10 Greatest Ottoman Sultans and their Accomplishments

The Sword of Osman and Girding Ceremony of Ottoman Sultans

During the enthronement ceremony, the Ottoman sultan is girded with the Sword of Osman. The sword, which was named after the founder of the Empire Osman I, was also known as the Sword of State. Generally speaking, the enthronement occurred about two weeks after the individual had ascended to the throne. Following the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the girding ceremony took place at the tomb complex of the Eyup Sultan Mosque in the city.

Today, the Sword of Osman can be seen at the Topkapi Palace.

Up until the 19th century, non-Muslims were not allowed to enter the Eyüp Mosque to witness the sultan’s girding ceremony. The 35th Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V was the first Ottoman ruler to open the girding ceremony to non-Muslims.

Mehmet VI’s girding ceremony on July 4, 1918 was the first time the ceremony got filmed. It was also the last girding ceremony in the Ottoman Empire, as Mehmet VI was the last Ottoman Emperor.

The Sultanate of Women

The Sultanate of Women in the Ottoman Empire refers to a period when the mothers (Valide Sultans) and wives (Haseki Sultans) of the Ottoman Sultans played a prominent role in the governance of the empire. The period is said to have started during the reign of Suleiman I, when his very influential wife Hurrem Sultan (known in Europe as Roxelena) managed a great deal of the Empire’s political, social and economic affairs. For example, Safiye Sultan (c. 1550-1621), wife of Murad III and later mother of Mehmed III, commissioned the construction of the famous Valide Sultan Mosque (completed in 1665) in Istanbul.

Mehmed VI – the last Ottoman Emperor

Mehmed VI was the last Ottoman sultan

The last Ottoman Emperor was Mehmed VI, whose reign came to an end following the abolition of the sultanate by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on November 1, 1922. It means that the Ottoman Empire lasted from 1299 to 1922. Mehmed VI left Istanbul November 17, 1922, committing himself to exile in Sanremo Italy, where he died on May 16, 1926.

Decline, abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate and later the Caliphate

Image: Mehmed VI departing from the back door of the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul

The Ottoman Empire entered its sharpest period of decline between 1828 and 1908. That period saw the likes of Bulgarian, Serb and Greek subjects leave the empire. And in the decade that followed that period, the empire lost Albanian and Armenian subjects. By 1922, majority of the Christian subjects had departed, leaving Muslims of either Turkish or Kurdish ethnicity. A year after that the Grand National Assembly announced the birth of the Republic of Turkey.

The abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate came after the Central Powers, with whom the Empire had allied itself to, was defeated in World War I. After WWI, a brutal Turkish War of Independence was fought, pitting the Turkish National Movement against the victorious Allies of WWI. Following the Empire’s demise in 1922, the modern Republic of Turkey emerged on October 29, 1923.

More facts about sultans of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman dynasty, which means House of Osman, began with Sultan Osman, the son of Ertuğrul Bey. Osman’s lasted from 1299 until his death in1324, at which point he was succeeded to the Ottoman Beylik throne by his son Orhan Gazi (c. 1281-1362).

The name of the Ottoman Empire came from its first ruler Osman I, the warrior-leader of the Kayi tribe of the Oghuz Turks.

Following the promulgation of the first constitution of the empire in 1876, Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918) became the last absolute monarch of the Ottoman Empire.

The first Ottoman Sultan to ascend the throne without any prior military experience; however, his more than four-decade rule propelled the Ottoman Empire into a real force to be reckoned with, one that sent many shivers down the spines of powerful European monarchs of the time. In the years that he ruled, he was able to double the size of the Ottoman Empire. During his reign, the threat of Islam and the Ottomans overrunning all of Europe was quite real.

All in all, the Ottoman Empire had 36 rulers in its more than six centuries of existence.

From a relatively small beginning in the city of Sogut (present day Bilecik Province, Turkey) in the late 13th century, the Ottoman Empire would grow very large to include some of the major cities in Anatolia.

In the course of its more than 6 centuries of existence, the Ottoman Empire had four capitals: Söğüt (before 1280), Bursa (from 1323 to 1363), Edirne (formerly Adrianople, from 1363 to 1453), and Constantinople (now Istanbul, from 1453 to 1922).

When the title “sultan” was not used, the title Padishah was used to refer to the Ottoman sultan.

Europeans called the Ottoman rulers the Grand Turk or the “Great Lord”. In Arabic, the Ottoman rulers were known as “malik” (“king”). The Bulgarians called them “tsar”, while the Greeks called them “basileus”.

The Ottoman rulers were absolute monarchs who were only responsible to God. They were known as the chief executor of God’s law (sharia).

The laws that the Ottoman sultans issued were known as firman.

The Ottoman Empire had territories on three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia. At its peak during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Empire stretched from Hungary in Europe to Yemen in the south and from Algiers in the west to Baghdad in the east.

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