The Making of Selim: Succession, Legitimacy, and Memory in the Early Modern Ottoman World

The Making of Selim: Succession, Legitimacy, and Memory in the Early Modern Ottoman World

The Making of Selim: Succession, Legitimacy, and Memory in the Early Modern Ottoman World

The Making of Selim: Succession, Legitimacy, and Memory in the Early Modern Ottoman World

Synopsis

The father of the legendary Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, Selim I ("The Grim") set the stage for centuries of Ottoman supremacy by doubling the size of the empire. Conquering Eastern Anatolia, Syria, and Egypt, Selim promoted a politicized Sunni Ottoman• identity against the Shiite Safavids of Iran, thus shaping the early modern Middle East. Analyzing a wide array of sources in Ottoman-Turkish, Persian, and Arabic, H. Erdem Cipa offers a fascinating revisionist reading of Selim's rise to power and the subsequent reworking and mythologizing of his persona in 16th- and 17th-century Ottoman historiography. In death, Selim continued to serve the empire, becoming represented in ways that reinforced an idealized image of Muslim sovereignty in the early modern Eurasian world.

Excerpt

On September 22, 1520, Selīm I died of a boil. the reign of the conqueror of eastern Anatolia, Syria, and Egypt thus ended not with a bang but with a whimper. For a monarch who had established the Ottomans’ incontrovertible domination in the Islamic world and styled himself “Master of the Auspicious Conjunction” (ṣāḥib-ḳırān) and “Shadow of God” (ẓıll-Allāh), this was undoubtedly an incongruous fate. Chroniclers of the Ottoman tradition narrate proudly that Selīm, while still a prince, had defeated the “infidel” (kāfir) Georgians, crushed the armies of the “heretical” (mülḥid, zındīḳ) Safavids in 1514, and brought Mamluk history to a close three years later. in addition to applauding Selīm for his expansionist strategies and effective military expeditions, both of which doubled the geographical extent of the Ottoman realm, authors also praise him for having been the first Ottoman ruler to use the title “Servitor of the Two Sacred Cities (that is, Mecca and Medina)” (ḫādimü’l-ḥarameyn), thus giving further credence during his reign to Ottoman claims of preeminence in the lands of Islamdom. in numerous contemporary accounts he is hailed as the ever-victorious combatant sultan, the ultimate “Warrior of Faith” (ġāzī), “Messiah” (mehdī), and “Renewer of the Faith” (müceddid). Resolute but just, Selīm was considered the ideal Muslim ruler personified.

When addressing the circumstances of Selīm’s death, however, some of the same chroniclers also allude to the controversial nature of his ascendance to the Ottoman throne. Reminding their readers that he was a valiant but violent prince who forcibly deposed his father, Bāyezīd ii (r. 1481–1512), the legitimate ruling sultan, they remark in a discernibly didactic tone—and not without a certain degree of irony—that Selīm “migrated from the Abode of Annihilation [that . . .

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