Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Last Ottoman Sultan

The last heir apparent to the Ottoman Sultanate is dead at age 97. He spent the last 60 years of his life living modestly over a store here in New York. He last visited Turkey at the invitation of the Turkish government. He visited as a tourist (his insistence) with no ceremony.

His ancestors claimed the titles of "Caliph of All the Faithful" (as rulers of most of the historic territory of Islam and custodians of the shrines at Mecca and Medina), and "Augustus Caesar" (for their Christian subjects as heirs to the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire). The threat of Ottoman imperial expansion was the dominant foreign policy question in Europe for 3 centuries.

A modest end to what was once one of the most powerful dynasties on earth.


rick allen said...

It's always fun to read about these things...the oldest living Bourbon, the oldest living Habsburg. I suppose somewhere out there there's a jet-setting Stuart for whom the Scots may rise again....

A few years back I read Lord Kinross' history of the Ottoman Empire. One of the curious traditions that arose was that the sons of the sultan were kept as virtual prisoners at the palace, and, upon the death of the sultan, the succeeding son always had his brothers strangled. It was, I suppose, an effective formula for domestic peace, but rather hard on fraternal bonds, and obviously raised a risk of minimizing collateral heirs.

canon g said...

The Ottoman sultan Mehmed II (or Mehmet or Muhammad) of course conquered Constaninople in 1453. That date for many marks the beginning of the modern era. Mehmed conquered the Holy City (by then reduced from a high of 1,000,000 persons to 50,000) using a cannon and by literally ferrying part of his navy across land on skids and rollers. He did this when he was 21. He had the traditional harem which consisted of many women but also a few comely boys including the gorgeous (so history tells us) Radu of Wallachia. Radu at first scorned his advances by climbing a tree and throwing fruit at Mehmed. Radu was a prince of Wallachia and a brother of the famous Vlad the Impaler who like his father was a member of the Order of the Dragon (Drac) and called "little dragon" or Dracula. Vlad's real life exploits are in fact far more dramatic than any that could possibly be imagined.

Lapinbizarre said...

I became aware of his existence just this last Monday, following an already-forgotten Wiki link (following up on Hagia Eirene, perhaps?) and now he is dead. Coincidence.

My favorite Ottoman sultan, name-wise, is Selim the Sot. True to his name, he died after slipping, intoxicated, on the bathroom floor - a warning to us all. Seems he invaded and annexed Cyprus because he enjoyed its wine. For once a practical reason for mayhem and land-grabing.