Osman II: A Victim of the Ottoman Era of Change

The Yedikule Fortress, whose history can be traced back to the Late Antiquity, witnessed numerous historical events in the course of time. One of them was the dramatic death of Osman II, also known under the name Osman, the Young.  May 1622 he was strangled there by the Janissaries at the age of 18 within […]

The Yedikule Fortress, whose history can be traced back to the Late Antiquity, witnessed numerous historical events in the course of time. One of them was the dramatic death of , also known under the name Osman, the Young.  May 1622 he was strangled there by the Janissaries at the age of 18 within the framework of the 17th century´s power struggles of the ruling elite. For the first time in history, a was killed by its subjects.[1]

Looking to this incident from a larger perspective, the late 16th century´s and the 17th century’s global crises caused by population increase, the Little Ice Age, epidemics and additional domestic problems induced transformations in different societies of the world.

This era of crises hit also the Ottoman Empire and provoked not only changes in bureaucracy, military and economics[2] but also conflicts between the traditional system and reforming attempts. Moreover proliferation of power took place. While in the past rule was indisputably concentrated in sultan´s sovereignty, in the 17th century different court factions and their interests played a crucial role in Ottoman politics. The voices of the sultanic family, the bureaucrats and statesmen, the ulama, the Ottoman military and finally the influential notables in the peripheries developed to decisive elements of the Ottoman rule. Their “revolts and alliances” led to several political crises and changes in the empire.[3]

Osman II´s accession to power was a result of such a crisis. After the death of Ahmed I, for the first time in Ottoman history succession occurred not from father to son but from brother to brother. Against the Ottoman tradition of fratricide, Ahmed I did not kill his brother Mustafa I and offered so a further heir for the sultanate besides his sons. 1617 Mustafa I became sultan installed through the power games of the court. However, the following year he was dis-empowered because of his mental incapacity to rule.[4]

Strong and Martial Sultan Osman II

In 1618 just at the age of 14 Osman II became the next sultan. Despite his young age, during his reign he tried to reestablish the image of the strong and martial sultan. He stood out with uncommon policies contrary to the ruling conventions of his time. Although the marriage with high-ranking women outside the court was unusual, he married the daughter of the Şeyhülislam, the leading head of the ulama.[5] Or Osman II appointed a grand vizier that was not educated at the court but started a carrier in the Ottoman ruling elite because of the successes of his father.[6] Such kind of unconventional practices caused that he was eyed with suspicion and as a possible threat to both the existing order and the power of the influential factions in Ottoman politics. A disastrous winter which froze the Bosporus and a solar eclipse additionally cast a cloud over his reign.[7]

The Battle of Khotyn in 1621 and the young sultan´s reaction to the heavy losses caused that he finally fell into disfavour with the most of his subjects of the ruling elite. First of all, neglecting the voices who spoke against his participation by the battle, Osman II led the Ottoman army to the battle. His personal success in the would not only enhance his prestige in the society but also raise his scope of action in politics in order to purge his rivals who challenged the absolute power of the sultan.[8] However, the Ottoman army had to retreat.

Back from the battle, he organised immediately a pilgrimage which should turn to a deadly decision for the young sultan. Though his real aim is unclear, the main opinion was that he planned this campaign for the creation of a new army in Anatolia after the failure of Kothyn. The army in Istanbul reacted harshly. The janissaries in Istanbul broke in the palace and dis-empowered Osman II and handed the sultanate back to Mustafa I.[9]

The last days of Osman II´s life is presumed to be one of the darkest days of a sultan in the Ottoman history. Offended, mistreated and dishonoured publicly, he finally ended up in the Yedikule Fortress where he was murdered in cruel circumstances.[10] However, his death was just another outcome of an era of turmoil generated through changes in the Ottoman society and politics.

References:
[1] Değİrmencİ, Tülün: İktİdar Oyunları ve Resİmlİ Kİtaplar, II Osman Devrİnde DeğİŞen Güç Sİmgelerİ (İstanbul; Kİtap Yayinevİ, 2012), 19.
[2] DEĞİRMENCİ, TÜLÜN: İKTİDAR OYUNLARI VE RESİMLİ KİTAPLAR, II OSMAN DEVRİNDE DEĞİŞEN GÜÇ SİMGELERİ (İstanbul; Kİtap Yayınevİ, 2012), 26-27.
[3] Faroqui, Suraiya: “Crisis and Change, 1590-1699”, in An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, ed. H. Inalcik with D. Quataert (Cambridge; CUP, 1994), vol. 2, 413-415.
[4] Öztuna, Yılmaz: Genç Osman ve IV Murad (İstanbul; Babialİ Kültür Yayıncılığı, 2008), 15-18.
[5] DEĞİRMENCİ, TÜLÜN: İKTİDAR OYUNLARI VE RESİMLİ KITAPLAR, II OSMAN DEVRİNDE DEĞİŞEN GÜÇ SİMGELERİ (İstanbul; Kİtap Yayınevİ, 2012),  250-251.
[6] Tezcan, Bakİ: “Khotin 1621, or How the Poles Changes the Course of Ottoman History”; HistoryActa Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae , Vol. 62, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 186-187.
[7] Öztuna, Yılmaz: Genç Osman ve IV Murad (İstanbul; Babialİ Kültür Yayıncılığı, 2008), 36-37, 40.
[8] Tezcan, Bakİ:” Khotin 1621, or How the Poles Changes the Course of Ottoman History”; HistoryActa Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae , Vol. 62, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 188-189.
[9] Tezcan, Bakİ: “Khotin 1621, or How the Poles Changes the Course of Ottoman History”; HistoryActa Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae , Vol. 62, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 191-192.
[10] Öztuna, Yılmaz: Genç Osman ve IV Murad (İstanbul; Babialİ Kültür Yayıncılığı, 2008), 69-74.




1 comment

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    Fernanda Blondet Flores

    Wonderful article

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