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Selim II

Selim II
Caliph of Islam
Amir al-Mu'minin
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Reign 1566–74
Predecessor Suleiman I
Successor Murad III
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Consort Nurbanu Sultan
Selimiye Sultan
Issue Esmehan Sultan
Murad III
Şah Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Şehzade Abdullah
Gevherhan Sultan
Royal house House of Osman
Father Suleiman I
Mother Hürrem Sultan
Born 28 May 1524
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Died 12/15 December 1574 (aged 50)
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Religion Sunni Islam
Sultan Selim II receiving the Safavid ambassador in the palace at Edirne in 1567
16th century copy of the 1569 Capitulations between Charles IX and Selim II

Selim II (Ottoman Turkish: سليم ثانى Selīm-i sānī, Turkish:II.Selim; 28 May 1524 – 12 December/15 December 1574), also known as "Selim the Sot (Mest)" in west and as "Sarı Selim" (Selim the Blond) in east, was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1566 until his death in 1574. He was a son of Suleiman the Magnificent and Haseki Hürrem Sultan.


  • Biography 1
  • Children 2
  • Selim II between reality and myths 3
    • Marks of decay 3.1
  • References 4
  • Sources 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Ottoman miniature of Selim II

He was born in Constantinople[1][2] a son of Suleiman the Magnificent and his legal Rusyn wife, Hürrem Sultan.[3] She later became the first Haseki Sultan and was a prominent figure during the era known as the Sultanate of Women.

In 1545, at Konya, he married Nurbanu Sultan whose background is disputed. It is said that she was originally named Cecelia Venier Baffo, or Rachel, (or Kale Katenou). She was the mother of Murad III. She later became the first Valide Sultan who acted as co-regent with the sultan in the Sultanate of Women.[4]

After gaining the throne after palace intrigue and fraternal dispute, he succeeded as Sultan on 7 September 1566, According to one source Selim II became the first Sultan devoid of active military interest and willing to abandon power to his ministers, provided he was left free to pursue his Grand Vizier, Mehmed Sokollu, from what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, controlled much of state affairs, and two years after Selim's accession succeeded in concluding at Constantinople an honourable treaty (17 February 1568) with the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II, whereby the Emperor agreed to pay an annual "present" of 30,000 ducats and essentially granted the Ottomans authority in Moldavia and Walachia.

Against Russia Selim was less fortunate, and the first encounter between the Ottoman Empire and her future northern rival gave presage of disaster to come. A plan had been prepared in Istanbul for uniting the Volga and Don by a canal, and in the summer of 1569 a large force of Janissaries and cavalry were sent to lay siege to Astrakhan and begin the canal works, while an Ottoman fleet besieged Azov. But a sortie of the garrison of Astrakhan drove back the besiegers; a Russian relief army of 15,000 attacked and scattered the workmen and the Tatar force sent for their protection; and finally, the Ottoman fleet was destroyed by a storm. Early in 1570 the ambassadors of Ivan IV of Russia concluded at Constantinople a treaty which restored friendly relations between the Sultan and the Tsar.

Expeditions in the Hejaz and Yemen were more successful, but the conquest of Cyprus in 1571, which provided Selim with his favourite vintage, led to the calamitous naval defeat against Spain and Italian states in the Battle of Lepanto in the same year, freeing the Mediterranean Sea from corsairs.

The Empire's shattered fleets were soon restored (in just six months; it consisted of about 150 galleys and 8 galleasses) and the Ottomans maintained control of the Mediterranean (1573). In August 1574, months before Selim's death, the Ottomans regained control of Tunisia from Spain who had controlled it since 1572.

During his reign, his older sister Mihrimah Sultan, acted as his Valide Sultan, (equivalent to Queen Mother), due to the fact that their mother Hürrem Sultan, died before his reign began. She was the most powerful woman in the empire, and often lent him large sums of gold, to fight his wars.


  • Esmehan Sultan (b.1544, Manisa.-d.1585, Istanbul), daughter with Nurbanu
  • Gevherhan Sultan (b.1544, Manisa.-d.1580, Istanbul), daughter with Selimiye
  • Şah Sultan (b.1548, Manisa.-d.1602, Istanbul), daughter with Nurbanu
  • Fatma Sultan (b.1549, Manisa.-d.1580. Istanbul), daughter with Nurbanu

Selim II between reality and myths

The discussion about the personality of Sultan Selim II goes back centuries, he was most likely the center of discussion even in the period of time in which he lived. This would be understandable, as his father, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, would be difficult to surpass in greatness.[5]

Actual imperial orders from the Sultan seem hardly able to fit within the uncited fictional character seeking to escape Islam’s commandments to pursue Western frivolities. On the contrary, imperial orders show firm resolve to ease the burden of those engaging in the strenuous Hajj pilgrimage, and special consideration for Muslims living under the subjugation of intolerant colonialists.

An excerpt of an imperial order from the Sultan:

"..because the accursed Portuguese are everywhere owing to their hostilities against India, and the routes by which Muslims come to the Holy Places are obstructed and moreover, it is not considered lawful for the people of Islam to live under the power of miserable infidels … you are to gather together all the expert architects and engineers of that place and investigate the land between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas and report where it is possible to make a canal in that desert place and how long it would be and how many boats could pass side by side."[6]

Many Western sources created the common story that Sultan Selim II was actually controlled by his Grand Vizir. This theory has left out important information contained within Ottoman Archives where Sultan Selim II was often deciding between various Vezirs and creating his own hierarchies of authority:

"In 1568 a strong expedition was sent to pacify the province under the command of Sultan Selim’s former tutor and confidant Lala Mustafa Pasha, a choice which showed that Selim was not entirely the pawn of his grand vezir, for Sokullu Mehmed resented Lala Mustafa’s place in the Sultan’s affections. To put down the uprising in Yemen Lala Mustafa needed men and supplies from Egypt but the provincial governor, another rival Koca Sinan Pasha, refused his requests and made it impossible for him to pursue the campaign. In a spate of petitions to the Sultan the two defended their respective positions. Koca Sinan proved the stronger and Lala Mustafa was dismissed from command of the Yemen campaign. To mark his continuing favour, however, Selim created for him the position of sixth vezir of the governing council of the empire. -Osman’s Dream by Caroline Finkel".[7]

Marks of decay

Scottish historian Lord Kinross, in his The Seeds of Decline, sees the massive outlay for the fleet-rebuilding following the Battle of Lepanto as the start of the Empire's slow decay, although many historians confirm the Empire's decay started with Murad III his son. Sultan Selim II died in Topkapi Palace after a period of fever brought on when he slipped over on the wet floor of an unfinished bath-house, getting a head injury.[8]


  1. ^ Necdet Sakaoğlu (1993/94a): "İstanbul'un adları" ["The names of Istanbul"]. In: 'Dünden bugüne İstanbul ansiklopedisi', ed. Türkiye Kültür Bakanlığı, Istanbul.
  2. ^ "Istanbul", in Encyclopedia of Islam.
  3. ^ The Speech of Ibrahim at the Coronation of Maximilian II, Thomas Conley, Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 2002), 266.
  4. ^ Bernard Lewis, The Muslim discovery of Europe, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001, p. 192.
  5. ^ "False History and Sultan Selim II:
  6. ^ Ottoman Archives: Muhimme Defteri Vol 7 No 721
  7. ^ Osman’s Dream by Caroline Finkel
  8. ^ The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success (Oxford Linguistics) – Geoffrey Lewis


  • Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream, Basic Books, 2005.

Further reading

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • Selim II Tomb

Selim II
Born: May 28, 1524 Died: December 12, 1574[aged 50]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Suleiman I
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Sep 5, 1566 – Dec 12, 1574
Succeeded by
Murad III
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Suleiman I
Caliph of Islam
Sep 5, 1566 – Dec 12, 1574
Succeeded by
Murad III
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