The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent

Words: 2752
Topic: History


Sultan Suleiman is one of the greatest leaders in history. Sultan was the leader of the Ottoman Empire was born in the year 1494 on the 6th of November. He was in the reign for the longest time beginning in the year 1520 until 1566 when he died. He was born by Sultan Selim I as the father and his mother was known as Hafsa Sultan. In the west, Sultan was known as ‘the Magnificent’ while in the East he was referred to as the ‘Kanuni’.

Suleiman schooled at “Topkapi Palace in the current Istanbul which was then known as Constantinople where he studied military tactics, history, science, as well as literature and theology” (Tucker 504). His adviser who was also an early friend was known as Pargali Ibrahim. Sultan was a name given to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire.

Prior to his reign as the leader of the Ottoman Empire, his father was the leader until 1520. It is important to note that the year in which Sultan was born is the same year when the 10th century of Muslim chronology was opened. This was the most significant period among the Muslims and in Islamic history. Sultan who was also referred to as the lawgiver was involved in numerous military campaigns.

This helped him become a more prominent leader of the Ottoman Empire. It is during his reign that the empire witnessed the most achievements in law, art and literature. It is as a result of his achievements in law that Suleiman got the name lawgiver. This research will talk about Ottoman Empire Sultan, the life of Sultan Suleiman, his conquests and cultural achievements, his family, Hürrem Sultan, and Roxelana.

Early life

Sultan Suleiman was an educated man. He was educated by a man known as Karakızoglu Hayreddin Hızır Efendi. Suleiman began to show leadership traits in his early life when he was a young boy. He started wishing to become a governor at the age of 15.

It followed that he became the governor of Kaffa when he was only 17 years old. It is important to note that he was the first governor of this region. He then became the governor of Sarukhan and briefly led Adrianople.

When he was the governor of Kaffa, his grandfather who was known as Bayezid II was the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Similarly, when he was the governor of Sarukhan, it is his father Selim I who was ruling the Ottoman Empire. Selim, I had only one son, Suleiman I (Tucker 505).

When Selim became the ruler of Ottoman in the year 1912, Suleiman returned to Istanbul where he was to become his father’s regent. During that time, his father was having conflicts with his brothers in relation to the throne. They could not agree on who was to take over from Bayezid II, their father.

At the time when Suleiman returned to Istanbul, he was still the governor of Sarukhan. Suleiman was a poet and he wrote some of the best poems among the Muslims. Suleiman had a passion for education to the extent that he offered educational sponsorships to religious scholars and philosophers.

He was also a leader who had a strong voice and physically strong. His father died in the year 1520, and Suleiman took over the reign. There was no objection as he took over from his father due to the fact that he had earlier shown how serious man he was in leadership.

Suleiman was a confident man and he stuck to his words. He made laws and applied them without favoritism or compromise. Suleiman made written laws. As a result, he became known as the lawmaker. He did not break any rules and commands. In addition, he assigned duties and responsibilities to people on the basis of their capability and abilities rather than on the basis of favor or otherwise.

He was also known to be a fair leader. Suleiman was able to perceive the burden that the people were carrying from the Egypt tax since it was very high. He used his wisdom to replace the reigning governor to protect the people from the unfair tax burden.

How Suleiman Became the Ruler of the Ottoman Empire

Ottoman was an empire whose leadership was acquired through inheritance. This is how Sultan Suleiman got into leadership and became a powerful emperor widely referred to as ‘the Magnificent’. Up to the year 1481, the empire was headed by Mehmed II whose first born son was called Bayezid II or Bayezid Adli. When Mehmed died in 1481, Bayezid took over the throne and ruled up to the year 1512 when he died.

He had a son known as Sultan Selim I who took over upon his father’s death. Selim had struggles with his brothers who also wanted to take over the throne. However, due to the support, he got from the courts he was able to take over the throne at the expense of his brothers.

Sultan Selim, I had only one son known as Suleiman. At the time when he was struggling for the throne with his brothers, Suleiman was the governor of Sarukhan and he came back to Istanbul where he was to become his father’s regent.

As it has been mentioned earlier, Suleiman was born a leader and he started craving for the governor position at the age of 15. He became the governor of Kaffa at the age of 17. He later became the governor of Sarukhan. When Suleiman came back to Istanbul in 1512, he stayed there up to the time of his father’s death in 1520.

Suleiman had earlier shown that he was a good and able leader; therefore, when his father died there was no dispute as he took over the throne. No one opposed his getting into power.

In fact, prior to his father’s death, it was almost certain that he was the one to take over considering his leadership abilities and the fact that he was the only son of Selim I. It is from that time that he started establishing his era. It is worth noting that he was the tenth Sultan upon taking over the throne from his father (Kurth 10).

It is said that Suleiman inherited a country that was well organized, the treasury was well stocked and the military was in good shape. He went on to take full advantage of these institutions and became the most successful leader of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, it is said that he was one of the most fortunate if not the most fortunate Sultan due to the advantage that he inherited from his father.

Suleiman was able to organize the talents in the military that was left behind by his father. He sought for all the good qualities from his predecessors, added his abilities and came up with the most successful empire of the time (Kurth 13). All his rivals could not match his qualities.

It is for this reason that he became referred to as the lawgiver in Turkey. In the rest of Europe, people called him ‘Suleiman the Magnificent’. It is during his reign that Turkey was able to attain the glory that lives on to date.

When he took over the throne, Suleiman’s first campaign was to overhaul the Christian powers that were dominant in the central region of Europe, as well as in the Mediterranean. The campaign was marked with undisputed success. For instance, he added Belgrade to his dominions in the year 1521. In the year 1522, he added Rhodes, a dominion that had been ruled by the St. John Knights for a long period of time.

He also emerged victorious in the “Battle of Mohacs in the year 1526” (Kurth 13). The strong army in Hungary broke down and at the same time, Louis II who was the king of Hungary at the time died and was replaced by Ferdinand I. Ferdinand I was opposed by John, who was recognized as the King of Hungary by Suleiman (Kurth 13).

Suleiman had numerous achievements associated with him during his reign. One of the most notable successes that have been mentioned earlier is his campaign against Christian powers. Suleiman had one of the most reliable bodies of administrators, as well as statesmen. Among them included the chief ministers such as Mehmed Sokollu, Ibrahim and Rustem. There were also men who were experts of Islamic law, such as Abū al-Suʿūd and Kemalpaşazade.

These, together with Baki and Sinan who were a poet and architect respectively, made up the Suleiman administration. Suleiman successfully defended the Islamic territories such as Bagdad, Mecca, and Damascus.

These are the cities where there were mosques and aqueducts. Another notable achievement by Suleiman is his successful efforts to transform Constantinople, which was the Byzantine city into Istanbul. In fact, the city remains as Istanbul to date and it was the center of the Islamic Empire (Süleyman and Talât 35).

In terms of legislation, Suleiman was a man who believed in written laws. He executed laws with authority and was of a sovereign mind. Prior to Suleiman’s throne, the reigning law was sharia and it was not in line with his idea of change. Therefore, he introduced his rules that were referred to as the Kanuns laws. Kanuni is an Arabic word that is used to mean laws that were applied by the Ottoman Sultans.

Kanuni laws contrast normal Islamic laws (sharia). These laws catered for taxation, land tenure, as well as criminology. Suleiman was also keen on education as he increased the number of schools in the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

It is imperative to note that Suleiman increased the number of Islamic schools. Boys were taught how to read and write. They were also taught Islamic laws and principles. He also increased the number of colleges, which are also known as Medreses (Tucker 505).

Cultural Achievements

The culture was a very important issue among the Ottoman Empire. However, it did not have any significant development for a long time. The ‘golden age’ in the culture of the empire was attained during Suleiman’s reign. This age was marked with the administration of imperial artistic societies that were referred to as the “Community of the Talented” or the Ehl-i-Hiref. It was an important step in the development of artists, as well as craftsmen.

In fact, following this initiative artists were put in a better position to advance. They could be paid wages after very four months; hence, they were paid four times in one year. When the Ehl-i-Hiref was created, it was effective since it attracted a large number of artisans from the Islamic world who possessed talents.

They all joined the Sultan’s court, making it strong and effective. The court also received membership from people of great talent fetched from territories that had been subdued by Suleiman. This resulted in a court system that contained a diverse culture that was inclusive of Europeans, Islam and Turkish artisans. The Ottoman culture under the rule of Suleiman established its own differentiated artistic legacy (Atıl 78).

Under the previous rulers, the empire’s art was highly dependent on Persian culture. This led to the Ottoman art being influenced heavily by the Persian culture. For instance, Selim I was a poet but he wrote his poems in Persian due to the Persian cultural influence on the Ottoman Empire.

Just like his father, Suleiman was also a poet but unlike his father, he wrote his poems in two languages; Turkish and Persian. He was a prominent poet such that his work has not been forgotten to date. For instance, some of his lines are today used as proverbs among the Turkish people. One good example of such a proverb is, “Everyone aims at the same meaning, but many are the versions of the story” (Middle East Information Center, para 10).

Suleiman inspired more artists to do poetry through his work. He wrote poems that were read by many people and gave inspiration to them. For instance, when his son passed on he wrote a poem as a tribute to him. The poem was titled, “Peerless among princes, my Sultan Mehmed”. He wrote more poems while on the throne encouraging people such as Baki and Fuzuli. It was noted that more artists were discovered during the reign of Suleiman.

Another cultural achievement by Suleiman was the fact that he was highly involved in the development of monumental architects. In fact, he sponsored numerous monumental architectural developments. Suleiman spearheaded projects that were aimed at transforming the town of Constantinople into an Islamic civilization center.

He oversaw the establishment of important infrastructure and monuments, such as bridges and mosques, all to the betterment of the society. It is imperative to note that one of the most prominent projects was built and headed by Suleiman’s chief architect who was known as Mimar Sinan. Sinan went on to head many more monuments in the Ottoman Empire.

He is said to have headed about three hundred monuments during the reign of Sultan Suleiman. The two most notable monuments that he headed are Selimiye mosque and the Suleymaniye mosque. However, the former was built during the reign of Selim II, the son of Suleiman.

In addition to these projects, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was responsible for the restoration of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, as well as the restoration of the Jerusalem City walls (Atıl 98). The Jerusalem City walls are today the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Further, Suleiman led the renovation of Kaaba. This is a monument that was constructed in Mecca.

This is among the most sacred mosques in the Islam religion. It is an important monument in the Islam religion such that when Muslims are praying, they are required to face the building regardless of where they are located across the whole world. The direction they face when praying or other the direction to which the Kaaba is located is known as the Qiblah.

Another significance of this building is when it comes to the pilgrimage. Muslims are required to walk round the Kaaba for seven times when performing what is called the Hajj during their yearly pilgrimage. The walking direction has to be anti-clockwise. Finally, Suleiman’s other cultural achievement is the construction of a complex that was located in Damascus.

Relationship with Hürrem Sultan

Sultan Suleiman was a polygamous man and is known to have married four wives. The first wife was known as Fulani Hatun. He later married Gulfem Hatun, Mahidevran Sultan, and Hurrem Sultan respectively. Not much is known about the first three wives. The latter was married after Suleiman took over the throne from his father. She had a son who was named Mehmed (Campbell 37).

Mehmed was the first born. The rest of the kids were Mihrimah, Selim, Bayezid and Cihangir, all born in that order. Hurrem Sultan was a girl from Ruthenia. Hurrem Sultan was initially a slave who was sold from Crimea. By becoming the wife of Suleiman, two traditional rules were broken: a) a concubine was not supposed to become the wife of a Sultan. b)

An imperial concubine was supposed to be sent to remote provinces when they became of age, where they would govern for the rest of their lives unless one of their children became the heirs of the throne. Instead, Suleiman remained with Hurrem Sultan in his court for the whole of her life (Taylor 138).

Suleiman called her Roxelana as a result of the palace gossips regarding her. She was politically powerful. She went on to become a very prominent figure in the country. Roxelana was able to acquire power and influence through her husband. She was significant and played significant roles in the Ottoman Empire state affairs (Taylor 137).


The Ottoman Empire was one of the earliest empires in Turkey whose leadership was acquired through inheritance. When Sultan Suleiman took over the throne from his father, he went on to become one of the most established and successful leaders in Ottoman history. He was given names such as the Kanuni and lawmaker among the Turkish, while he was referred to as ‘the Magnificent’ in the rest of Europe.

He made great achievements, some of which remain relevant to date. Some of his achievements were notable in his administration, in cultural developments, as well as his conquest. His wife Hurrem Sultan became established as one of the most strong and influential women in the history of the Ottoman Empire.

Works Cited

Atıl, Esin. The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1987. Print.

Campbell, Verity. Turkey. Footscray, Vic: Lonely Planet Publications, 2007. Print.

Kurth, Tobias. Sultan Suleiman I. (1520 – 1566) – SeinLeben Und SeinWirken. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH, 2007. Print.

Middle East Information Center. Middle East Countries. 2005. Web.

Süleyman, Turks, and Talât S. Halman. Süleyman, the Magnificent Poet: The Sultan’s Selected Poems. Beyoğlu, Istanbul, Türkiye: Dost, 1987. Print.

Taylor, Jane. Imperial Istanbul: A Traveller’s Guide; Includes Iznik, Bursa and Edirne. London: Tauris, 1998. Print.

Tucker, Spencer. A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010. Print.