Online Encyclopedia

SELIM I

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 606 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SELIM I. (1465-1521) succeeded in 1512 his father Bayezid II., whom he dethroned, and whose death, following immediately afterwards, gave rise to suspicions which Selim's character certainly justified. He signalized his accession by putting to death his brothers and nephews; and gave early proof of resolution by boldly cutting down before their troops two officers who showed signs of insubordination. A bigoted Sunni, he resolved on putting dawn the Shiite heresy, which had gained many adherents in Turkey: the number of these was estimated as high as 40,000. Selim determined on war with Persia, where the heresy was the prevalent religion, and in order that the Shiites in Turkey should give no trouble during the war, " measures were taken," as the Turkish historian states, which may be explained as the reader desires, and which proved fully efficacious. The campaign which followed was a triumph for Selim, whose firmness and courage overcame the pusillanimity and insubordination of the Janissaries. Syria and Egypt next fell before him; he became master of the holy cities of Islam; and, most important of all, he induced the last Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty formally to surrender the title of caliph (q.v.), as well as its outward emblems, viz. the holy standard, the sword and the mantle of the prophet. The dignity with which the Ottoman sultans have thereby become invested lends them that prestige throughout the Mussulman world which is of such importance to the present day, and which has thrown into oblivion the condition that the caliph ought to be an Arab of the tribe of Koreish. After his return from his Egyptian campaign, he was preparing an expedition against Rhodes when he was overtaken by sickness and died, on the 22nd of September 1521, in the ninth year of his reign, near the very spot where he hadattacked his father's troops, not far from Adrianople. He was about fifty-five years of age. He was bigoted, bloodthirsty and relentless, though one Turkish historian praises his humanity for having forbidden the cutting up alive of .condemned persons, or the roasting of them before a slow fire; and at one time he was with difficulty dissuaded from ordering the complete extirpation of all the Christians in Turkey. His ambition was insatiable; he is said to have exclaimed when looking at a map that the whole world did not form a sovereignty vast enough for one monarch. His four months' victorious campaign against Persia was undertaken and successfully carried through contrary to the advice of his ministers, several of whom he executed for their opposition to his plans; and he achieved an enterprise which neither Jenghiz Khan nor Timur was able to carry out. It is said that he contemplated the conquest of India and that he was the first to conceive the idea of the Suez Canal.
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