Suleiman the Magnificent

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The people think of wealth and power as the greatest fate, But in this world, a spell of health is the best state. What men call sovereignty is worldly strife and constant war; Worship of God is the highest throne, the happiest of all estates.

Suleiman I (Ottoman Turkish: سليمان اول, romanized: Süleyman-ı Evvel; Turkish: I. Süleyman; 6 November 1494 – 6 September 1566), commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent in the West and Suleiman the Lawgiver (Ottoman Turkish: قانونى سلطان سليمان, romanized: Ḳānūnī Sulṭān Süleymān) in his realm, was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 until his death in 1566.

Quotes

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  • The people think of wealth and power as the greatest fate,
    But in this world, a spell of health is the best state.
    What men call sovereignty is worldly strife and constant war;
    Worship of God is the highest throne, the happiest of all estates.
    • Quoted by Mansel, Philip, Constantinople: city of the world's desire 1453-1924 (1995), p. 84
  • The green of my garden, my sweet sugar, my treasure, my love who cares for nothing in this world.
    My master of Egypt, my Joseph, my everything, the queen of my heart's realm.
    My Stanbul, my Karaman, my land of the Roman Caesars,
    My Badakhshan, my Kipcak, my Baghdad, and Khorasan.
    O my love of black hair with bow-like eyebrows, with languorous perfidious eyes.
    If I die you are my killer, O merciless, infidel woman.
    • Quoted by Mansel, Philip, Constantinople: city of the world's desire 1453-1924 (1995), p. 84
    • Written to his wife - see the article Hurrem for another translation of this verse.

Quotes about

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  • By 1516, Ottoman forces had seized Damascus, and in the following year they entered Egypt, shattering the Mamluk forces by the use of Turkish cannon. Having thus closed the spice route from the Indies, they moved up the Nile and pushed through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, countering the Portuguese incursions there. If this perturbed Iberian sailors, it was nothing to the fright which the Turkish armies were giving the princes and peoples of eastern and southern Europe. Already the Turks held Bulgaria and Serbia, and were the predominant influence in Wallachia and all around the Black Sea; but, following the southern drive against Egypt and Arabia, the pressure against Europe was resumed under Suleiman (1520–1566). Hungary, the great eastern bastion of Christendom in these years, could no longer hold off the superior Turkish armies and was overrun following the battle of Mohacs in 1526—the same year, coincidentally, as Babur gained the victory at Panipat by which the Mughal Empire was established. Would all of Europe soon go the way of northern India? By 1529, with the Turks besieging Vienna, this must have appeared a distinct possibility to some. In actual fact, the line then stabilized in northern Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire was preserved; but thereafter the Turks presented a constant danger and exerted a military pressure which could never be fully ignored. Even as late as 1683, they were again besieging Vienna.
    • Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000 (1987)
  • The Ottoman Empire was, of course, much more than a military machine. A conquering elite (like the Manchus in China), the Ottomans had established a unity of official faith, culture, and language over an area greater than the Roman Empire, and over vast numbers of subject peoples. For centuries before 1500 the world of Islam had been culturally and technologically ahead of Europe. Its cities were large, well-lit, and drained, and some of them possessed universities and libraries and stunningly beautiful mosques. In mathematics, cartography, medicine, and many other aspects of science and industry—in mills, gun-casting, lighthouses, horsebreeding—the Muslims had enjoyed a lead. The Ottoman system of recruiting future janissaries from Christian youth in the Balkans had produced a dedicated, uniform corps of troops. Tolerance of other races had brought many a talented Greek, Jew, and Gentile into the sultan’s service—a Hungarian was Mehmet’s chief gun-caster in the Siege of Constantinople. Under a successful leader like Suleiman I, a strong bureaucracy supervised fourteen million subjects—this at a time when Spain had five million and England a mere two and a half million inhabitants. Constantinople in its heyday was bigger than any European city, possessing over 500,000 inhabitants in 1600.
    • Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000 (1987)
  • The Ottoman padishahs (emperors), also known as sultans, were initially a dynasty of and golden extraordinarily dynamic conquerors. The succession demanded a large number of heirs, cages who were produced by a numerous harem of potential mothers of future sultans. However, once a padishah had succeeded, this multitude of princes was a constant threat to his throne, a problem new sultans increasingly solved by murdering all their brothers. Troublesome harem girls or princesses who interfered too much in politics were killed also. In the East, it was forbidden to shed royal blood and thus from Mongolia to the Bosphorus, princes were killed by being suffocated, crushed in carpets by horses or elephants, or strangled with a bowstring. The girls were sown up in sacks and dropped into the Bosphorus. When Suleiman the Magnificent was informed by his favourite wife, the blonde Slavic Roxelana, that his own son Mustafa had been plotting against him, he summoned the prince and watched as he was asphyxiated before him. A similar fate befell one of Roxelana’s sons, Bayezid, after he betrayed the sultan and briefly took up with the Persian shah; Bayezid’s four sons were despatched in the same way.
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Encyclopedic article on Suleiman the Magnificent on Wikipedia