Rüstem Pasha

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Rüstem Opuković

Ruestem presumably.jpg
32nd Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
In office
28 November 1544 – 6 October 1553
MonarchSuleiman I
Preceded byHadim Suleiman Pasha
Succeeded byKara Ahmed Pasha
In office
29 September 1555 – 10 July 1561
MonarchSuleiman I
Preceded byKara Ahmed Pasha
Succeeded bySemiz Ali Pasha
Personal details
Bornc. 20 May 1500
Skradin, Croatia, Ottoman Empire
Died10 July 1561 (aged 60–61)
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Resting placeSehzade Mosque
Mihrimah Sultan (m. 1539–1561)
ChildrenAyşe Hümaşah Sultan
Sultanzade Osman

Rüstem Pasha Opuković (Turkish pronunciation: [ɾysˈtem paˈʃa]; Ottoman Turkish: رستم پاشا‎; Croatian: Rustem-Paša Opuković c. 1500 – 10 July 1561) was a Croatian born[1][2][3] Ottoman statesman. He served as the grand vizier of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Rüstem Pasha is also known as Damat Rüstem Pasha (the epithet damat meaning "son-in-law" to the Ottoman dynasty) as a result of his marriage to the sultan's only daughter, Mihrimah sultan. He is known as one of the most influential and successful grand viziers of the Ottoman Empire. He was the wealthiest grand vizier in history.[citation needed]

Rustem Pasha was taken as a child to Constantinople, where he built a military and bureaucracy career. He was very well educated. On 26 November 1539, he married Mihrimah Sultan, the daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent and his powerful wife Haseki Hürrem Sultan. His brother Sinan Pasha was an Ottoman grand admiral.

Early life[edit]

Rüstem owes his career to the support of Hürrem Sultan, he was extremely ambitious. Rustem Pasha was a man of very humble origins. He came as a child to Constantinople where he studied at Enderun, a free-boarding multicultural school for talented children. At the end, the graduates were able to speak, read and write at least three languages, able to understand the latest developments in science, finance and excel in army command as well as in close combat skills. That was the perfect start for a career in the military and bureaucracy. In 1526, Rüstem took part in the Battle of Mohacs as silaḥdar (weapon bearer in a cavalry division). Silahdars were an elite division of the Ottoman army. Members of this division could also become ordinary soldiers (non-aristocrat), if they proved to be extraordinarily courageous and loyal. A few years later Rüstem advanced to mirahur-i evvel aga (chief supervisor of the sultan's stables) and rikab-dar (the stirrup holder when the ruler got on the horse). The mirahur accompanied the Sultan during his travels, so the Sultan knew Rüstem a long time before he appointed him, possibly inspired by Hürrem, the tutor of his sons. In making this decision, he was surely influenced by Rüstem's character. Most historical sources describe Rüstem as a reasonable and calm man with a keen intellect, who always keeps a cool head, and who is always unconditionally devoted to his ruler. These characteristics reflected Rüstem's faith, and brought Rüstem, Suleiman the Magnificent, and the famous jurist Ebussuud Efendi (Mehmed Ebussuud Efendi), permanently closer together. Rüstem was a sunni and preferred the spiritual order of Sunni Islam Sufism Naqshbandi.

Wealth and Legacy[edit]

As Grand Vizier, he collected vast wealth. In this way, he acquired an unprecedented wealth. Even Rüstem's sworn opponents admitted, that he never boasted of his wealth or power (although he was a man of fortune), and that he was the very first Grand Vizier in the history of the Ottoman Empire who significantly contributed to the development of the state from his own funds. Also many charitable foundation charters confirm this fact. For example, the charters from 1544, 1557, 1560, 1561 as well as from 1570 (Rüstem's posthumous endowment, realized by Mihrimah). According to most period testimonies (excluding Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey's "Şehzade Mustafa Mersiyesi"), Rüstem was considered one of the few state dignitaries who didn't take bribes. Nonetheless, Rüstem's famous economic talent and his modest way of life, both highly valued by the Sultan, made him rich, even before his marriage to Mihrimah Sultan. It is not surprising that our knowledge of his wealth comes from his last will (a part of endowment charter from 1561). Here Rüstem made an inventory of every single detail of his property, in order to secure his great foundation projects after his death. Such an accurate description has left none of his predecessors behind (therefore historians propose that some of these predecessors, like Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha, were even richer). Rüstem's testament determines exactly which part of his property belongs to the state, to his foundations, to the Hürrem Sultan's foundation and to Mihrimah's foundations, what he leaves to his wife Mihrimah and to his daughter Ayşe Hümaşah. He determines his wife Mihrimah Sultan as executor of his last will and his daughter Ayşe Hümaşah as the executor and administrator of his foundations. All historians emphasize Rüstem's relentless hard work to consolidate the troubled economy of the Ottoman Empire - impoverished by excessive spending on wars and a lavish lifestyle of the court - and his efforts to improve it. The period documents say that he also generously financed this upswing from his own resources. On his lands were built toll free bridges, roads, covered bazaars, granaries, baths, hospices, caravanserais, convents, schools and various other establishments for the public benefit. Their funding was largely secured by the leasing of Rüstem's estates. He supported agriculture, founded new trading centers, like the bazaar in Sarajevo or silk factories in Bursa and Istanbul, social and educational institutions. He developed the domestic economy by encouraging major public works projects and built a modern infrastructure: trade routes, and water networks in Istanbul, Mekka and Jerusalem. He also found enough money in the treasury to make Suleiman's dream come true (Süleymaniye Mosque 1550-57), as well as to fund other monumental architectural projects realized by the legendary Mimar Sinan. To reduce protectionism in the state administration, an official installment fee was introduced, and confiscated when the officials misused his authority. Rüstem's reform of the military remained unfinished. At the time of his death in Constantinople on 10 July 1561, his personal property included 815 lands in Rumelia and Anatolia, 476 mills, 1700 slaves, 2,900 war horses, 1,106 camels, 800 gold ambroidery Holy Qur'ans, 500 books, 5000 Caftan, 130 kinds of armors, 860 gold embroidered swords, 1500 silver tolga, 1000 silver balls, 33 precious jewels etc.

The Rüstem Pasha Mosque (Turkish: Rüstem Paşa Camii) is an Ottoman mosque located in Hasırcılar Çarşısı (Strawmat Weavers Market) in Fatih, Turkey,[3] which was designed by Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan for Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha. It was built between 1561 and 1563.[4]

Political career[edit]

In the first, Rustem Pasha was a sanjak bey. After the death of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha his way became very easy. He was promoted to Baylerbey of the Diyarbakir. When he married Mihrimah Sultan Rustem was a vizier. Suleiman the Magnificent made Rustem the grand vizier for the first time in 1544. But in 1553, Rustem Pasha was dismissed from his position. After two years he take his position again from 1555 until his death in 1561.[4] During his tenure the Ottoman Empire was the most powerful in the economy.[citation needed]

As a diplomat, Rüstem initiated many trade agreements with European countries and India. His biggest success in the diplomatic area, was the agreement with the King Ferdinand I and the Emperor Charles V, which confirmed, without firing a shot, the western border of the Ottoman Empire for more than 14 years (signed in 1547). Ferdinand renounced his claim to the Kingdom of Hungary and agreed to pay a tax of 30,000 gold ducats per year into the Ottoman treasury. The ambassador of the Emperor Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq wrote that Charles had tried on several occasions to revise the unfavourable agreement, but Rüstem had always prevented it. Rüstem also worked on the agreement with the Safavids (signed 1554), which ended the long-standing Ottoman-Safavid wars, and secured the eastern borders of the Ottoman Empire.

Suleiman was manipulated by Hürrem's intrigues when he murdered Ibrahim and replaced him with his son-in-law, Rüstem Pasha." Rüstem was not Suleiman's son-in-law when Pargali Ibrahim Pasha was executed. The background of Ibrahim's execution was much more complicated (e.g. he used the seal "Sultan Ibrahim", retained the majority of the confiscated property of Suleiman's "minister of finance" Iskender Celebi, whose execution he ordered etc.). Ibrahim was replaced with Ayas Mehmed Pasha, followed by Lütfi Pasha and Hadim Süleyman Pasha. Rüstem's career developed, unlike Ibrahim, exactly according to the rules. He became Grand Vizier eight years after Ibrahim's death.

Sehzade Mustafa, the hope of the Ottoman Empire, was killed by his paranoid father after Hürrem and Rüstem had conspired against him for many years. It would be too naïve to consider Mustafa's death only as the result of the internal struggle for succession to the throne. Without a doubt, an important role was played by the persistent attempts of foreign powers to destabilize the Ottoman Empire. The very ambitious Mustafa received foreign ambassadors as well as Ottoman commanders many times, without his father's knowledge, and was regarded by them as an important ally against Suleiman. So the Austrian ambassador Ghislain de Busbecq (visiting Mustafa before Süleyman), informed his ruler: "Mustafa will be an excellent sultan, receptive and open to talks." And the papal ambassador Navagero said: "Mustafa lives with his mother. She says that people adore him." Understanding the danger of the situation, Suleiman the Magnificent remembered his father Selim dethroning his grandfather Bayezid (who was killed only a month after his abdication in 1512). Officers loyal to him advised that a part of the army is getting ready to put Mustafa on the throne. In 1552, while preparing a campaign against Persia, Suleiman appointed Rüstem "Serasker" (commander-in-chief) of the campaign. But soldiers assembled in the military camp in Karaman (Anatolia), rejected Suleiman's appointment, and insisted Rüstem should be replaced with Mustafa (the same problem was faced by Rüstem's brother Sinan Pasha, as admiral of the Ottoman fleet during the Tripolis siege, even though he achieved many victories until his death in 1553). Rüstem's military reform should not be forgotten in this context. The destabilization continued. What Mustafa did was now less important than what he did not do to avoid a new Ottoman Civil War. Suleiman knew that time was running out. That was probably the most important reason he decided the fate of Mustafa. Mustafa's so-often cited correspondence with the Safavids signed "Sultan Mustafa" (kept today in archives), was, in this context, probably not so relevant. It could be authentic, it could be a Safavids' or a Hürrem-Rüstem deception, or maybe Suleiman's safeguard to calm public opinion after Mustafa's death. There are various versions of reports on Mustafa's end in the Ereğli valley. According to one of them, Rüstem Pasha made an offer to Mustafa to join his father's army and at the same time he warned Suleiman that Mustafa was coming to kill him. According to another version, it was Suleiman himself who summoned his son to Ereğli, and Mustafa came, "confident that the army would protect him". Only Rüstem appears in all the versions as the antagonist. However, it is not surprising, as they are all based on Mustafa's PR chief consultant Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey's elegy, "Şehzade Mustafa Mersiyesi". Even the report of the Austrian ambassador de Busbecq, who claims to have received an account from an eyewitness, had the same origin. Rüstem, suspended and banished, was fair game as an object of violence. No one dared to criticize the Sultan himself. Suleiman probably realized, and called Rüstem back two years later. Rüstem's scapegoating as the seemingly dominant figure of the "conspiracy against Mustafa", radically changed public opinion. The public likes uncomplicated stories with melodramatic contrasts. And so the Rüstem extolled years ago as the "pillar of the Ottoman empire", brilliant economist and sophisticated statesman, was forgotten, as well as his great projects and charitable foundations. He became Rüstem the "black heart, the murderer of the loved Prince Mustafa". Nothing was enough to make him dirty: his "dirty" origin, the imputation of bribery, the story with the louse... Some foreign amabassadors like Ghiselin de Busbecq or Bernardo Navagero, repeated it spitefully in their reports (all the more that Rüstem was as a diplomat an invincible opponent, the agreement from 1547 must not be forgotten). Unlike them, Jean Chesneau, the secretary of the French ambassador, wrote about him: "The grand vizier is a man of humble origin, who, thanks to his talent and will, worked his way up from nothing. He is an agreeable companion, engaging your interest with his acute faculty of judgment, an insightful way of thinking and magnanimous manners. During the negotiations, he is calm and dispassionate, although in his views determined." Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey's elegy, the reports of ambassadors, administrative dossiers, foundation charters and some private documents like Hürrem's and Mihrimah's plea to Suleiman when Rüstem was expelled to Üsküdar, are the only period sources reporting on Rüstem's life. They were also the basis of the often cited İbrāhīm Peçevī's work 'Tārīḫ-i Peçevī", published 80 years after Rüstem's death.

Relationship with Mihrimah[edit]

Mihrimah Sultan was married off to the governor of Diyarbakır Rüstem in 1539,[5] because her mother misused her for her political intrigues.[citation needed] After his marriage, he was nominated to the vizierate in November 1544.[6]

Though the union was unhappy, Mihrimah flourished as a patroness of the arts and continued her travels with her father until her husband's death. This marriage had, like many dynastic unions, a political character. Hürrem's role was probably important. Nonetheless, according to the rules, it was a decision of the father. It must not be forgotten that Rüstem was at that time already a wealthy man and had, since 1538, a splendid career as Governor of Anatolya, one of the two most important administrative regions in the Ottoman Empire. This post was considered to be a preliminary stage to Grand Vizier. Rüstem's calm nature, faith, intellect and allegiance could also have influenced Süleyman's decision. Mihrimah knew Rüstem for a very long time as the mentor of her brothers and the adviser of her father. There is no record of another man in her life.

The relationship between Mihrimah and Rüstem was probably not such a love story like that of Hürrem and Suleiman, with no letters full of great feelings and flowery parables. But Mihrimah was always at her husband's side, and after his death she accomplished his work as she had promised, as well as the Rüstem Paşa Camii (Rüstem Pasha Mosque, 1561–63), one of Mimar Sinan's most impressive projects. Rüstem supported Mihrimah's charitable foundations, for example, the Mihrimah Sultan İskele Camii (Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Üsküdar, 1540–48; a known külliye in Istanbul, Mimar Sinan project). Rüstem was also Mihrimah's mentor, particularly concerning political and financial decisions. His last will from 1561 (above), provides evidence of his confidence in his wife. Other interesting facts, Rüstem's brother Sinan Pasha (Ottoman admiral) (who died in December 1553, a turbulent year for the family), was buried in Mihrimah Sultan Complex in Üsküdar, as well as two sons of Rüstem and Mihrimah. The daughter, Ayşe Hümaşah Hanım Sultan (1542-1594), was married in 1561 to Semiz Ali Pasha (Rüstem's successor as Grand Vizier).


Damat Rüstem Pasha, the 32nd Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1544-1553 and 1555-1561), died after a long illness, on 10 July 1561 of hydrocephalus. He was buried in the wonderful Sehzade Mosque (Shehzade Camii), dedicated to Suleiman's favourite son Sehzade Mehmed (1520-1543), because his dream project, the Rüstem Paşa Camii, was not yet built. His tomb is alongside of the Şehzade Mehmed tomb (on the left - the side of the heart).


Together with Mihrimah Sultan, he had three children; one daughter and two sons:

  • Ayşe Hümaşah Hanımsultan
  • Sultanzade Osman Bey
  • Sultanzade Mehmed Bey

Popular culture[edit]

In the acclaimed Turkish television series Muhteşem Yüzyıl, he is portrayed by actor Ozan Güven.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb 1994, pp. 640.
  2. ^ Koço Luarasi 2003, pp. 45.
  3. ^ Selim Islami 1968, pp. 90.
  4. ^ Necipoğlu, Gülru (1991). Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power: The Topkapi Palace in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. Architectural History Foundation. ISBN 9780262140508.
  5. ^ "Notable life of Mihrimah Sultan". DailySabah. Retrieved 2017-10-13.
  6. ^ Casale, Giancarlo (2010-02-25). The Ottoman Age of Exploration. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199798797.


  • Lybyer, Albert Howe (1913). The government of the Ottoman empire in the time of Suleiman the Magnificent. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. OCLC 1562148.
  • Denny, Walter B. (2005). Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-51192-6.
  • Faroqhi, Suraiyah (2005). Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire. I B Tauris. ISBN 1-85043-760-2.
Political offices
Preceded by
Hadım Süleyman Pasha
Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
28 November 1544 – 6 October 1553
Succeeded by
Kara Ahmed Pasha
Preceded by
Kara Ahmed Pasha
Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
29 September 1555 – 10 July 1561
Succeeded by
Semiz Ali Pasha