Kaya SahinJun 29, 2023
Peerless Among Princes
The Life and Times of Sultan Süleyman
Oxford University Press 2023
Süleyman, who ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1520 and 1566, was a globally recognized figure during his lifetime. In Peerless Among Princes: The Life and Times of Sultan Süleyman (Oxford University Press, 2023), Kaya Şahin presents the life of this sultan, whose domain extended from Hungary to Iran, and from the Crimea to North Africa and the Indian Ocean. The wealth of his treasury, the strength of his armies, and his personality were much discussed by historians, poets, courtiers, diplomats and publics across Eurasia.
Süleyman was engaged in bitter rivalries with the Catholic Habsburgs in Europe and the Shiite Safavids in the Middle East. He presided over a multilingual and multireligious empire that promised peace and prosperity to its subjects. During his reign, the Ottoman Empire became a truly global power. Imperial governance expanded considerably, and the law was emphasized as the main bond between the ruler and the ruled. Süleyman's prolific poetic output, his frequent appearances during public ceremonies, his charity, and his patronage of arts and architecture enhanced his reputation as a universal ruler with a well-rounded character.
Behind the public façade of might and glory, Süleyman led a complicated life. He grew up with an overbearing father whose legacy was both an advantage and a burden. Defying established practice, he married a concubine named Hürrem whose love and affection became a true refuge. Towards the end of his life, he had to overcome both debilitating sickness and the agitations of his sons to remain on the throne.
Nearly half a millennium after his death, the life of Süleyman has been obscured by romanticized and exoticized narratives. Based on original sources in multiple languages, the book narrates Süleyman's achievements as well as his failures. What emerges is a compelling account of a ruler, his family, his close associates, and the Ottoman imperial project itself during the transformational sixteenth century.