The Ottomans

Selim


   Historians always like to blame someone, anyone, for major events. In the decline of the Ottoman Empire, that "someone" is Selim II (1566-1574), the son of Suleiyman I. It's clear that Selim was the first disinterested Sultan among the Ottomans. Addicted to sexual and alcholic pleasures, Selim, known in Islamic history as "Selim the Drunkard," retired almost completely from the decision-making and administrative apparatus of the Ottoman state.

   The process of the Sultan's disengagement with government actually began with Suleiyman. Towards the end of his life, weary, tired, and broken by the executions of his two favorite sons, Suleyman withdrew into his great Topkapi palace and handed the reigns of government over to his Grand Vizier. This was the model that his son would follow. In addition, however, Suleiyman abandoned with his son Selim a tradition among the Ottoman Sultans: raising his child to become Sultan. The sons of the Sultan were expected to participate in government and military training and campaigns; only this period of apprenticeship would make them worthy of the Sultanate. Suleiyman had done this with his older children, particularly Mustafa. But Mustafa and Bayezid betrayed him. Selim, then, lived a very isolated existence in the harem of Topkapi palace. He was not trained in government or military affairs, so there was little reason for him to take any interest in them.

   Selim II reigned for only eight years, but he set the precedent for Ottoman rule for the next two centuries and the great Empire, the great Caliphate that stood as a lion before the advancing mercantile and military expansion against Europe, slowly crumbled under European pressure.

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The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries


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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 2-20-97