Mehmed III

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Mehmed III
محمد ثالث
Kayser-i Rûm
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Ottoman Caliph
Amir al-Mu'minin
Sultan Mehmed III.jpg
13th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Padishah)
Reign16 January 1595 – 22 December 1603
PredecessorMurad III
SuccessorAhmed I
Born26 May 1566 (1566-05-26)
Manisa Palace, Manisa, Ottoman Empire
Died22 December 1603(1603-12-22) (aged 37)
Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
ConsortsHandan Sultan
Halime Sultan
one other wife
IssueŞehzade Mahmud
Ahmed I
Mustafa I
among others
Mehmed bin Murad
FatherMurad III
MotherSafiye Sultan
ReligionSunni Islam
TughraMehmed III محمد ثالث's signature

Mehmed III (Ottoman Turkish: محمد ثالث‎, Meḥmed-i sālis; Turkish: III. Mehmet; 26 May 1566– 22 December 1603) was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1595 until his death in 1603.

Early life[edit]

Mehmed was born at the Manisa Palace in 1566, during the reign of his great-grandfather, Suleiman the Magnificent. He was the son of Murad III, himself the son of Selim II, who was the son of Sultan Suleiman and Hurrem Sultan. His mother was Safiye Sultan, an Albanian from the Dukagjin highlands.[1] His great-grandfather died the year he was born and his grandfather became the new sultan, Selim II. His grandfather Selim II died when Mehmed was eight, and Mehmed's father, Murad III, became sultan in 1574. Murad died in 1595, when Mehmed was 28 years old.

Mehmed spent most of his time in Manisa with his father Murad and mother Safiye, his first teacher Ibrahim Efendi. His circumcision took place on 29 May 1582 when he was 16 years old.[2]



Upon ascending to the throne, Mehmed III ordered that all of his nineteen brothers be executed.[3][4] They were strangled by his royal executioners, many of whom were deaf, mute or 'half-witted' to ensure absolute loyalty.[5] Fratricidal successions were not unprecedented, as sultans would often have dozens of children with their concubines. Mehmed III remains notorious even in Ottoman history for his cruelty.

Power struggle in Constantinople[edit]

Mehmed III was an idle ruler, leaving government to his mother Safiye Sultan, the valide sultan.[6][unreliable source] His first major problem was the rivalry between two of his viziers, Serdar Ferhad Pasha and Koca Sinan Pasha, and their supporters. His mother and her son-in-law Damat Ibrahim Pasha supported Koca Sinan Pasha and prevented Mehmed III from taking control of the issue himself. The issue grew to cause major disturbances by janissaries. On 7 July 1595, Mehmed III finally sacked Serdar Ferhad Pasha from the position of Grand Vizier due to his failure in Wallachia and replaced him with Sinan.[7]

Austro-Hungarian War[edit]

Mehmed III accepting the surrender of Eger, 1596

The major event of his reign was the Austro-Ottoman War in Hungary (1593–1606). Ottoman defeats in the war caused Mehmed III to take personal command of the army, the first sultan to do so since Suleiman I in 1566. Accompanied by the Sultan, the Ottomans conquered Eger in 1596. Upon hearing of the Habsburg army's approach, Mehmed wanted to dismiss the army and return to Istanbul.[8] However, the Ottomans eventually decided to face the enemy and defeated the Habsburg and Transylvanian forces at the Battle of Keresztes[9] (known in Turkish as the Battle of Haçova), during which the Sultan had to be dissuaded from fleeing the field halfway through the battle. Upon returning to Istanbul in victory, Mehmed told his viziers that he would campaign again.[10] The next year the Venetian Bailo in Istanbul noted, "the doctors declared that the Sultan cannot leave for a war on account of his bad health, produced by excesses of eating and drinking".[11][unreliable source?]

In reward for his services at the war, Cigalazade Yusuf Sinan Pasha was made Grand Vizier in 1596. However, with pressure from the court and his mother, Mehmed reinstated Damat Ibrahim Pasha to this position shortly afterward.[7]

However, the victory at the Battle of Keresztes was soon set back by some important losses, including the loss of Győr (Turkish: Yanıkkale) to the Austrians and the defeat of the Ottoman forces led by Hafız Ahmet Pasha by the Wallachian forces under Michael the Brave in Nikopol in 1599. In 1600, Ottoman forces under Tiryaki Hasan Pasha captured Nagykanizsa after a 40-day siege and later successfully held it against a much greater attacking force in the Siege of Nagykanizsa.[12]

Jelali revolts[edit]

Another major event of his reign was the Jelali revolts in Anatolia. Karayazıcı Abdülhalim, a former Ottoman official, captured the city of Urfa and declared himself a sultan in 1600. The rumors of his claim to the throne spread to Constantinople and Mehmed ordered the rebels to be treated harshly to dispel the rumors, among these, was the execution of Hüseyin Pasha, whom Karayazıcı Abdülhalim styled as Grand Vizier. In 1601, Abdülhalim fled to the vicinity of Samsun after being defeated by the forces under Sokulluzade Hasan Pasha, the governor of Baghdad. However, his brother, Deli Hasan, killed Sokulluzade Hasan Pasha and defeated troops under the command of Hadım Hüsrev Pasha. He then marched on to Kütahya, captured and burned the city.[7][12]

Relationship with England[edit]

In 1599, the fourth year of Mehmed III's reign, Queen Elizabeth I sent a convoy of gifts to the Ottoman court. These gifts were originally intended for the sultan's predecessor, Murad III, who had died before they had arrived. Included in these gifts was a large jewel-studded clockwork organ that was assembled on the slope of the Royal Private Garden by a team of engineers including Thomas Dallam. The organ took many weeks to complete and featured dancing sculptures such as a flock of blackbirds that sung and shook their wings at the end of the music.[13][14] Also among the English gifts was a ceremonial coach, accompanied by a letter from the Queen to Mehmed's mother, Safiye Sultan. These gifts were intended to cement relations between the two countries, building on the trade agreement signed in 1581 that gave English merchants priority in the Ottoman region.[15] Under the looming threat of Spanish military presence, England was eager to secure an alliance with the Ottomans, the two nations together having the capability to divide the power. Elizabeth's gifts arrived in a large 27-gun merchantman ship that Mehmed personally inspected, a clear display of English maritime strength that would prompt him to build up his fleet over the following years of his reign. The Anglo-Ottoman alliance would never be consummated, however, as relations between the nations grew stagnant due to anti-European sentiments reaped from the worsening Austro-Ottoman War and the deaths of Safiye Sultan's interpreter and the pro-English chief Hasan Pasha.[15][16]


Mehmed died on 22 December 1603 at the age of 37. According to one source, the cause of his death was the distress caused by the death of his son, Şehzade Mahmud.[17] According to another source, he died either of plague or of stroke.[18] He was buried in Hagia Sophia Mosque. He was succeeded by his son Ahmed I as the new sultan.

Mehmed III by Arolsen Klebeband



None of Mehmed's consorts are listed as haseki sultan in Ottoman palace archives.[19] Known consorts were:

  • Halime Sultan (buried in Mustafa I Mausoleum, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Istanbul);
  • Handan Sultan (died 9 November 1605, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, buried in Mehmed III Mausoleum, Hagia Sophia Mosque);
  • A consort who died in 1597, during the outbreak of plague ;[20][21]
  • Şehzade Selim[22] (1585, Manisa Palace, Manisa – 20 April 1597, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, buried in Hagia Sophia Mosque) - with Handan;
  • Şehzade Süleyman[22] (born 1586, Manisa Palace, Manisa, died young, buried in Hagia Sophia Mosque) - with Handan;
  • Şehzade Mahmud (born 1588, Manisa Palace, Manisa – executed by Mehmed III, 7 June 1603, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, buried in Şehzade Mahmud Mausoleum, Şehzade Mosque) - with Halime;[23]
  • Sultan Ahmed I (18 April 1590, Manisa Palace, Manisa – 22 November 1617, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, buried in Ahmed I Mausoleum, Sultan Ahmed Mosque), Sultan of the Ottoman Empire - with Handan;
  • Sultan Mustafa I (1591, Manisa Palace, Manisa – 20 January 1639, Eski Palace, Istanbul, buried in Mustafa I Mausoleum, Hagia Sophia Mosque), Sultan of the Ottoman Empire - with Halime;
  • A son who died in the second year of his life, after Selim's death;[22]
  • Şehzade Cihangir[22] (1599, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul – 1602, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, buried in Hagia Sophia Mosque);
  • Şehzade Osman (died aged three or four);[22]


  1. ^ Peirce, Leslie P. (1993). The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. p. 94. ISBN 0-19-507673-7. Murad's favorite was Safiye, a concubine said to be of Albanian origin from the village of Rezi in the Ducagini mountains.
  2. ^ "MEHMED III محمد (ö. 1012/1603) Osmanlı padişahı (1595-1603)". İslam Ansiklopedisi. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  3. ^ Quataert, Donald (2000). The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. Cambridge University Press. p. 90. ISBN 0-521-63328-1.
  4. ^ McCullagh, Francis (1910). The Fall of Abd-ul-Hamid. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. p. 72.
  5. ^ "DEAF PEOPLE, SIGN LANGUAGE & COMMUNICATION, IN OTTOMAN & MODERN TURKEY: Observations and Excerpts from 1300 to 2009. From sources in English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin and Turkish, with introduction and some annotation | Independent Living Institute". Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  6. ^ Kinross, John Patrick. Ottoman Centuries, p.288. William Morrow & Co., 1977. ISBN 0-688-03093-9
  7. ^ a b c "Mehmed III". İslam Ansiklopedisi. 28. Türk Diyanet Vakfı. 2003. pp. 407–413.
  8. ^ Karateke, Hakan T. "On the Tranquility and Repose of the Sultan." The Ottoman World. Ed. Christine Woodhead. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2011. p. 120.
  9. ^ Finkel, Caroline. Osman's Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, p.175. Basic Books, 2005. ISBN 0-465-02396-7
  10. ^ Karateke, p. 122.
  11. ^ Goodwin, Jason. Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, p.166. New York: Henry Holt & Company.
  12. ^ a b "Mehmed III". Büyük Larousse. 15. Milliyet Newspaper Press. pp. 7927–8.
  13. ^ Malcolm, Noel (2004-05-02). "How fear turned to fascination". London: Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  14. ^ Jean Giullou: Die Orgel. Erinnerung und Vision.Christoph Glatter-Götz 1984 p. 35 with image
  15. ^ a b "An eye for detail". BBC News. December 21, 2007.
  16. ^ Christine Woodhead (28 April 2011). "ENGLAND, THE OTTOMANS AND THE BARBARY COAST" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  17. ^ Güzel, Hasan Celâl; Oğuz, Cem; Karatay, Osman (2002). The Turks: Ottomans (2 v. ).
  18. ^ Börekçi, Günhan (2010). Factions And Favorites At The Courts Of Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603-17) And His Immediate Predexessors. pp. 89, n. 25.
  19. ^ Peirce (1993) p.104 and n.53 p.311
  20. ^ Disease and Empire: A History of Plague Epidemics in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (1453--1600). 2008. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-549-74445-0.
  21. ^ Ipşırlı, Mehmet (June 1976). Mustafa Selaniki's history of the Ottomans. p. 172.
  22. ^ a b c d e Tezcan, Baki. Searchimg For Osman: A Reassessment Of The Deposition Of Ottoman Sultan Osman II (1618-1622). pp. 330 and n. 29.
  23. ^ Börekçi, Günhan. İnkırâzın Eşiğinde Bir Hanedan: III. Mehmed, I. Ahmed, I. Mustafa ve 17. Yüzyıl Osmanlı Siyasî Krizi - A Dynasty at the Threshold of Extinction: Mehmed III, Ahmed I, Mustafa I and the 17th-Century Ottoman Political Crisis. p. 78.
  24. ^ a b Tezcan, Baki. The Debut Of Kösem Sultan's Political Career. p. 357.
  25. ^ Sakaoğlu, Necdet (2008). Bu mülkün kadın sultanları: Vâlide sultanlar, hâtunlar, hasekiler, kadınefendiler, sultanefendiler. Oğlak Yayıncılık. p. 303. ISBN 978-9-753-29623-6.
  26. ^ And, Metin (1982). Osmanlı şenliklerinde Türk sanatları. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı. p. 16.

External links[edit]

Media related to Mehmed III at Wikimedia Commons

Mehmed III
Born: May 26, 1566 Died: December 22, 1603[aged 37]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Murad III
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
January 15, 1595 – December 22, 1603
Succeeded by
Ahmed I
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Murad III
Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate
January 15, 1595 – December 22, 1603
Succeeded by
Ahmed I