Selim II

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Selim II
Ottoman Caliph
Amir al-Mu'minin
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Selim's portrait c. 1570
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Reign7 September 1566 – 15 December 1574
Sword girding8 September 1566
PredecessorSuleiman I
SuccessorMurad III
Born30 May 1524 (1524-05-30)
Old Palace, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Died15 December 1574(1574-12-15) (aged 50)
Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
(m. 1571)
Among others
Murad III
Ismihan Sultan
Gevherhan Sultan
Şah Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Selim Şah bin Süleyman Şah Han[1]
FatherSuleiman I
MotherHürrem Sultan
ReligionSunni Islam
TughraSelim II's signature
Selim's circumcision, 1530

Selim II (Ottoman Turkish: سليم ثانى, romanized: Selīm-i sānī; Turkish: II. Selim; 30 May 1524 – 15 December 1574), also known as Selim the Blond (Turkish: Sarı Selim) or Selim the Drunk[2] (Sarhoş Selim), was the sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1566 until his death in 1574. He was a son of Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Hurrem Sultan. Selim had been an unlikely candidate for the throne until his brother Mehmed died of smallpox, his half-brother Mustafa was strangled to death by the order of his father and his brother Bayezid was killed on the order of his father after a rebellion against him and Selim. Selim died on 15 December 1574 and was buried in Hagia Sophia.

Early years[edit]

Selim was born on 30 May 1524[3] in Constantinople during the reign of his father, Suleiman the Magnificent.[4] His mother was Hürrem Sultan,[5][6] an Orthodox priest's daughter,[7] who was the current Sultan's concubine at the time. In 1533 or 1534, his mother, Hürrem, was freed and became Suleiman's legal wife.[8][9][10] He had four brothers, Şehzade Mehmed, Şehzade Bayezid, Şehzade Abdullah and Şehzade Cihangir, and a sister Mihrimah Sultan.[5][6] In June–July 1530, a three week celebration was organised in Constantinople that centered around the circumcision of Selim, and his elder brothers Mustafa, and Mehmed.[11] The princes were circumcised on 27 June 1530.[12] The festivities ranged from displays of captured enemy items to simulated battles, featuring performances by jugglers and strongmen, as well as reenactments of recent conflicts. Suleiman played a crucial role, observing everything from a loggia in the Hippodrome, while Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha actively oversaw the proceedings and presented extravagant gifts to the sultan and the princes.[11]

In May 1537, he and his brother Mehmed joined their father on his campaign to Corfu. This marked the inaugural military campaign where both of his sons. Their presence in a military campaign conveyed a message of dynastic continuity.[13] In June 1541, he and his brother Mehmed once again accompanied their father on his campaign to Buda.[14] In 1543, he was appointed the district governor of Karaman, after which he went to Konya. [15] Following Mehmed's unexpected demise in November 1543, the role of district governorship of Saruhan was assumed by Selim in the spring of 1544.[16] During the summer of 1544, a gathering of family members occurred in Bursa, uniting Selim, his parents Suleiman and Hürrem, his sister Mihrimah, and Mihrimah's husband Rüstem Pasha.[17] In the 1548–49 military campaign against the Safavids, Selim was dispatched to Edirne, acting as a substitute for the sultan during the campaign.[16] In 1553, he accompanied his father against the Safavids and kept Suleiman's company throughout most of the campaign. During this campaign, his elder half-brother, Mustafa was executed on their father’s orders.[18]

Succession struggle[edit]

In 1555, a rebellion led by a man erupted in northeastern Bulgaria, claiming to be Şehzade Mustafa. He organised his followers like the Ottoman administration, redistributing taxes and gaining support.[19] Bayezid, aware of the situation, prepared militarily and initiated negotiations.[20] Suleiman sent Sokullu Mehmed Pasha to suppress the uprising. Bayezid's envoy convinced the pretender's chief vizier to defect, leading to the leader's capture and execution in Constantinople[21] on 31 July 1555.[22] Rumors suggested Bayezid orchestrated the revolt, but Suleiman's desire to punish him was hindered by his wife Hürrem.[22] Tensions over succession continued, with Bayezid and Selim in rivalry. Strategic maneuvers, including Bayezid's relocation to Germiyan, maintained equilibrium in their positions, both poised to return to the capital upon news of their father's fate.[23][24]

Suleiman's persistent health concerns prompted efforts to dispel rumors of imminent death. In June 1557, the French ambassador noted Suleiman's strategic display of vitality upon returning to Constantinople, countering speculations about succession plans. The dynamics shifted decisively after Hürrem's death in April 1558, known for mediating between her sons.[25] Suleiman aimed to secure the cooperation of his sons, Selim and Bayezid, in a plan to reassign them to new, distant governorates. The proposal involved moving Selim from Manisa to Konya and relocating Bayezid from Kütahya to the remote town of Amasya. Both brothers' sons were also granted governorships in smaller counties adjacent to their fathers' assignments.[26] In September, Suleiman reassigned his sons, sending Selim to Konya and Bayezid to Amasya.[27][28]

In mid-April 1559, Bayezid and his army departed Amasya and advanced toward Ankara. Despite conveying to his father his desire to return to Kütahya, it became evident that his true intention was to attack and eliminate Selim, aiming to be the sole heir to the throne before Suleiman sided with Selim. Upon learning of Bayezid's expedition, Suleiman deemed military action necessary, instructing the third vizier Sokullu Mehmed to join Selim with janissaries, accompanied by Rumeli troops.[29] Before Constantinople's forces reached Konya, Bayezid altered course southward from Ankara, arriving near Konya by late May 1559. Selim, anticipating the attack, assumed a defensive stance with augmented forces, ultimately prevailing in the engagement on May 30 and 31.[28][30]

In July 1559, Bayezid embarked on an eastern march from Amasya, accompanied by ten thousand men and four of his sons.[31] By the autumn of the same year, he reached Yerevan, a Safavid town, receiving great respect from its governor.[32] Subsequently, in October, he arrived in Qazvin,[33] where Shah Tahmasp I welcomed him initially with enthusiasm, hosting elaborate parties in his honor.[34][35] However, in April 1560, on Sultan Suleiman's request, Tahmasp imprisoned Bayezid.[33] Both Suleiman and Selim dispatched envoys to Persia to persuade Shah Tahmasp to execute Bayezid. Over the next one and a half years, embassies shuttled between Istanbul and Qazvin. The last Ottoman embassy, arriving on July 16, had the formal task of attempting to return Bayezid to Istanbul.[36] This delegation included figures like Hüsrev Pasha, Sinan Pasha, Ali Aqa Chavush Bashi, and two hundred officials.[36]

Suleiman's letter accompanying the embassy expressed his willingness to reconfirm the Treaty of Amasya (1555) and foster a new era of Ottoman–Safavid relations.[36] Throughout these diplomatic efforts, Suleiman bestowed numerous gifts on Tahmasp and agreed to pay him for handing over Bayezid—400,000 gold coins were given to Tahmasp.[37][38] Finally, on July 23, 1562,[39][40] Tahmasp handed over Bayezid and his four sons, who were subsequently executed near Qazvin by the Ottoman executioner, Ali Aqa Chavush Bashi, using the garroting method.[41][42][36]


Selim ascends the throne.

Selim ascended the throne following the death of his father in 1566. Initially, his enthronement ceremony occurred in Istanbul, despite the presence of viziers and the military in Szigetvár, Hungary. The ceremony went unrecognized, leading to a request for a new ceremony in Belgrade.[43] In order to safeguard the process of enthronement and accession, the astute grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha maintained the secrecy of Suleiman's death until Selim arrived at the army in Belgrade.[44] In Belgrade, a throne was positioned between two tuğs (horsehair battle standards) in front of the imperial tent. The allegiance ceremony was then conducted at that location.[45] The new sultan went to Belgrade without offering the accession bonus, the standing army sought assurances of gratuity and promotion, but the sultan dismissed their request. Consequently, upon entering Istanbul, the army revolted, citing the absence of a proper enthronement ceremony.[46][47]

In this new political environment, the grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha exerted significant control over governance throughout his entire reign.[48] Mehmed Pasha served continuously as grand vizier for a span of fourteen years, from 1565 to 1579, under three consecutive sultans, Suleiman, Selim, and Murad III. Known for strategically placing family members and associates in key positions across the empire, he established a reliable network of proteges. Contemporary accounts highlight Sokollu's virtual sovereignty during Selim's reign, with the grand vizier effectively managing the empire. Selim's limited involvement in governance can be attributed not only to Sokollu's dominant role but also to a significant shift in the empire's political landscape. The emergence of the court and favourites system, along with the sedentarization of the sultanate, marked Selim's reign and later became defining aspects of power struggles among his successors.[49] Beginning with Selim, the sultans also abstained from participating in military campaigns, spending most of their time in the palace.[50]

In 1568, the treaty of Edirne was concluded, after which the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II recognised recent Ottoman conquests in Hungary and continued paying an annual tribute to the sultan. The longstanding Transylvanian issue, a source of conflicts between the Habsburgs and Ottomans, found resolution in the treaty of Speyer during the imperial diet in 1570. In this treaty, John Sigismund Zápolya relinquished his title as the elected king of Hungary, adopting the titles of prince of Transylvania and the adjacent parts of Hungary. Maximilian acknowledged these changes, and John Sigismund accepted Maximilian's suzerainty over his principality, which remained a part of the Holy Crown of Hungary. Despite this, the Transylvanian prince continued to be an Ottoman vassal. In essence, the Principality of Transylvania existed in a dual dependency, with its sovereignty constrained by both the sultan and the Habsburg kings of Hungary.[51]

In 1569, Selim made an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Astrakhan.[52] One of the most ambitious endeavours during his reign, albeit left unfinished, was the construction of a canal connecting the Don and Volga rivers. Championed by Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, this extensive project involved excavating around 40 miles of challenging terrain. The canal, if completed, aimed to strategically benefit the Ottomans along the northern frontiers, serving to control Muscovy's advancement and establishing a base for potential attacks on Safavid Persia. Unfortunately, adverse weather conditions and disorder among the soldiers dispatched to the region hindered the canal's completion.[53]

Equestrian portrait of Sultan Selim II by Lambert de Vos, 1574

During his reign, naval campaigns unfolded in the Mediterranean.[44] In 1571, the Ottomans seized Cyprus from the Venetians,[54] transforming it into a new province alongside neighboring regions in mainland Anatolia. Initially, the island's harsh climate deterred migration, but under state pressure, a considerable number of Turkish settlers eventually established themselves. In the same year, the Holy League, comprising papal, Venetian, and Spanish fleets, retaliated for the capture of Cyprus in the decisive Battle of Lepanto, a significant Christian stronghold. The Ottoman navy suffered a devastating defeat, leading to a year-long reconstruction effort, yet the loss of skilled naval personnel continued to impact the state throughout Selim's reign. Despite this setback, the recovery of the fortress of Tunis from Spain in 1574, shortly before Selim's death, marked a notable naval success.[55]

His father had left a lasting legacy in Damascus by commissioning the construction of the impressive Takiyya al-Sulaimaniyya mosque along the Barada River, situated outside the city walls. Designed in 1554 by the renowned architect Sinan, it was commonly referred to as the Takiyya, acknowledging the Sufi hostel (tekke or zawiyya) within its courtyard chambers. Selim expanded upon his father's mosque by adding the Madrasa Salimiyya in 1566–67. Subsequently, this complex became the starting point for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.[56] Selim favoured Edirne over Istanbul, demonstrating his affection for the former Ottoman capital, especially relishing visits and hunting sessions in the city. [53] And so he undertook the construction of a significant mosque here. The mosque which is known as Selimiye Mosque, is the largest of all Ottoman mosques, was erected between 1569 and 1575 under the supervision of Sultan Selim's chief architect, Mimar Sinan.[57] He also undertook a significant renovation of the Hagia Sophia Mosque from 1572 to 1574 under the guidance of Sinan. This restoration included repairing the buttresses, substituting the wooden minaret with a brick one, and introducing two new minarets. Furthermore, adjacent structures were demolished to create the characteristic courtyard of the imperial mosque.[58]


Selim slipped and died after falling on a marble floor while inebriated[59] at the age of fifty on 15 December 1574.[60] He was buried in his tomb in Hagia Sophia Mosque, Istanbul.[61]


Selim is introduced as a generous monarch who is fond of pleasure and entertainment in the sources of the period, who is fond of drink councils, enjoys the presence of scholars and poets around him, as well as musicians. However, it is stated that he did not appear much in public, and that his father often went to Friday prayer and out among the public; Selim neglected this and spent his time in the palace.[4]



Selim had at least five concubines.[62] One of them was Nurbanu Sultan, the mother of his son and successor Sultan Murad III. During Selim's reign, her stipend was 1100 aspers a day.[62] Selim married her in 1571, and bestowed upon her 110,000 ducats as a dowry, surpassing the 100,000 ducats that his father bestowed upon his mother Hürrem Sultan.[62] She died in December 1583.[62] His other concubines received 40 as aspers a day.[62] One of his concubines died just after Selim's death in December 1574.[63] Another of his concubines died on 19 April 1577.[64]


Selim had at least seven sons:

  • Murad III (Manisa, 4 July 1546 – Constantinople, 15 January 1595. Buried in his mausoleum in the Hagia Sophia Mosque);[65]
  • Şehzade Mehmed (died September 1572, buried in the Hürrem Sultan mausoleum);[65]
  • Şehzade Süleyman (executed by Murad III, 22 December 1574, buried with his father in Hagia Sophia);[65]
  • Şehzade Abdullah (executed by Murad III, 22 December 1574, buried with his father in Hagia Sophia);[65]
  • Şehzade Osman (executed by Murad III, 22 December 1574, buried with his father in Hagia Sophia);[65]
  • Şehzade Cihangir (executed by Murad III, 22 December 1574, buried with his father in Hagia Sophia);[65]
  • Şehzade Mustafa (executed by Murad III, 22 December 1574, buried with his father in Hagia Sophia);[65]

Selim had at least four daughters:

  • Ismihan Sultan (Uşak, 1544[4] – Constantinople, 8 August 1585, buried with her father in Hagia Sophia), with Nurbanu Sultan, married firstly in 1562 to Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, married secondly in 1584 to Kalaylıkoz Ali Pasha;[66]
  • Gevherhan Sultan (Kaplıca, 1544[4] - Constantinople, fl. 1623, buried with her father in Hagia Sophia), with Nurbanu Sultan, married firstly in 1562 to Piyale Pasha, married secondly in 1579 to Cerrah Mehmed Pasha;[66]
  • Şah Sultan (Manisa, 1544[4] – Constantinople, 3 November 1577, buried in her own mausoleum, Eyüp), with Nurbanu Sultan, married firstly in 1562 to Çakırcıbaşı Hasan Pasha, married secondly in 1574 to Zal Mahmud Pasha;[66]
  • Fatma Sultan (c. 1559 – Constantinople, 24 June 1590, buried with her father in Hagia Sophia), with Nurbanu Sultan (disputed), married in 1575 to Kanijeli Siyavuş Pasha;[66]

In popular culture[edit]


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  34. ^ Faroqhi, Suraiya N.; Fleet, Kate (2012). The Cambridge History of Turkey: Volume 2, The Ottoman Empire as a World Power, 1453–1603. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1316175545. Tahmasp, thus presented with the opportunity to take revenge for the reverse flight of his own brother some years before, received Bayezid with great honour, as Suleyman had Alkas Mirza
  35. ^ Clot, André (2012). Suleiman the Magnificent. Saqi. pp. 1–399. ISBN 978-0863568039. "(...) In the autumn of 1559, the prince reached Yerevan, where the governor received him with the greatest respect. A little later, Shah Tahmasp, delighted to have such a hostage in his hands, went to Tabriz to welcome him. The shah held magnificent parties in his honour. Thirty heaped plates of gold, of silver, of pearls and precious stones, "were poured on the prince's head".
  36. ^ a b c d Mitchell 2009, p. 126.
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  38. ^ Lamb, Harold (2013). Suleiman the Magnificent - Sultan of the East. Read Books Ltd. pp. 1–384. ISBN 978-1447488088. Four hundred thousand gold coins were sent to Tahmasp by the hand of an executioner
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  41. ^ Clot, André (2012). Suleiman the Magnificent. Saqi. pp. 1–399. ISBN 978-0863568039. Then, since he had promised never to hand him over to Suleiman, he delivered Bayezid to Selim's envoy. The unlucky man was strangled with his four sons. A little later, his fifth son, 3 years old was also put to death in Bursa by a eunuch that Suleiman had sent with a janissary.
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  65. ^ a b c d e f g Pazan, İbrahim (2023-06-06). "A Comparison of Seyyid Lokman's Records of the Birth, Death and Wedding Dates of Members of Ottoman Dynasty (1566-1595) with the Records in Ottoman Chronicles". Marmara Türkiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi. Marmara University. 10 (1): 245–271. doi:10.16985/mtad.1120498. ISSN 2148-6743.
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  67. ^ "Hürrem Sultan (TV Series 2003)". IMDb. Retrieved 2024-02-24.
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External links[edit]

Media related to Selim II at Wikimedia Commons

Selim II
Born: May 30, 1524 Died: December 15, 1574[aged 50]
Regnal titles
Preceded by Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Sep 7, 1566 – Dec 15, 1574
Succeeded by
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by Caliph of the Ottoman Dynasty
Sep 7, 1566 – Dec 15, 1574
Succeeded by