Birthday: October 10, 1470
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 49
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Selim bin Bayezid
Born Country: Turkey
Born in: Amasya, Ottoman Empire, Turkey
Famous as: ottoman Sultan
Spouse/Ex-: Ayşe Hatun (m. 1511), Hafsa Hatun (m. 1494)
father: Bayezid II
mother: Gülbahar Hatun
children: Beyhan Sultan, Fatma Sultan, Hafize Sultan, Hafsa Sultan, Hatice Sultan, Şah Sultan, Sehzade Korkut, Şehzade Musa, Suleiman the Magnificent, Üveys Pasha, Yenişah Sultan
Died on: September 22, 1520
place of death: Çorlu, Ottoman Empire, Turkey
Selim I, also known as “Selim the Grim,” or “Selim the Resolute” (Yavuz Sultan Selim in Turkish), was an Ottoman sultan who ruled from 1512 to 1520. Selim, through his policy of annexation, extended his kingdom to Syria, Egypt, and the Hejaz. He was responsible for strengthening the Ottoman leadership in the Islamic world. Two of the most significant events during his reign were the Battle of Chaldiran, in which he defeated Shah Ismail, and the Ottoman–Mamluk War, which saw him crush the Mamluk forces. He was also known as “The Servant of The Two Holy Cities,” after extending his power to Mecca and Medina. He was one of the Ottoman Empire's most respected sultans. He was tall and fierce. He worked hard to organize his campaigns and is remembered for his aggressive policies and his indomitable spirit.
Childhood & Early Life
Selim was born on October 10, 1470, in Amasya, Ottoman Empire. He was the youngest son of Bayezid II (Şehzade Bayezid) and Gulbahar Hatun. However, some historians claim his mother’s name was Ayşe Hatun. However, many others claim that Ayse was actually the name of Selim’s wife.
His mother was a Turkish princess from the Dulkadir State, situated in Elbistan, Maraş. She was the daughter of Alaüddevle Bozkurt Bey, the 11th ruler of the Dulkadirs.
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The Struggle to the Throne
Selim came to power amidst a political chaos involving him, his brother, and his father. By 1512, Şehzade Ahmet had emerged as the most favored successor of his father. Bayezid did not wish to continue ruling. He thus announced Ahmet as his heir apparent. Selim revolted immediately. Despite initial losses, he managed to dethrone his father. He then sent his father to exile in Dimetoka. Bayezid died soon after. Selim then killed his brothers (Şehzade Ahmet and Şehzade Korkut) and nephews, to remove all potential heirs to the throne. One of his nephews, Şehzade Murad, son of Şehzade Ahmet, escaped to the Safavid Empire.
Selim thus got rid of all possible rulers, leaving only his son Süleyman as his heir.
The Battle of Chaldiran
He then decided to march against Shah Ismail, or Ismail I, the founder of the Ṣafavid Dynasty in Iran, who was a potential threat. Ismail propagated the Shia faith (the second-largest faction of Islam) and not the Sunni faith of the Ottomans.
Ismail was thus a threat to the Sunni Muslim people of the west. In 1511, Ismail supported a pro-Shia/Safavid revolt in Anatolia, known as the Şahkulu Rebellion.
Selim crushed the Kizilbash (followers of Ismail) revolts in Anatolia and gathered forces against Ismail. On August 23, 1514, he defeated Ismail at the Battle of Chaldiran, toward the east of the Euphrates.
Selim then marched into the Iranian capital, Tabriz, on September 5. The Battle of Chaldiran also showcased Shah Ismail’s denial to accept the profits of using modern firearms.
Selim then annexed the Anatolian Kurdish and Turkmen principalities and added them to the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Mamluk War (1516 1517)
His control over of the Dulkadir (Dhū al-Qadr) principality of Elbistan (present-day Turkey) gave rise to a conflict between the Ottomans and the Mamluk rulers of Syria and Egypt. The Mamluk rulers considered the members of the Dulkadir dynasty as their leaders.
Selim crushed the Mamluk forces at the Battle of Marj Dabiq in the north of Aleppo (on August 24, 1516) and the Battle of Raydaniyah (or Ridanieh) near Cairo (on January 22, 1517). He succeeded in bringing Syria, Palestine, Hejaz, Tihamah, and Egypt under Ottoman control.
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Thus, he also extended his empire to the cities of Mecca and Medina. The sharif of Mecca awarded Selim the keys to the holy city. This was a symbolic gesture that proclaimed Selim as the leader of the Islamic world. He accepted the title “Ḫādimü'l-Ḥaremeyn,” or “The Servant of The Two Holy Cities.”
Al-Mutawakkil III, the last Abbasid caliph, was in Cairo at that time. He was more of a nominal head under the Mamluks. During the Ottoman conquest, he was sent to exile in Istanbul.
A tale in the 18th century stated that he had officially given away his title of the caliphate to Selim during the conquest. It was also believed that Selim had not asked for the title and that the story of the official transfer was just a rumor.
Selim acquired Damascus in 1516. Following this, he ordered the restoration of Ibn Arabi’s tomb. Ibn Arabi, who died in 1240, was a popular Sufi scholar who was held in high regard by Ottoman Sufis.
Family & Personal Life
Selim was married to Hafsa Sultan and Ayşe Hatun.
Hafsa Sultan was believed to be the daughter of Meñli I Giray, who ruled as the khan of the Crimean Tatars between 1466 and 1515. However, some historians claim Hafsa was probably a slave.
It is believed that Ayşe Hatun, Selim’s other wife, was a Crimean princess. Ayşe was previously married to Selim's brother Şehzade Mehmed, Sancak Bey of Kefe, son of Bayezid and Ferahşad Hatun. It is said that they remained married from 1504 to Mehmed’s death in 1507, after which Ayse became part of the harem of her husband's brother, Selim, in 1511.
Back then, Selim was the governor of Amasya. Thus, his relationship with Ayse probably helped him make valuable contacts and thus paved his path to the throne.
Selim was tall and well-built and was known for his mastery of the sword, archery, and wrestling. He had a long mustache but trimmed his beard, which was unusual for sultans. He also wore an earring on one ear.
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Selim had at least six sons, namely, Suleiman the Magnificent, Şehzade Salih, Abdullah, Mahmud, Murad, and Üveys Pasha.
He also had at least 10 daughters, including Fatma Sultan, Hatice Sultan, Hafize Sultan, Şah Sultan, Beyhan Sultan, Kamerşah Sultan.
Selim died on September 22, 1520, in the Tekirdag province. It was the ninth year of his rule, and he was about 50 at the time of his death. His son Suleyman I "the Magnificent" succeeded his father and became the next sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
It is said that Selim had succumbed to sirpence, a skin infection he had developed while on his campaigns on horseback. Sirpence was an anthrax infection mostly seen among leatherworkers and people who worked among livestock.
Many, however, believe he had died of cancer. Some even believe that he was poisoned by his own physician. Other historians stated that Selim had died during a plague in his kingdom and thus there is a possibility that he had died of the same disease.
His body was brought to Istanbul to be buried in the ‘Yavuz Selim Mosque,’ which was commissioned by his son, Suleiman the Magnificent.
Selim features as a key character in the video game ‘Assassin's Creed: Revelations.’
He is also a main character in the romance novel ‘The Kadin,’ written by Bertrice Small.
In 1914, the German battleship named ‘SMS Goeben’ was renamed ‘Yavuz Sultan Selim’ after it was given away to the Turkish navy.
A bridge over the Bosphorus in Istanbul is known as the ‘Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge.’