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Selim I

Selim I
Caliph of Islam
Amir al-Mu'minin
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Reign 26 May 1512 – 22 September 1520
Predecessor Bayezid II
Successor Suleiman the Magnificent
Born 10 October 1465/1466/1470
Died 22 September 1520 (aged 49-54)
Tekirdağ, Çorlu
Burial Yavuz Selim Mosque, Fatih, Istanbul
Consort Ayşe Hatun
Ayşe Hafsa Sultan
Issue Suleiman I
Hatice Sultan
Beyhan Sultan
Şah Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Hafsa Sultan
Şehzade Sultan
Royal house House of Osman
Father Bayezid II
Mother Gülbahar Hatun
Religion Sunni Islam

Selim I (Ottoman Turkish: سليم اوّل, Modern Turkish: I.Selim or Yavuz Sultan Selim), nicknamed Yavuz (traditionally translated as "grim," but closer to "stern" or "implacable" in meaning) (October 10, 1465/1466/1470 – September 22, 1520), was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to 1520.[1] His reign is notable for the enormous expansion of the Empire, particularly his conquest between 1516 and 1517 of the entire Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, which included all of Sham, Hejaz, Tihamah, and Egypt itself. He was also granted the title of "Khâdim ül Haramain ish Sharifain" (Servant of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina) by the Sharif of Mecca in 1517. Through conquering and unification of Muslim lands, Selim became the defender of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina which strengthened the Ottoman claim to caliphate in the Muslim world.

Selim's expansion into the Middle East represented a sudden change in the expansion policy of the empire, which, before his reign, had mostly been within the Balkans (Southeast Europe) and Anatolia (Asia Minor).[2] On the eve of his death in 1520, the Ottoman Empire spanned almost 1 billion acres (about 4 million square kilometers), having tripled in size during Selim's reign.


  • Biography 1
    • Conquest of the Middle East 1.1
      • Safavid Empire 1.1.1
      • Syria, Palestine, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula 1.1.2
    • Death 1.2
  • Titles 2
  • Personality 3
  • Foreign relations 4
    • Relations with the Shah Ismail 4.1
    • Relations with Babur 4.2
  • Gallery 5
  • Modern day 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Outline of the Ottoman Empire, from the Theatro d'el Orbe de la Tierra de Abraham Ortelius, Anvers, 1602, updated from the 1570 edition.

Born in Amasya around 1470, Selim was the youngest son of Bayezid II (1481–1512). Selim's mother was Ayşe Hatun, a Turkish princess from the Dulkadir State centered around Elbistan in Maraş; her father was Alaüddevle Bozkurt Bey, the eleventh ruler of the Dulkadirs.[3][4][5] Some academics state that Selim's mother was a Pontic Greek lady named Gülbahar Hatun,[6] however, chronological analysis suggests that this is highly unlikely and that his biological mother was Ayşe Hatun.[7]

By 1512, Şehzade Ahmet was the favorite candidate to succeed his father. Bayezid, who was really reluctant to continue his rule over the empire, announced Ahmet as heir apparent to the throne. Angered with this announcement, Selim rebelled. Although he lost the first battle against his father's forces, Selim successfully dethroned his father Bayezid II. Selim ordered the purge of his father to a far away "sanjak", Dimetoka. Bayezid’s death followed immediately thereafter.[8] Selim put his brothers (Şehzade Ahmet and Şehzade Korkut) and nephews to death upon his accession in order to eliminate potential pretenders to the throne. This fratricidal policy was motivated by bouts of civil strife that had been sparked by the antagonism between Selim’s father Beyazid and his uncle Cem Sultan, and between Selim himself and his brother Ahmet.

Selim I was described as being tall, having very broad shoulders and a long mustache. He was skilled in politics and was said to be fond of fighting.[9] In 1494, at Trabzon, he married Ayşe Hafsa Sultan, the daughter of Meñli I Giray.

Conquest of the Middle East

Safavid Empire

16th-century Ottoman miniature of the Battle of Chaldiran.

For Selim, one of the first challenges as Sultan was the growing tension between himself and Kartli and Kakheti his vassals.[11][12] and was of a great threat to his Sunni Muslim neighbors to the west. In 1511, Ismail had supported an pro Shia/Safavid uprising in Anatolia, the Şahkulu Rebellion. In 1514, Selim I attacked Ismā'il's kingdom to stop the spread of Shiism into Ottoman dominions. Selim and Ismā'il had been exchanging a series of belligerent letters prior to the attack. Selim I defeated Ismā'il at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514.[13] Ismā'il's army was more mobile and their soldiers were better prepared but the Ottomans prevailed due in large part to their efficient modern army, and possession of artillery, black powder and muskets. Ismā'il was wounded and almost captured in battle, and Selim I entered the Iranian capital of Tabriz in triumph on September 5,[14] but did not linger. The Battle of Chaldiran, was of historical significance, in which the reluctancy showed by Shah Ismail to accept the advantages of modern firearms and the importance of artillery was decisive.[15] After the battle, Selim referring to Ismail stated that his adversary was: "Always drunk to the point of losing his mind and totally neglectful of the affairs of the state.[16]

Syria, Palestine, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula

Selim then conquered the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, defeating the Mamluk Egyptians first at the Battle of Marj Dabiq, and then at the Battle of Ridanieh. This led to the Ottoman annexation of the entire sultanate, from Syria and Palestine in Sham, to Hejaz and Tihamah in the Arabian Peninsula, and ultimately Egypt itself. This permitted him to extend Ottoman power to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, hitherto under Egyptian rule. Rather than style himself the Hakim ul Haremeyn, or The Ruler of The Two Holy Shrines, he accepted the more pious title Khadim ul Haremeyn, or The Servant of The Two Holy Shrines.[8][17]

After the conquest of Egypt and the Holy Cities in 1517, Selim induced Al-Mutawakkil III (1509–17), the last in the line of Abbasid caliphs who resided in Cairo since 1261 as nominal rulers legitimizing the de facto rule of the Mamluk sultans over the Mamluk Sultanate,[18] to formally surrender the title of Caliph and its emblems, the sword and the mantle of Muhammad.[2] These are kept in the Topkapı Palace Museum at Istanbul, Turkey.


Selim I on his deathbed.
Left: The türbe of Selim I in his mosque. Right: Yavuz Selim Mosque.

This campaign was cut short when he was overwhelmed by sickness and subsequently died in the ninth year of his reign. He was about fifty-five years of age. Officially it is said that Selim succumbed to sirpence, a skin infection which he developed during his long campaigns on horseback. (Sirpence was an anthrax infection sometimes seen among leatherworkers and others who worked with livestock). Some historians, however, suggest that he died of cancer or that he was poisoned by his physician.[19]


Selim assumed the title Malik ul-Barreyn, wa Khakan ul-Bahrayn, wa Kasir ul-Jayshayn, wa Khadim ul-Haramayn - that is, King of the Two Lands (continents Europe and Asia), Khagan of the Two Seas (Mediterranean and Indian Seas), Conqueror of the Two Armies (European and Safavid armies), and Servant of the Two Holy Shrines (Mecca and Medina). This title alludes to his dominions in Europe and Asia (namely, Balkan, Anatolia, and much of the Fertile Crescent), his control over the Mediterranean and Black seas, his defeat of both the Mamluk and Safavid armies, and his guardianship of the shrines of Mecca and Medina.


By most accounts, Selim had a fiery temper and had very high expectations of his subordinates. Several of his viziers were executed for various reasons. A famous anecdote relates how another vizier playfully asked the Sultan for some preliminary notice of his doom so that he might have time to put his affairs in order. The Sultan laughed and replied that indeed he had been thinking of having the vizier killed, but had no one fit to take his place, otherwise he would gladly oblige. Lord Kinross, in his history of the Ottomans, reports that life at Sultan Selim's court was full of opportunities, and there were always plenty of applicants to the highest offices, regardless of the risks. Despite this, a popular Ottoman curse was, "May you be a vizier of Selim's," as a reference to the number of viziers he had executed.[20]

Selim was one of the Empire's most successful and respected rulers, being energetic and hardworking. During his short eight years of ruling, he accomplished momentous success. Despite the length of his reign, many historians agree that Selim prepared the Ottoman Empire to reach its zenith under the reign of his son and successor, Suleiman the Magnificent.[21]

Selim was also a distinguished poet who wrote both Turkish and Persian verse under the nickname Mahlas Selimi; collections of his Persian poetry are extant today.[21] In one of his poems, he wrote:

Foreign relations

Relations with the Shah Ismail

While marching into Persia in 1514, Selim's troops suffered from the scorched-earth tactics of Shah Ismail. The Sultan hoped to lure Ismail into an open battle before his troops starved to death, and began writing insulting letters to the Shah, accusing him of cowardice:

Ismail responded to Selim's third message, quoted above, by having an envoy deliver a letter accompanied by a box of opium. The Shah's letter insultingly implied that Selim's prose was the work of an unqualified writer on drugs. Selim was enraged by the Shah's denigration of his literary talent and ordered the Persian envoy to be torn to pieces.[22]

Relations with Babur

Babur's early relations with the Ottomans were initially troubled because the Ottoman Sultan Selim I provided Babur's arch rival Ubaydullah Khan with powerful Matchlocks and Cannons to counter the influence of the Safavidds.[23] In the year 1507, when ordered to accept Selim I as his Caliph and suzerain, Babur refused.

In the year 1513, Ottoman Sultan Selim I reconciled with Babur, dispatched Ustad Ali Quli the artilleryman and Mustafa Rumi the Matchlock marksman and many other Ottoman Turks, in order to assist Babur in his conquests. Thenceforth this particular assistance proved to be the basis of future Mughal-Ottoman relations.[24]


Modern day

See also


  1. ^ Yavuz Sultan Selim Biography Retrieved on 2007-09-16,
  2. ^ a b The Rise of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire Retrieved on 2007-09-16
  3. ^ Babinger, Franz (1992), Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, Princeton University Press, p. 57,  
  4. ^ Freely, John (2001), Inside the Seraglio: private lives of the sultans in Istanbul, Penguin, p. 32,  
  5. ^ Agoston, Gabor (2011), "The Ottomans: From Frontier Principality to Empire", in Olsen, John Andreas; Gray, Colin S., The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present, Oxford University Press, p. 116,  
  6. ^ Yavuz Bahadıroğlu, Resimli Osmanlı Tarihi, Nesil Yayınları (Ottoman History with Illustrations, Nesil Publications), 15th Ed., 2009, page 157, ISBN 978-975-269-299-2
  7. ^ Dijkema, F.TH (1977), The Ottoman Historical Monumental Inscriptions in Edirne, BRILL, p. 32,  
  8. ^ a b The Classical Age, 1453-1600 Retrieved on 2007-09-16
  9. ^ "Sultan Selim the Excellent". Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  10. ^ BBC, (LINK)
  11. ^ "History of Iran:Safavid Empire 1502 - 1736". Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Michael Axworthy Iran: Empire of the Mind (Penguin, 2008) p.133
  14. ^ The later Crusades, 1274-1580: from Lyons to Alcazar Door Norman Housley, page 120, 1992
  15. ^ "Morgan, David. ''Shah Isma'il and the Establishment of Shi'ism''". Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  16. ^ The pursuit of pleasure: drugs and stimulants in Iranian history, 1500-1900 By Rudolph P. Matthee, pg. 77
  17. ^ Yavuz Sultan Selim Government Retrieved on 2007-09-16
  18. ^ Thompson, J., A History of Egypt, AUC Press 2008, p. 194; Vatikiotis, P.J., The History of Modern Egypt, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, p.20
  19. ^ Byfeld, Ted, ed. (2010). A Century of Giants. A.D. 1500 to 1600: in an age of spiritual genius, western Christendom shatters. The Society to Explore and Record Christian History. p. 9.  
  20. ^ Middle East, Istanbul
  21. ^ a b Necdet Sakaoğlu, Bu Mülkün Sultanları, pg.127
  22. ^ Crider, Elizabeth Fortuato (1969). The Foreign Relations of the Ottoman Empire Under Selim I, 1512-1520(Master's Thesis). Ohio State University, 1969, page 20. Retrieved on 2011-04-12
  23. ^ Mughal-Ottoman relations: a study of political & diplomatic relations ... - Naimur Rahman Farooqi - Google Boeken
  24. ^ Mughal-Ottoman relations: a study of political & diplomatic relations ... - Naimur Rahman Farooqi - Google Boeken

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
Selim I
Born: October 10, 1465 Died: September 22, 1520
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Bayezid II
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
April 25, 1512 – September 22, 1520
Succeeded by
Suleiman I
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Bayezid II
Caliph of Islam
April 25, 1512 – 1517
Became Caliph in 1517
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Al-Mutawakkil III
Caliph of Islam
1517 – September 22, 1520
Succeeded by
Suleiman I
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