If you liked watching “The Tudors”, “Rome” and you really, REALLY liked “300” well than, you’ll love this show! I’m glued to the computer screen as I get it through You Tube every Thursday night! Oh, and have I mentioned that I’m Serbian and speak not a word of Turkish? Yet, I am riveted by the story. Let’s be clear here: Muhteşem Yüzyıl (Magnificent Century) is a Turkish television series based on the life of Suleiman the Magnificent. To watch the 1st Episode with English subtitles click here:
It is a serial about the past of Ottoman Empire. You know the one that had my people under that rule for Centuries? Yet, I’m still riveted by the story. Apparently, the serial has triggered protests from the conservative public (and I thought our Conservative’s were bad) even before the pilot episode has been aired. They thought that the scenes showing Harem dancers, around Suleiman while he was having wine, were indecent and against their religion. They didn’t want the Ottoman Empire to be seen as such a den of iniquity. They went so far as to read passages from the Quran egg the building of Show TV station and tear down public ads. I don’t think it’s working, however, as the 7th episode aired just this Wednesday, the 16th of February. Now they’re all over blogs, websites and Facebook groups who are protesting the TV serial! WHATEVER!!! I hear that it is the MOST watched show in Turkey. I hope it stays that way. It’s just a show! Get it together, People! Should you not be glad that your country is getting some attention? And good, I might add. Oh, have I told you also that I’m Christian? Yet, I’m riveted by the story. If you would like to catch it, visit here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBxXN3HyBcg&feature=fvsr. That’s the link for the 1st Episode and from there you can follow through. The series just premiered this January and I’m not sure how long it will last. Every Thursday you’ll be able to watch new Episode. I hope you like it!
Now, I’ll tell you about the show: The role of Suleiman is played by Halit Ergenç (Onur Aksal from “BinBir Gece”), Meryem Uzerli as Aleksandra (Hürrem) his second wife and the love of his life; Nebahat Çehre as his mother, Ayşe Hafsa Sultan; Okan Yalabık as his confidante Pargalı İbrahim Pasha and Nur Aysan in a role of his first wife.
As I said before, I don’t speak the language, so before I went to watch the first Episode, I visited Wikipedia and here is what it says:
Suleiman was infatuated with Aleksandra Lisowska (c. 1510 – April 18, 1558), or Hürrem Sultan, meaning the “laughing one”, a harem girl of Ruthenian origin, then part of Poland. In the West foreign diplomats, taking notice of the palace gossip about her, called her “Russelazie” or “Roxelana”, referring to her Slavic origins. The daughter of an Orthodox Ukrainian priest, she was enslaved and rose through the ranks of the Harem to become Suleiman’s favorite. Breaking with two centuries of Ottoman tradition, a former concubine had thus become the legal wife of the Sultan, much to the astonishment of observers in the palace and the city. Her intrigues as queen in the court and power over the Sultan made her quite renowned. Their son, Selim II, succeeded Suleiman following his death in 1566 after 46 years of rule. He also allowed Hürrem Sultan to remain with him at court for the rest of her life, breaking another tradition—that when imperial heirs came of age, they would be sent along with the imperial concubine who bore them to govern remote provinces of the Empire, never to return unless their progeny succeeded to the throne.
Suleiman I (born on 6 November 1494) was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He ruled from 1520 to his death in 1566 and is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent and in the East, as the Lawgiver and was responsible for complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system. His mother was Valide Sultan Aishe Hafsa Sultan or Hafsa Hatun Sultan, who died in 1534. At the age of seven, he was sent to study science, history, literature, theology, and military tactics in the schools of the Topkapı Palace in Constantinople. He spoke six languages: Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, Serbian, Chagatai (a dialect of Turkish language and related to Uighur), Persian and Urdu.
Upon the death of his father, Selim I (1465–1520), Suleiman entered Constantinople and acceded to the throne as the tenth Ottoman Sultan. An early description of Suleiman, a few weeks following his accession, was provided by the Venetian envoy Bartolomeo Contarini: “He is twenty-five years of age, tall, but wiry, and of a delicate complexion. His neck is a little too long, his face thin, and his nose aquiline. He has a shade of a moustache and a small beard; nevertheless he has a pleasant mien, though his skin tends to pallor. He is said to be a wise Lord, fond of study, and all men hope for good from his rule.”
Whilst Sultan Suleiman was known as “the Magnificent” in the West, he was always Kanuni Suleiman or “The Lawgiver” to his own Ottoman subjects. As the historian Lord Kinross notes, “Not only was he a great military campaigner, a man of the sword, as his father and great-grandfather had been before him. He differed from them in the extent to which he was also a man of the pen. He was a great legislator, standing out in the eyes of his people as a high-minded sovereign and a magnanimous exponent of justice”.
The overriding law of the empire was the Shari’ah, or Sacred Law, which as the divine law of Islam was outside of the Sultan’s powers to change. Yet an area of distinct law known as the Kanuns (canonical legislation) was dependent on Suleiman’s will alone, covering areas such as criminal law, land tenure and taxation. He collected all the judgments that had been issued by the nine Ottoman Sultans who preceded him. After eliminating duplications and choosing between contradictory statements, he issued a single legal code, all the while being careful not to violate the basic laws of Islam. It was within this framework that Suleiman, supported by his Grand Mufti Ebussuud, sought to reform the legislation to adapt to a rapidly changing empire. When the Kanun laws attained their final form, the code of laws became known as the kanun‐i Osmani, or the “Ottoman laws”. Suleiman’s legal code was to last more than three hundred years.
Suleiman gave particular attention to the plight of the rayas, Christian subjects who worked the land of the Sipahis. His Kanune Raya, or “Code of the Rayas”, reformed the law governing levies and taxes to be paid by the rayas, raising their status above serfdom to the extent that Christian serfs would migrate to Turkish territories to benefit from the reforms. The Sultan also played a role in protecting the Jewish subjects of his empire for centuries to come. In late 1553 or 1554, on the suggestion of his favorite doctor and dentist, the Spanish Jew Moses Hamon, the Sultan issued a firman formally denouncing blood libels against the Jews. Furthermore, Suleiman enacted new criminal and police legislation, prescribing a set of fines for specific offences, as well as reducing the instances requiring death or mutilation. In the area of taxation, taxes were levied on various goods and produce, including animals, mines, profits of trade, and import-export duties. In addition to taxes, officials who had fallen into disrepute were likely to have their land and property confiscated by the Sultan.
Suleiman personally led Ottoman armies to conquer the Christian strongholds of Belgrade, Rhodes, and most of Hungary before his conquests was checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. He annexed most of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavids and large swathes of North Africa as far west as Algeria. Under his rule, the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. With his main European rivals subdued, Suleiman had assured the Ottoman Empire a powerful role in the political landscape of Europe.
He also instituted legislative changes relating to society, education, taxation, and criminal law. His canonical law (or the Kanuns) fixed the form of the empire for centuries after his death. Not only was Suleiman a distinguished poet and goldsmith in his own right; he also became a great patron of culture, overseeing the golden age of the Ottoman Empire’s artistic, literary and architectural development.
Education was another important area for the Sultan. Schools attached to mosques and funded by religious foundations provided a largely free education to Muslim boys in advance of the Christian countries of the time. In his capital, Suleiman increased the number of mektebs (primary schools) to fourteen, teaching children to read and write as well as the principles of Islam. Children wishing further education could proceed to one of eight medreses (colleges), whose studies included grammar, metaphysics, philosophy, astronomy, and astrology. Higher medreses provided education of university status, whose graduates became imams or teachers. Educational centers were often one of many buildings surrounding the courtyards of mosques; others included libraries, refectories, fountains, soup kitchens and hospitals for the benefit of the public.
Under Suleiman’s patronage, the Ottoman Empire entered the golden age of its cultural development. Hundreds of imperial artistic societies (called the Ehl-i Hiref, “Community of the Talented”) were administered at the Imperial seat, the Topkapı Palace. After an apprenticeship, artists and craftsmen could advance in rank within their field and were paid commensurate wages in quarterly annual installments. Payroll registers that survive testify to the breadth of Suleiman’s patronage of the arts. Whereas previous rulers had been influenced by Persian culture (Suleiman’s father, Selim I, wrote poetry in Persian), Suleiman’s patronage of the arts had seen the Ottoman Empire assert its own artistic legacy.
Suleiman himself was an accomplished poet, writing in Persian and Turkish under the nom de plume Muhibbi (Lover). Some of Suleiman’s verses have become Turkish proverbs, such as the well-known “Everyone aims at the same meaning, but many are the versions of the story. When his young son Mehmed died in 1543, he composed a moving chronogram to commemorate the year: Peerless among princes, my Sultan Mehmed. In addition to Suleiman’s own work, many great talents enlivened the literary world during Suleiman’s rule, including Fuzuli and Baki. The literary historian E. J. W. Gibb observed that “at no time, even in Turkey, was greater encouragement given to poetry than during the reign of this Sultan”.
Under his pen name, Muhibbi, Suleiman composed this poem for Roxelana:
“Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful…
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf…
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this world…
My Constantinople, my Caraman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of mischief…
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.”
Suleiman also became renowned for sponsoring a series of monumental architectural developments within his empire. The Sultan sought to turn Constantinople into the center of Islamic civilization by a series of projects, including bridges, mosques, palaces and various charitable and social establishments.
Pargalı İbrahim Pasha was the boyhood friend of Suleiman. Ibrahim was originally Greek Orthodox and when young was educated at the Palace School under the devshirme system. Suleiman made him the royal falconer, and then promoted him to first officer of the Royal Bedchamber. Ibrahim Pasha rose to Grand Vizier in 1523 and commander-in-chief of all the armies. Suleiman also conferred upon Ibrahim Pasha the honor of beylerbey of Rumelia, granting Ibrahim authority over all Turkish territories in Europe, as well as command of troops residing within them in times of war. According to a 17th century chronicler, Ibrahim had asked Suleiman not to promote him to such high positions, fearing for his safety; to which Suleiman replied that under his reign no matter what the circumstance, Ibrahim would never be put to death.
Yet Ibrahim eventually fell from grace with the Sultan. During his thirteen years as Grand Vizier, his rapid rise to power and vast accumulation of wealth had made Ibrahim many enemies among the Sultan’s court. Reports had reached the Sultan of Ibrahim’s impudence during a campaign against the Persian Safavid Empire: in particular his adoption of the title serasker sultan was seen as a grave affront to Suleiman.
Suleiman’s suspicion of Ibrahim was worsened by a quarrel between the latter and the Minister of Finance Iskender Chelebi. The dispute ended in the disgrace of Chelebi on charges of intrigue, with Ibrahim convincing Suleiman to sentence the Minister to death. Before his death however, Chelebi’s last words were to accuse Ibrahim of conspiracy against the Sultan. These dying words convinced Suleiman of Ibrahim’s disloyalty, and on 15 March 1536 Ibrahim’s lifeless body was discovered in the Topkapi Palace.
Suleiman’s two wives had borne him eight sons, four of whom survived past the 1550s. They were Mustafa, Selim, Bayezid, and Jihangir. Of these, only Mustafa was not Hürrem Sultan’s son, but rather Mahidevran Gülbahar Sultan‘s (“Rose of Spring”), and therefore preceded Hürrem’s children in the order of succession. Hürrem was aware that should Mustafa become Sultan her own children would be strangled. Yet Mustafa was recognized as the most talented of all the brothers and was supported by Pargalı İbrahim Pasha, who was by this time Suleiman’s Grand Vizier. The Austrian ambassador Busbecq would note “Suleiman has among his children a son called Mustafa, marvelously well educated and prudent and of an age to rule, since he is 24 or 25 years old; may God never allow a Barbary of such strength to come near us”, going on to talk of Mustafa’s “remarkable natural gifts”.
Hürrem is usually held at least partly responsible for the intrigues in nominating a successor. Although she was Suleiman’s wife, she exercised no official public role. This did not, however, prevent Hürrem from wielding powerful political influence. Since the Empire lacked any formal means of nominating a successor, succession usually involved the death of competing princes in order to avert civil unrest and rebellions. In attempting to avoid the execution of her sons, Hürrem used her influence to eliminate those who supported Mustafa’s accession to the throne.
Thus in power struggles apparently instigated by Hürrem, Suleiman had Ibrahim murdered and replaced with her sympathetic son-in-law, Rustem Pasha. By 1552, when the campaign against Persia had begun with Rustem appointed commander-in-chief of the expedition, intrigues against Mustafa began. Rustem sent one of Suleiman’s most trusted men to report that since Suleiman was not at the head of the army, the soldiers thought the time had come to put a younger prince on the throne; at the same time he spread rumors that Mustafa had proved receptive to the idea. Angered by what he came to believe were Mustafa’s plans to claim the throne, the following summer upon return from his campaign in Persia, Suleiman summoned him to his tent in the Ereğli valley, stating he would “be able to clear himself of the crimes he was accused of and would have nothing to fear if he came”.
Mustafa was confronted with a choice: either he appeared before his father at the risk of being killed; or, if he refused to attend, he would be accused of betrayal. In the end, Mustafa chose to enter his father’s tent. Suleiman’s Eunuchs attacked Mustafa, with the young prince putting up a brave defense. Suleiman, separated from the struggle only by the linen hangings of the tent, peered through the chamber of his tent and “directed fierce and threatening glances upon the mutes, and by menacing gestures sternly rebuked their hesitation. Thereupon, the mutes in their alarm, redoubling their efforts, hurled Mustafa to the ground and, throwing the bowstring round his neck, strangled him.”
At the time of Suleiman’s death, the Ottoman Empire was one of the world’s foremost powers.
Series Trailer (English Subtitles)