MIGHTY SOVEREIGNS of OTTOMAN THRONE: SULTAN SULEIMAN II

Sultan Suleiman II was able to strengthen the Ottoman Empire through internal reforms and reconquests of territory despite his short reign
4 Şubat 2022 Cuma
4.02.2022

 

Sultan Suleiman II, the son of Sultan Ibrahim and Saliha Dilaşub Haseki, was the 22nd Ottoman sultan and the 85th caliph of the Muslims. He was born in 1642. When he was 6 years old, his father was deposed and murdered.

Upon his one-year older brother Sultan Mehmed IV's accession to the throne, he lived in his apartment in Topkapı Palace. He tried to educate himself by studying science, even though his education was not given much importance due to the circumstances. He was the şehzade (prince) who remained in the position of heirdom to the throne the longest.

As a child, his life was strictly controlled in the crown prince's apartment due to the rumors that he would be enthroned instead of his brother. Nevertheless, his older brother took him on expeditions and hunting parties.

He acceded the throne at the age of 45 after his brother was dethroned in 1687 following a military coup. When he was enthroned, rumor has it that he said: “If our execution is ordered, let me perform a two-rakat prayer. It is better to die immediately than to live like this for 40 years.”

He was very saddened by the disasters the country had faced in the last days of his brother's rule. He did not have the means to prevent them but wanted to appoint a statesman who could do it. At the end of his reign, he found this person and closed his eyes with peace of mind.

 A depiction of Sultan Suleiman II by John Young.
A depiction of Sultan Suleiman II by John Young.

Popular coup

When he came to the throne, the war was raging on the Austrian and Venetian fronts. It was not easy to resist the allied enemies, whose goal was to expel the Ottomans from Europe. The situation on the Austrian front deteriorated, and soldiers set out for Istanbul.

The rebels in the military seized control of the army and the authority in Istanbul. They surrounded the mansion of Grand Vizier Siyavuş Pasha. The pasha was murdered after he killed about a hundred rebels. Nişancı Ismail Pasha became the new grand vizier. The rebels wanted the head of Köprülüzade Fazıl Mustafa Pasha, the deputy grand vizier whom they feared would follow the path of his father and elder brother, on a plate. In order to save this valuable bureaucrat, Sultan Suleiman II immediately moved him out of Istanbul and sent him to the Dardanelles as a guardian.

The rebels were very angry with Sultan Suleiman II's fait accompli. Military coups at the time were started by the junior officers, not the generals, who were called the "janissary aghas." The aghas did not have the power to prevent the uprisings. In the meantime, a person whose shop was looted amid the revolt in Istanbul wrapped a white cloth on tip of a spear and called on the people to rise up against the rebel troops. The ulama, who gathered around the preacher of Süleymaniye Mosque, also supported this call. Tens of thousands of Istanbulites flocked to the streets. The sultan displayed a military banner in front of the palace in a display of support for the uprising, causing the rebel soldiers to disperse. They were found and punished later on.

A miniature of Sultan Suleiman II.
A miniature of Sultan Suleiman II.

As Nişancı Ismail Pasha did not act politically and clamped down on bureaucracy and the ulama after suppressing the rebels, he was dismissed and Bekri Mustafa Pasha replaced him as grand vizier.

Retreat

In the meantime, the fortress in Rumelia was left without aid, leaving the Muslim inhabitants unsure of what to do. A general sense of panic ensued. Eğri (Eger), Golumbacz, Istolni-Belgrade (Szekesfehervar), Belgrade, Banja Luka and Zvornik were lost one by one.

The Eger beylerbeyi (governor-general) was martyred. His deputy surrendered the fortress to the enemy to spare the people from a massacre. In Eger, where the most largest Muslim community lived in Hungary after Budin and home to 47 mosques, only a single minaret has survived to date as the sign of Ottoman rule. This shows the level of Austrian barbarism, as historian Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall said.

Szekesfehervar, located 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Budin, defended itself for a long period. When the town fell, the Austrians massacred thousands of soldiers and civilians to avenge their losses in the siege. Austrians were surprised when they saw that one of the cannons seized in the town was able to fire cannonballs as big as 440 pounds (200 kilograms). One of the seized military banners was sent to the pope.

In Belgrade, where the siege lasted for a month, Muslims were evacuated. Those who opted to remain were massacred alongside the Ottoman garrison. The people of Banja Luka and Zvornik ran away before the cities fell. Therefore, the Ottomans lost the lands on the banks of the Drava River, which were conquered during the reign of Sultan Murad I.

 Tughra of Sultan Suleiman II.
Tughra of Sultan Suleiman II.

Despite the debacle on the Austrian front, the Ottomans became victorious on Polish and Russian fronts thanks to the aid of Crimeans. It was the first time that Russia, considered non-European until then, was admitted to a European coalition.

Venetians, who invaded Morea and Athens but could not advance further, started to put pressure on Orthodox and Muslim people. The Orthodox community, who hated the Venetians, started missing Ottoman rule as it had refrained from intervening in their personal affairs. Some 3,500 Greeks even took ships from Athens to Istanbul as they did not wish to live under Venetian rule. This faulty policy followed by Venetians also in Cyprus and Crete led to the Ottomans taking control of Morea a quarter of a century later.

Correct belated act

Following these developments, the sultan himself launched a campaign in 1689. However, he remained in the headquarters in Sofia due to his illnesses and upon the advice of viziers. Peace negotiations were unfruitful. The sultan returned to Edirne from Sofia after five months. In the meantime, Nis and Vidin fell. A large portion of Serbia fell into the hands of Austrians. Now, the Ottomans were in the position of defending Bosnia, Kosovo and even Bulgaria.

The sultan convened an imperial council in Edirne. Sheikh al-Islam Debbağzade Mehmed Efendi told the council that the only figure who can spare the country from this catastrophe was Köprülüzade Fazıl Mustafa Pasha. Everyone agreed that the pasha was the sole figure who could establish authority over the bureaucrats and public. Although it was late, it was the right idea.

Just like his brother, Fazıl Mustafa was trained among the ulama and surpassed his brother in knowledge. During the time of his brother, he did not accept any official posts. After living a calm life, he took part in bureaucracy and rose through the ranks quickly. He is regarded as a military commander with mediocre skills, however, he is also regarded among the greatest organizational geniuses in history.

Fifty-one-year-old Fazıl Mustafa Pasha was appointed as grand vizier with broad authority. This intimidated the bullies. The pasha engaged in reforms until he set out for the expedition the next summer. He abolished the high taxes that oppressed the people. He regulated finances, confiscated illegitimate wealth and cut out wasteful spending. The sultan sent all the gold and silver items in the palace to the mint to produce money. The treasury filled up. Fazıl Mustafa Pasha also commissioned a military census. He retired officers that could no longer effectively serve. He gathered the army in Edirne.

A depiction of Sultan Suleiman II mounted on a horse.
A depiction of Sultan Suleiman II mounted on a horse.

In the Siege of Vienna in 1683, Crimean Khan Murad Giray, who was insulted at the grand vizier's council, was dismissed when he withdrew his soldiers as an act of revenge that led to a defeat. Selim Giray, who took his place, rendered a great service by defeating an Austrian army of 20,000 that marched to Istanbul, taking advantage of the deterioration of the Ottoman Army in Perekop in 1690.

Death came on the way

Köprülüzade Fazıl Mustafa Pasha's accession to power alarmed Europe. In 1690, the pasha went on an expedition. Nis, Vidin, Smederevo and Belgrade were taken back. However, since the people who fled did not return, Belgrade ceased to be a Turkish city. The Hungarian city lost its identity and turned into a Serbian city.

Fazıl Mustafa Pasha forgave the Christian people who cooperated with the enemy in the reclaimed towns. He even gave them free seeds and animals. Frightened by the pasha’s actions, the Germans fortified Vienna and Budin. However, Erdel could not be taken back and the 165-year Ottoman rule came to an end here in 1691.

In the meantime, some fed up with the grand vizier's strict financial policy attempted to enthrone Sultan Mehmed IV again. The pasha arrested them and then went on an expedition to Hungary in 1691 with Sultan Suleiman II. The sultan had been suffering from a disease for two years. His whole body was swollen. Despite this, he went on a campaign because of his patriotism; however, he could not go beyond Edirne.

Sultan Suleiman II, who sent off his grand vizier by praying with the hope that Budin would be taken back, died eight days later at the age of 49. His reign lasted four years. His body was brought to Istanbul in ice and buried in the tomb of Suleiman I, also known as Suleiman the Magnificent.

A depiction of Sultan Suleiman II.
A depiction of Sultan Suleiman II.

‘He wouldn’t say no’

The historical chronicle “Nusretname” (“The Book of Victories”), written by Ottoman historian Silahdar Fındıklılı Mehmed Agha, describes Sultan Suleiman II as: “The sultan was stout and of medium height with a flat chest, a beautiful, white, round face, black eyes, a natural nose and a black beard. He was dignified and majestic; his dress and turban were elegant; he was honey-mouthed; he was boniform, generous, good-natured, obedient and just and treated everyone well. He was very pious. He did not miss a prayer. He would stand up out of respect whenever Allah and the Prophet Muhammad are mentioned. Whoever asked him for something, he wouldn't say no. He did not hold a grudge.”

He was brave and patriotic. That he went on an expedition to travel for military incentives even though he was seriously ill is proof of this. He hoped to gain the favor of Allah by enduring this challenge. He was extremely saddened by the defeats in Europe and had prayed for victory with tears. Although he was too sick to get out of bed in his last campaign, he set out under the influence of the same feeling. Like his great-grandfather Suleiman the Magnificent, whose name he bears, he died during the expedition.

He was a master calligrapher. His writing was beautiful. He took lessons from Tokatlı Ahmed Efendi. His teacher was Arabzade Abdulvehhab Efendi. In Sufism, he was a member of the sect of Atpazarlı Osman Efendi, the sheikh of Halwati. Sultan Suleiman II never had a child. His short reign was passed with internal and external troubles. Sancakburnu Castle, which was destroyed in an earthquake in Izmir, was repaired in 1688. He also commissioned a mosque here. He ordered the repair of Eyüp Sultan Mosque, which was damaged in the Eyüp fire of 1690.