Selim II

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Selim II
سليم ثانى
Caliph of Islam
Amir al-Mu'minin
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
II. Selim Han.jpg
3rd Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate
11th Ottoman Sultan (Emperor)
Reign 7 September 1566 – 15 December 1574
Sword girding 8 September 1566
Predecessor Suleiman I
Successor Murad III
Born 28 May 1524
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Died 12/15 December 1574 (aged 50)
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Consort Nurbanu Sultan
Issue Murad III
Şehzade Abdullah
Şehzade Osman
Şehzade Mustafa
Şehzade Süleyman
Şehzade Mehmed
Şehzade Mahmud
Şehzade Cihangir
Ismihan Sultan
Şah Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Gevherhan Sultan
Dynasty Osmanli (Ottoman)
Father Suleiman I
Mother Hürrem Sultan
Religion Sunni Islam
Sultan Selim II receiving the Safavid ambassador in the palace at Edirne in 1567.
16th century copy of the 1569 Capitulations between Charles IX and Selim II.

Selim II (Ottoman Turkish: سليم ثانى Selīm-i sānī, Turkish:II.Selim; 28 May 1524 – 12 December/15 December 1574), also known as "Selim the Sot (Mest)" in west and as "Sarı Selim" (Selim the Blond) in east, was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1566 until his death in 1574. He was a son of Suleiman the Magnificent and Haseki Hürrem Sultan. Selim had been an unlikely candidate for the throne until his brother Mehmed died of smallpox, his brother Mustafa was strangled to death by his father, and his brother Bayezid was killed in a coordinated effort between him and his father. His reign is generally marked as the start of a decline for the Ottoman empire, following the excellent reign of his father.


Selim was born in Constantinople (Istanbul), on 28 May 1524, during the reign of his father Suleiman the Magnificent. His mother was Hürrem,[1] orthodox priest’s daughter, who was sultan’s concubine in that time. Selim had two elder full-brother, Mehmed (born 1521) and Abdullah (born 1522), one elder full-sister Mihrimah (born 21 March 1522), and two younger full-brothers, Bayezid (born 1525) and Cihangir (born 9 December 1531). He also had half-siblings: Mustafa son of Mahidevran, Murad son of Gülfem, Mahmud, and Raziye. In 1533 or 1534, Hürrem freed and married by Suleiman and became his legal wife, made Selim had a free women as mother.

In 1545, at Konya, he married Nurbanu Sultan, whose background is disputed. It is said that she was originally named Cecelia Venier Baffo, or Rachel, or Kale Katenou. She was the mother of Murad III, Selim's successor.

After gaining the throne after palace intrigue and fraternal dispute, he succeeded as Sultan on 7 September 1566. According to one source Selim II became the first Sultan devoid of active military interest and willing to abandon power to his ministers, provided he was left free to pursue his orgies and debauches. His Grand Vizier, Mehmed Sokollu, a native of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, controlled much of state affairs, and two years after Selim's accession succeeded in concluding at Constantinople an honourable treaty (17 February 1568) with the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II, whereby the Emperor agreed to pay an annual "present" of 30,000 ducats and essentially granted the Ottomans authority in Moldavia and Walachia.

Against Russia, Selim was less fortunate: the first encounter between the Ottoman Empire and her future northern rival gave presage of disaster to come. A plan had been prepared in Istanbul for uniting the Volga and Don by a canal, and in the summer of 1569 a large force of Janissaries and cavalry were sent to lay siege to Astrakhan and begin the canal works, while an Ottoman fleet besieged Azov. However, a sortie of the garrison of Astrakhan drove back the besiegers; a Russian relief army of 15,000 attacked and scattered the workmen and the Tatar force sent for their protection; and finally, the Ottoman fleet was destroyed by a storm. Early in 1570 the ambassadors of Ivan IV of Russia concluded at Constantinople a treaty which restored friendly relations between the Sultan and the Tsar.

Expeditions in the Hejaz and Yemen were more successful, but the conquest of Cyprus in 1571, which provided Selim with his favourite vintage, led to the naval defeat against Spain and Italian states in the Battle of Lepanto in the same year.

The Empire's shattered fleets were soon restored (in just six months; it consisted of about 150 galleys and 8 galleasses) and the Ottomans maintained control of the Mediterranean (1573). In August 1574, months before Selim's death, the Ottomans regained control of Tunisia from Spain, which had captured it in 1572.

During his reign, his elder sister Mihrimah Sultan acted as his Valide Sultan, because his mother Hürrem Sultan died before his reign began.

However, Sultan Selim was loved by the people because of his soft character and his sensitive attitude and for his generosity. He is known for giving back to Mahidevran Gülbahar her status and her wealth back, contrasting with his father Suleyman's decision. He also built the tomb of his eldest brother Şehzade Mustafa who was executed in 1553.

Children and marriages[edit]

He married Nurbanu Sultan, a Venetian who was the mother of his successor Murad III and of three of his daughters, as a Haseki Sultan she received 1,000 aspers a day while each mother of each prince was receiving 40 aspers a day. He followed his father at that point, but bestowed his wife Nurbanu a 110,000 ducats as a dowry, surpassing the 100,000 ducats that his father bestowed to Hürrem Sultan. According to Leslie Peirce, he did have four other concubines, each one the mother of a single prince.

  • Murad III (b. 1546, Manisa - d. 1595, Istanbul), son of Nurbanu Sultan
  • Şehzade Abdullah (murdered 1568)
  • Şehzade Cihangir (murdered 22 December 1574).
  • Şehzade Mustafa (murdered 22 December 1574).
  • Şehzade Osman (murdered 22 December 1574).
  • Şehzade Süleyman (murdered 22 December 1574), after his execution, his mother has committed a suicide.
  • Şehzade Mehmed (d. 1572).



The discussion about the personality of Sultan Selim II goes back centuries, he was most likely the center of discussion even in the period of time in which he lived. This would be understandable, as his father, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, would be difficult to surpass in greatness.[2]

Actual imperial orders from the Sultan seem hardly able to fit within the uncited fictional character seeking to escape Islam’s commandments to pursue Western frivolities. On the contrary, imperial orders show firm resolve to ease the burden of those engaging in the strenuous Hajj pilgrimage, and special consideration for Muslims living under the subjugation of intolerant colonialists.

An excerpt of an imperial order from the Sultan says:

..because the accursed Portuguese are everywhere owing to their hostilities against India, and the routes by which Muslims come to the Holy Places are obstructed and moreover, it is not considered lawful for the people of Islam to live under the power of miserable infidels … you are to gather together all the expert architects and engineers of that place and investigate the land between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas and report where it is possible to make a canal in that desert place and how long it would be and how many boats could pass side by side.[3]

Many Western sources created the common story that Sultan Selim II was actually controlled by his Grand Vizier. This theory has left out important information contained within Ottoman Archives where Sultan Selim II was often deciding between various viziers and creating his own hierarchies of authority:

In 1568 a strong expedition was sent to pacify the province under the command of Sultan Selim’s former tutor and confidant Lala Mustafa Pasha, a choice which showed that Selim was not entirely the pawn of his grand vezir, for Sokullu Mehmed resented Lala Mustafa’s place in the Sultan’s affections. To put down the uprising in Yemen Lala Mustafa needed men and supplies from Egypt but the provincial governor, another rival Koca Sinan Pasha, refused his requests and made it impossible for him to pursue the campaign. In a spate of petitions to the Sultan the two defended their respective positions. Koca Sinan proved the stronger and Lala Mustafa was dismissed from command of the Yemen campaign. To mark his continuing favour, however, Selim created for him the position of sixth vezir of the governing council of the empire. -Osman’s Dream by Caroline Finkel.[4]

Marks of decay[edit]

Scottish historian Lord Kinross, in his The Seeds of Decline, sees the massive outlay for the fleet-rebuilding following the Battle of Lepanto as the start of the Empire's slow decay, although many historians confirm the Empire's decay started with Murad III, his son. Sultan Selim II died in Topkapı Palace after a period of fever brought on when he slipped over on the wet floor of an unfinished bath-house, getting a head injury.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Speech of Ibrahim at the Coronation of Maximilian II, Thomas Conley, Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 2002), 266.
  2. ^ "False History and Sultan Selim II:
  3. ^ Ottoman Archives: Muhimme Defteri Vol 7 No 721
  4. ^ Osman’s Dream by Caroline Finkel
  5. ^ The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success (Oxford Linguistics) – Geoffrey Lewis


  • Finkel, Caroline, Osman's Dream, Basic Books, 2005.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Selim". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Selim II at Wikimedia Commons

Selim II
Born: May 28, 1524 Died: December 12, 1574[aged 50]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Suleiman I
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Sep 5, 1566 – Dec 12, 1574
Succeeded by
Murad III
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Suleiman I
Caliph of Islam
Sep 5, 1566 – Dec 12, 1574
Succeeded by
Murad III