvan, Georgia, Derbend, and Kurdistan.
Persian shah 'Abbas (r. 1587-1629) took on the Turkmen emirs by executing those who had murdered his brother Hamsa and by suppressing the conflicts between their tribes. He gathered an army of 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry, using the Circassian, Armenian, and Georgian slaves. Persia purchased firearms from Moscow in 1595 and from Venice in 1613 as well as 1500 arquebuses from the English, who trained them to use muskets and improved their cannons. Persia soon had 12,000 men in the artillery using 500 bronze and brass cannons. These improvements enabled them to drive the Uzbek Turks out of Mashhad, Herat, and Khurasan by 1602, but they could not regain Transoxiana. The English navy also helped push the Portuguese out of Hurmuz. Shah 'Abbas tried to eradicate the Sunnis, and thousands of Kurds were transferred to the eastern frontier. The next year he began a new war with the Ottomans. In 1606 Sultan Ahmed sent Ferhad Pasha into Asia without adequate funds to fight the Persians, causing a mutiny among the Janissaries. In five years the Ottomans lost Tabriz, Erivan, Ganja, Derbend, Baku, Shamaki, Tiflis, and Kars to the Safavids. In 1610 Murad Pasha plundered undefended Tabriz, but in the treaty of 1612 the Ottomans had to cede the territories they had gained in the previous war with Persia.
Shah 'Abbas centralized the Persian state and made the provinces of Qazvin, Kashan, Isfahan, some of Kirman, Yazd, Qum, Mazandaran, Gilan, Astara, and Gaskar his own royal domains; their revenues did not go into the state treasury nor could they be used for enfeoffment. In 1598 'Abbas transferred the capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, which was built into a splendid city. Armenian and Jewish communities were moved into Isfahan and kept their cultural identities as the Shah tolerated Christianity and Judaism. 'Abbas promoted silk production and controlled its sale. Factories in Isfahan produced carpets, velvets, damasks, satins, and taffetas for Europe. Immigrant Chinese workers helped the Persians make porcelain china. The construction of roads and caravansaries enhanced commerce.
In 1616 the English East India Company was granted trading privileges and factories in Persia, and in 1622 the British helped the Persians push the Portuguese out of the Persian Gulf port of Hurmuz, deporting them to Muscat. The next year the Dutch East India Company arrived in Persia and built a large factory at Bandar 'Abbas; they made a trade agreement and soon became the leading importer of spices into Persia. In 1625 Dutch, English, and Portuguese ships clashed over trade. Basra prince Afrasiyab helped Portuguese merchants, and Shah 'Abbas sent Shiraz khan Imam Quli Khan to make him renounce his Ottoman allegiance. Afrasiyab died and was succeeded by his son 'Ali Pasha, who appealed to Istanbul and got five Portuguese warships. When the Persians learned that Shah 'Abbas had died in 1629, they left Basra alone. The hated Portuguese were eventually ejected from Muscat in 1650.
By combining their rule with Shi'ism, the Safavids changed religious patterns. They provided waqf (endowment) for shrines to Imam Riza at Mashhad and to his sister Fatima at Qum. Devotion to Husain and Hasan replaced village shrines to Sufi saints; instead of the pilgrimage to Mecca, people went to Karbala. The martyrdom of 'Ali's son Husain in 680 was commemorated in processions, passion plays, sermons, and recitations called consolations (ta'zias). Just as medieval European theater grew out of the passion plays about Jesus, Persian drama gradually developed from plays about Husain and his family, their journey from Medina, and their military defeat.
Theologians Mir Damad (d. 1631) and his disciple Sadr al-Din Shirazi, known as Akhund Mulla Sadra (1571-1640) to his disciples, combined Sufi mysticism with the Shi'i doctrines and loyalty to the imams. Mir Damad revived the philosophy of Avicenna and established the school of hikmat (theosophy) at Isfahan. He wrote of a spiritual vision he had on the eve of the birthday of the Twelfth Imam in 1615. He described the archetypes that connect the eternal spiritual reality to the changing world. Mir Findiriski was a friend of Mir Damad and was believed to have been able to travel great distances in a moment. He was an alchemist and wrote a commentary on the Hindu Yoga Vasistha.
Mulla Sadra retired to a village in order to practice spiritual exercises to develop his intuition, but the last thirty years of his life he taught in the Khan school of Shiraz. He wrote about fifty books; his most influential is The Supernal Wisdom concerning the Four Journeys of the Intellect, which was taught to advanced students over six years. He synthesized revelation, intuition, and reasoning, aiming to bring people back to the one spiritual reality, and he integrated the four schools of theology, philosophy, theosophy, and gnosis. He emphasized the power of creative imagination. Mulla Sadra described four stages of human development. Before birth the human sperm is like a vegetable, but by birth it has developed into an animal with human potential. The child becomes fully human by adolescence, and is then potentially an angel or a disciple of the devil. The practical faculty of humans also has four stages, moving from using religious law to purifying the soul of bad qualities to illuminating the soul with virtues and knowledge, and to annihilating the soul in the journey to God, in God, and finally with God. Mulla Sadra focused mostly on metaphysical issues and is considered by many the greatest Muslim philosopher since the 15th century.
In 1615 'Abbas had crown prince Safi Mirza stabbed to death, because he believed this son was plotting to overthrow him. 'Abbas also had two sons and one grandson blinded so that they could not replace him. Thus began a period in Persian history when the future shahs were not prepared to rule, because they were kept in the harem and not given political experience.
Shah 'Abbas was succeeded in 1629 by his 18-year-old grandson Sam Mirza, who was called Shah Safi. He cruelly had several of his male relatives blinded and other people he suspected murdered. In 1632 Fars was made a crown province after Imam Quli Khan and his sons were killed. In 1634 Mirza Taqi was appointed Grand Vizier and dominated the court of Isfahan. That year the town Governor of Isfahan, Georgian Rustam Khan, defeated Theimuraz to rule Tiflis for the shah, overseeing peace for reconstruction until his death in 1658. Mirza Taqi demanded too much payment from Qandahar in 1638, provoking its Governor 'Ali Mardan Khan to change his allegiance to Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Baghdad had fought off an Ottoman invasion in 1630; but frontier skirmishes continued. By the end of 1638 Sultan Murad IV had reconquered Baghdad, and the Ottomans would hold it till World War I. The next year the peace treaty of Zuhab set boundaries that would last beyond the period of the Safavid empire. Shah Safi was addicted to opium and died of alcoholism in 1642.
Shah 'Abbas II (r. 1642-66) was under ten years old when he ascended the throne. Grand Vizier Saru Taqi tried to limit drinking at court, but 'Abbas took after his father. Saru Taqi had a field marshal executed for disobedience and made enemies with his severity. He was murdered by five conspirators in 1645. The young Shah had the murderers put to death and appointed Khalifa Sultan, who had been Grand Vizier for his father for a decade. He was a religious man and tried to curb artistic representations, pederasty, and prostitution. Persian forces reconquered Qandahar in 1648, and Indian efforts to regain it were repulsed. After Khalifa Sultan died in 1653, several territories were made royal estates. Persian troops quelled rebellions in Daghistan. 'Abbas patronized scholars and was an artist, but he persecuted Jews with a 1656 decree authorizing his officials to force them to convert to Islam. He had his nephews killed and his four brothers blinded. He probably died of syphilis and was succeeded by his oldest son in 1666. That year a European visitor to Isfahan counted 48 colleges, 162 mosques, and 273 public baths.
Safi Mirza was crowned Safi II; but after rising prices, an earthquake in Shirvan, and raids by Stenka Razin's Cossacks, astrologers persuaded him to adopt the name Sulaiman on March 20, 1668 at nine in the morning. He too indulged in alcohol and women, rarely even meeting with his Grand Vizier; his privy council in the harem was limited to women and eunuchs. Corruption weakened the Persian empire, and soldiers neglected their duties. Sulaiman did respect the peace treaty with the Turks and rejected offers to regain Mesopotamia and Basra. He also appreciated art, and three of Persia's greatest painters flourished during his reign. Before he died, Sulaiman told his advisors that if they wanted peace, they should make his oldest son Husain Mirza Shah; but if they wanted to expand the empire, they should choose 'Abbas Mirza. After his death in 1694, his aunt Maryam Begum was influential in selecting Husain.
A group of influential Shi'i theologians, led by Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (d. 1699) and then by his grandson Muhammad Husain, dominated the court. Promoting Twelver Shi'ism, they caused suffering for Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Sunnis; even Sufis were expelled from Isfahan.
1. The Book of Dede Korkut tr. Geoffrey Lewis, p. 190.
2. Ibid., p. 161.
3. Turkish Literature tr. Epiphanius Wilson, p. 354-355.
4. Quoted in Literary History of Persia, Volume 3: The Tartar Dominion 1265-1502 by E. G. Browne, p. 255.
5. Love's Perfect Gift: Rubaiyat of Hafiz tr. Paul Smith, p. 42, 52, 86.
6. The Green Sea of Heaven: Fifty ghazals from the Diwan of Hafiz tr. Elizabeth Gray, Jr., p. 49, 61, 87, 131.
7. Ibid., p. 103, 145.
8. Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 6, p. 214.
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