Childhood & Early Life
Murad III was born on July 4, 1546, in Manisa, Ottoman Empire, to Sultan Selim II and his wife of Venetian origin, Nurbanu Sultana.
He was the eldest son of his parents. Following this circumcision ceremony in 1557, he was made the sancakbeyi of Akşehir by his grandfather, Suleiman I, in 1558.
At, 18 he became the sancakbeyi of Saruhan. After Suleiman’s death, Selim II, breaking the tradition, sent only his oldest son to govern a province. Murad was thus sent to Manisa.
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After Selim’s death in 1574, Murad ascended to the throne on December 22 that year. He got his five younger brothers strangled, to remove any competition.
The women of the royalty influenced most of his decisions, especially his mother and his favorite wife, Safiye.
Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokollu, who held most of the court’s powers during Selim II’s reign, was assassinated in 1579.
During Murad's rule, the northern borders with the Habsburg Monarchy were under Hasan Predojević, the Bosnian governor. Murad led many battles on the empire's eastern and western fronts. The Ottomans were also defeated in many wars, such as the Battle of Sisak.
The Ottomans and the Safavid Empire of Iran were at peace with each other since 1555, according to the ‘Treaty of Amasya.’
However, in 1577, Murad attacked them and started the Ottoman–Safavid War (1578–1590), taking advantage of the chaos following Shah Tahmasp I’s death. His forces extended his reign over Azerbaijan, Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi, Georgia), Nahāvand, and Hamadān (currently in Iran).
His fight with the Safavids continued for 12 years, eventually ending in 1590, with the ‘Treaty of Constantinople,’ which gave away many territories to the Ottomans.
In 1578, he usurped Fez (present-day Fès, Mor.) from the Portuguese. In Europe, he fought a long war against Austria (1593–1606). In 1594, the Ottoman vassals of Transylvania, Moldavia, and Walachia allied with Austria and fought against the Ottoman Empire
Murad also attempted to invade North America. However, he canceled his plans after the Spanish navy launched a naval attack on the Ottoman fleet that was about to explore North America.
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Murad was mostly influenced by viziers Sinan Pasha and Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha. However, Murad's reign saw a major financial crisis in the Ottoman empire. The Ottomans spent a lot of money in training their soldiers in military tactics.
By 1580, there was inflation and chaos, due to the influx of silver from the New World. The regime saw an increase in food prices, and the purchasing power of the common people decreased by half. The Janissary corps (or the elite forces), began threatening the common people.
Anatolia faced rebellions, and corruption in the government was rampant. People in the Ottoman and Habsburg regions accused Murad of accepting bribe. It was believed he had accepted 20,000 ducats and had given away the governorship of Tunisia and Tripoli in return.
Murad also tried to create an alliance with England by directly writing to Queen Elizabeth I. England exported tin, lead, and arms from the Ottoman Empire. The Queen had also contemplated joint military operations with the Ottomans, during the beginning of their war with Spain in 1585.
The Palace & the Arts
Murad was the second Ottoman sultan, after his father, who never led a campaign during his rule. Instead, he spent most of his reign in Constantinople.
In his final years, he refused to go out of ‘Topkapı Palace’ and did not attend the Friday procession to the royal mosque for 2 years.
He spent most of his time in the palace writing and reading. He also held meetings with members of the Divan on 4 days of the week. Apart from this, he spent his time in leisure, walking around in the royal gardens, talking to the entertainers of his court, and spending time with the women in his harem.
His lack of interest in military campaigns made historians Mustafa Âlî and Mustafa Selaniki, who lived during his reign, develop a negative image of him. They wrote about his sexual excesses.
He had also developed an interest in miniatures and books. He supported the ‘Society of Miniaturists’ and had commissioned volumes such as the ‘Siyer-i Nebi,’ based on the life of Prophet Muhammad.
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He had also commissioned the ‘Book of Skills,’ the ‘Book of Festivities,’ and the ‘Book of Victories.’
Murad contributed to ‘Kitabü’l-Menamat’ (‘The Book of Dreams’), which was addressed to Şüca Dede, his spiritual advisor. It was based on his letters describing his dreams. These dream letters were recently published in Turkish by Ozgen Felek.
Personal Life & Family
Before assuming power, Murad was devoted to his chief concubine, Safiye Sultan, an Albanian. They had a son, Mehmed, and two daughters.
However, his mother, Nurbanu, wanted him to father more sons to keep the chances of succession strong.
A few years after ascending to the throne, Murad got two concubines as a gift from his sister Ismihan.
However, Murad soon proved to be impotent. Nurbanu then accused Safiyye of making him impotent with witchcraft. The court physicians gave him a medical cure to increase his sexual appetite. Following this, Murad had many children. Some of his named concubines were Şemsiruhsar Hatun, Naz-perver, and Şahihuban Hatun.
Some believe he had over a hundred children by the time he died. Nineteen of them were killed by Mehmed III after he ascended to the throne. History names 22 sons and 28 daughters. Sixteen of his daughters died in a plague in 1597.
Some of his sons were Mehmed III, Selim Bayezid, Cihangir, Abdullah, Mustafa, Osman, Hasan, Ahmed, Yakub, Abdurrahman, Abdullah, Alemsah, Yusuf, Huseyin, Korkud, Alauddin, Ali, Ishak, Omer, and Davud.
Some of his daughters were Ayse, Fahriye, Fatma, and Mihrimah.
Murad died of apoplexy on January 16 (some sources say 15), 1595, at the ‘Topkapi Palace’ in Constantinople.’ He was 48 at the time of his death.
He was buried next to the ‘Hagia Sophia.’ About 54 sarcophagus of the sultan, his wives, and his children lie buried along with him.
Murad had buried his mother, Nurbanu, beside his father, Selim II, thus making her the first concubine to be buried next to a sultan's tomb.
Murad was succeeded by Mehmed III.