Royal wrath: curbing the anger of Ottoman Sultans, 1450-1600
Yelçe, Zeynep Nevin (2013) Royal wrath: curbing the anger of Ottoman Sultans, 1450-1600. In: Enenkel, Karl A.E. and Traninger, Anita, (eds.) Discourses of Anger in the Early Modern Period. Intersections. Brill, Leiden/Boston. (Accepted/In Press)
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In 1522, the Ottoman navy besieged Rhodes with the presence of Sultan Süleyman (d.1566) himself. As the long and exhausting siege carried on seemingly in vain, a highly esteemed yet greedy commander decided to blame the general commander for the situation. When the Sultan heard the complaint, he “fell into a violent storm of rage because of this evil news. However, as by required by leadership he did not make haste in pronouncing the death sentence, he did not commit an act that could not be tolerated,” according to his contemporary Celalzade (Tabakat, 95b). Süleyman I has often been praised for being able to curb his anger before doing something he would later regret. Such was not the case with his father Selim (d.1512) who would be remembered as “Selim the Furious” in the later sixteenth century and “Selim the Grim” in even later times. Sultan Selim was infamous especially for murdering his viziers upon momentary flashes of anger. He is known to have killed his grand vizier Yunus Paşa on the spot for requesting the governorship of the newly conquered Egypt in 1518. Writers of the next generation, in other words those active during Süleyman’s reign, explain this sudden execution with the “royal wrath” of Sultan Selim. After this execution, Selim seems to have regretted his impulsive decision of killing an “innocent man.” The Quran, after all, says: “But whoever kills a believer intentionally - his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment” (4:93). One can only speculate on whether this particular verse crossed the mind of either sultan during these specific incidents. However wrath, both royal and divine, were inevitable parts of life and found much echo in the writings of their contemporaries. As such, this papers traces the instances in which royal wrath was manifested, examining the legitimate/illegitimate reasons and consequences thereof. It further aims to contextualize such instances within the Turco-Persian/Perso-Islamic tradition , as well as the broader sixteenth-century world.
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