|Caliph of Islam
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
|4th Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate
12th Ottoman Sultan (Emperor)
|Reign||15 December 1574 – 16 January 1595|
|Born||4 July 1546
Bozdağan or Manisa
|Died||15/16 January 1595 (aged 48)
Topkapı Palace of Constantinople
Murad III (Ottoman Turkish: مراد ثالث Murād-i sālis, Turkish:III.Murat) (4 July 1546 – 15/16 January 1595) was the emperor of the Ottoman Empire from 1574 until his death in 1595. Murad's reign is most remembered as a period of economic stagnation and failures in seemingly endless warfare on two fronts.
Born in Bozdağan or Manisa, Şehzade Murad was the son of Sultan Selim II and Afife Nurbanu Sultan. After his ceremonial circumcision in 1557, Murad was appointed sancakbeyi of Akşehir by Suleyman I (his grandfather) in 1558. At the age of 18 he was appointed sancakbeyi of Saruhan. Suleiman died when Murad was 20, and his father became the new Sultan. Selim II broke with tradition by sending only his oldest son out of the palace to govern a province, and Murad was sent to Manisa.
Selim died in 1574 and he was succeeded by Murad, who began his reign by having his five younger brothers strangled. His authority was undermined by the harem influences, more specifically, those of his mother and later of his favorite wife Safiye Sultan. The power had only been maintained under Selim II by the genius of the all-powerful Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokollu who remained in office until his assassination in October 1579. During Murad's reign the northern borders with the Habsburg Monarchy were defended by the Bosnian kapetan Hasan Predojević. The reign of Murad III was marked by exhausting wars on the empire's western and eastern fronts and Ottoman economic decline and institutional decay. The Ottomans also faced defeats during battles such as the Battle of Sisak.
The Ottomans had been at peace with the neighbouring rivalling Safavid Empire since 1555, per the Treaty of Amasya, that for some time had settled border disputed. But in 1577 Murad declared war, starting the Ottoman–Safavid War (1578–90), seeking to take advantage of the chaos in the Safavid court after the death of Shah Tahmasp I. He was influenced by viziers Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha and Sinan Pasha and disregarded the opposing counsel of Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokollu. The war would drag on for 12 years, ending with the Istanbul Treaty of 1590, which resulted in temporaray significant territorial gains for the Ottomans.
Murad's reign was a time of financial stress for the Ottoman state. To keep up with advances in European technology, the Ottomans trained infantrymen in the use of firearms, paying them directly from the treasury. By 1580 an influx of silver from the New World had caused high inflation and social unrest, especially among Janissaries and government officials who were paid in debased currency. Deprivation from the resulting rebellions, coupled with the pressure of over-population, was especially felt in Anatolia. Competition for positions within the government grew fierce, leading to bribery and corruption. Ottoman and Habsburg sources accuse Murad himself of accepting enormous bribes, including 20,000 ducats from a statesman in exchange for the governorship of Tripoli and Tunisia, thus outbidding a rival who had tried bribing the Grand Vizier.
Numerous envoys and letters were exchanged between Elizabeth I and Sultan Murad III. In one correspondence, Murad entertained the notion that Islam and Protestantism had "much more in common than either did with Roman Catholicism, as both rejected the worship of idols", and argued for an alliance between England and the Ottoman Empire. To the dismay of Catholic Europe, England exported tin and lead (for cannon-casting) and ammunitions to the Ottoman Empire, and Elizabeth seriously discussed joint military operations with Murad III during the outbreak of war with Spain in 1585, as Francis Walsingham was lobbying for a direct Ottoman military involvement against the common Spanish enemy. This diplomacy would be continued under Murad's successor Mehmed III, by both the sultan and Safiye Sultan alike.
Murad died from what is assumed to be natural causes in the Topkapı Palace and was buried in tomb next to the Hagia Sofia. 54 of his wives and children are also buried there. He is also responsible for changing the burial customs of the Sultans' mothers. Murad had his mother Nurbanu buried next to her husband Selim II, making her the first concubine to share a Sultan's tomb.
Following the example of his father Selim II, Murad was the second Ottoman Sultan to never go on campaign during his reign, which spent entirely in Istanbul. During the final years of his reign, he did not even leave Topkapı Palace. For two consecutive years he did not attend the Friday procession to the imperial mosque—an unprecedented breaking of custom. The Ottoman historian Mustafa Selaniki wrote that whenever Murad planned to go out to Friday prayer, he changed his mind after hearing of alleged plots by the Janissaries to dethrone him once he left the palace. Murad withdrew from his subjects and spent the majority of his reign keeping to the company of few people and abiding by a daily routine structured by the five daily Islamic prayers. Murad's personal physician Domenico Hierosolimitano described a typical day in the life of the Sultan:
In the morning he rises at dawn to say his prayer for half an hour, then for another half hour he writes. Then he is given something pleasant as a collation, and afterwards sets himself to read for another hour. Then he begins to give audience to the members of the Divan on the four days of the week that this occurs, as had been said above. Then he goes for a walk through the garden, taking pleasure in the delight of fountains and animals for another hour, taking with him the dwarves, buffoons and others to entertain him. Then he goes back once again to studying until he considers the time for lunch has arrived. He stays at table only half an hour, and rises (to go) once again into the garden for as long as he pleases. Then he goes to say his midday prayer. Then he stops to pass the time and amuse himself with the women, and he will stay one or two hours with them, when it is time to say the evening prayer. Then he returns to his apartments or, if it pleases him more, he stays in the garden reading or passing the time until evening with the dwarfs and buffoons, and then he returns to say his prayers, that is at nightfall. Then he dines and takes more time over dinner than over lunch, making conversation until two hours after dark, until it is time for prayer [...] He never fails to observe this schedule every day.
Murad's sedentary lifestyle and lack of participation in military campaigns earned him the disapproval of Mustafa Ali and Mustafa Selaniki, the major Ottoman historians who lived during his reign. Their negative portrayals of Murad influenced later historians. Both historians also accused Murad of sexual excess. Before becoming Sultan, Murad had been loyal to Safiye Sultan, his Albanian-born concubine who had given him a son, Mehmed, and two daughters. His monogamy was disapproved of by his mother Nurbanu, who worried that Murad needed more sons to succeed him in case Mehmed died young. She also worried about Safiye's influence over her son and the Ottoman dynasty. Five or six years after his accession to the throne, Murad was given a pair of concubines by his sister Ismihan. Upon attempting sexual intercourse with them, he proved impotent. "The arrow [of Murad], [despite] keeping with his created nature, for many times [and] for many days has been unable to reach at the target of union and pleasure," wrote Mustafa Ali. Nurbanu accused Safiyye and her retainers of causing Murad's impotence with witchcraft. Several of Safiye's servants were tortured by eunuchs in order to discover a culprit. Court physicians, working under Nurbanu's orders, eventually prepared a successful cure, but a side effect was a drastic increase in sexual appetite—by the time Murad died, he was said to have fathered over a hundred children. 19 of these were executed by Mehmed III when he became Sultan.
Murad and the arts
Murad took great interest in the arts, particularly miniatures and books. He actively supported the court Society of Miniaturists, commissioning several volumes including the Siyer-i Nebi, the most heavily illustrated biographical work on the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the Book of Skills, the Book of Festivities and the Book of Victories. He had two large alabaster urns transported from Pergamon and placed on two sides of the nave in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and a large wax candle dressed in tin which was donated by him to the Rila monastery in Bulgaria is on display in the monastery museum.
Murad also furnished the content of Kitabü’l-Menamat (The Book of Dreams), addressed to Murad's spiritual advisory, Şüca Dede. A collection of first person accounts, it tells of Murad's spiritual experiences as a Sufi disciple. Compiled from thousands of letters Murad wrote describing his dream visions, it presents a hagiographical self-portrait. Murad dreams of various activities, including being stripped naked by his father and having to sit on his lap, single-handedly killing 12,000 infidels in battle, walking on water, ascending to heaven, and producing milk from his fingers. He frequently encounters the Prophet Muhammed, and in one dream sits in the Prophet's lap and kisses his mouth.
In another letter addressed to Şüca Dede, Murad wrote "I wish that the True Reality/God, Celle ve Ala, had not created this poor servant as the descendant of the Ottomans so that I would not hear this and that, and would not worry. I wish I were of unknown pedigree. Then, I would have one single task, and could ignore the whole world."
The diplomatic edition of these dream letters have been recently published by Ozgen Felek in Turkish.
Consorts and children
Murad's wives are:
- Safiye Sultan, an ethnic Albanian. Haseki Sultan of Murad and Valide Sultan of Mehmet III;
- Şemsiruhsar Hatun;
- Şahıhuban Hatun;
- Mehmed III (May 26, 1566 – December 22, 1603), became the next sultan.
- Şehzade Osman (1573 – 24 February 1587).
- Şehzade Mustafa (1578 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Bayezit (1579 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Abdullah (1580 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Selim (1581 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Suleiman (February 1585 – August 1585)
- Şehzade Cihangir (aft. August 1585 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Mahmud (September 1585 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Abdurrahman (21 November 1585 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Hasan (1586 – February 1591)
- Şehzade Ahmet (June 1586 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Yakub (1587 – murdered 27 January 1595).
- Şehzade Alemşah
- Şehzade Yusuf
- Şehzade Hüseyin
- Şehzade Korkut
- Şehzade Ali
- Şehzade Ishak
- Şehzade Ömer
- Şehzade Alaüddin
- Şehzade Davud
- Ayşe Sultan (1570 – 15 May 1605), daughter with Safiye, married firstly on 20 May 1586, to Damad Ibrahim Pasha, Governor-General of Rumelia 1581-1582, of Egypt 1583, 1596-1597 and 1599-1601, married secondly on 5 April 1602, to Damad Yamischi Hasan Pasha, Governor of Baku 1596, Grand Vizier 1601-1603, married thirdly on 29 June 1604, to Damad Güzelce Mahmud Pasha, Governor of Kars 1594, 7th Vizier 1599, 3rd Vizier in 1601.
- Fatma Sultan (1580 – 1620), daughter with Safiye, married firstly on 6 December 1593, to Damad Halil Pasha, married secondly on 29 June 1604, to Damad Ja'afar Pasha, Governor-General of Anatolia 1588-1590, Rumelia 1590-1594 and Egypt 1598-1601, Vizier in 1594, married thirdly in 1610, to Damad Hizir Pasha, Governor of Van 1582, Karaman, and Tamashvar 1592, married fourthly in 1611, to Damad Murad Pasha, Vizier in 1605.
- Hatice Sultan, married in 1598, to Damad Kara Mehmed Pasha, Vizier 1598-1599.
- Mihrimah Sultan (born 1592), married on 21 February 1613, to Damad Ahmed Pasha, Minister for Rumelia 1614, and Damascus 1617-1618.
- Fahriye Sultan (1594 - 1656), married firstly on 21 February 1613, Damad Agha Ahmed Pasha, Governor of Mosul, married secondly secondly in 1619, to Damad Sofu Bayram Pasha.
- Mihriban Sultan (born 1596), married on 21 February 1613, to Damad Topal Mehmed Agha.
- Rukiye Sultan, daughter with Şemsiruhsar, married on 21 February 1613, to Damad Nakkash Hasan Pasha, Governor of Rumelia 1604, Vizier in 1605.
- Hümaşah Sultan, daughter with Safiye Sultan, married firstly in 1580 to Damad Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha (died 1580), married secondly in 1586 to Damad Nişar Mustafazade Mehmed Pasha.
Orhan Pamuk's historical novel Benim Adım Kırmızı (My Name is Red, 1998) takes place at the court of Murad III, during nine snowy winter days of 1591, which the writer uses in order to convey the tension between East and West.
The Harem Midwife by Roberta Rich - a historical fiction set in Constantinople (1578) which follows Hannah, a midwife, who tends to many of the women in Sultan Murad III's harem.
- Felek, Özgen. (2010). Re-creating image and identity: Dreams and visions as a means of Murad III's self-fashioning. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: ProQuest/UMI. (Publication No. 3441203). Page 21-22
- Marriott, John Arthur. The Eastern Question (Clarendon Press, 1917), 96.
- Felek, p.198-199
- Felek, p.24
- Felek, p.35
- Karen Ordahl Kupperman. The Jamestown project. p. 39.
- Kupperman, p.40
- Kupperman, p.41
- Felek, p.33-34
- 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. 118.
- Karateke, p. 118.
- Felek, p.29-30
- Felek, p.17-19
- Felek, p.31-32
- Pamuk, Orhan. My Name is Red, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. ISBN 978-0-307-59392-4
- Felek, p.72
- Felek, p.99
- Felek, p.143
- Felek, p.189
- Felek, p.171
Media related to Murad III at Wikimedia Commons
Murad IIIBorn: 4 July 1546 Died: 15 January 1595[aged 48]
|Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
12 December 1574 – 15 January 1595
|Sunni Islam titles|
|Caliph of Islam
12 December 1574 – 15 January 1595