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Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

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Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Former Monarchy
Ottoman coat of arms
First monarch
Last monarch
Style His Imperial Majesty[a]
Official residence Palaces in Istanbul:
Appointer Hereditary
Monarchy began c. 1299
Monarchy ended 1 November 1922

Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, members of the Ottoman Dynasty, ruled over that vast transcontinental empire from 1299 to 1922. At its height, it spanned from Hungary in the north to Somalia in the south, and from Algeria in the west to Iran in the east. Administered at first from the city of Bursa in Anatolia, the empire's capital was moved to Edirne in 1366 and then to Constantinople (currently known as Istanbul) in 1453 following its capture from the Byzantine Empire.[1] The Ottoman Empire's early years have been the subject of varying narratives due to the difficulty of discerning fact from legend; nevertheless, most modern scholars agree that the empire came into existence around 1299 and that its first ruler was Osman I Khan (leader) of the Kayı tribe of the Oghuz Turks.[2] The Ottoman Dynasty he founded was to endure for six centuries through the reigns of 36 sultans. The Ottoman Empire disappeared as a result of the defeat of the Central Powers with whom it had allied itself during World War I. The partitioning of the empire by the victorious Allies and the ensuing Turkish War of Independence led to the birth of the modern Republic of Turkey.[3]

Ottoman State Organization

Main article: Ottoman State

The Ottoman State was an absolute monarchy during much of its existence. The sultan was at the apex of the hierarchical Ottoman system and acted in political, military, judicial, social, and religious capacities under a variety of titles.[a] He was theoretically responsible only to God and God's law (the Islamic شریعت şeriat, known in Arabic as شريعة sharia), of which he was the chief executor. His heavenly mandate was reflected in Irano-Islamic titles such as "shadow of God on Earth" (Arabic: ظل الله في العالمzill Allah fi'l-alem) and "caliph on the earth" (Persian: خلیفه روی زمینkhalife-i ru-yi zemin).[4] All offices were filled by his authority, and every law was issued by him in the form of a decree called firman (فرمان). He was the supreme military commander and had the official title to all land.[5] Ertoghrul served as the elected leader of the Ottomans from 1230 until his death in 1281. In 1281, Ertoghrul's son, Osman, became elected leader of the Ottomans. From 1299 until his death in 1324, Osman served as Osman I "Sultan of the Ottoman Empire."

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman sultans came to regard themselves as the successors of the Roman Empire, hence their occasional use of the titles Caesar (قیصر kaysar) and Emperor.[4][6][7] Following the conquest of Egypt in 1517, Selim I also adopted the title of caliph, thus claiming to be the universal Muslim ruler.[b] Newly enthroned Ottoman rulers were girded with the Sword of Osman, an important ceremony that served as the equivalent of European monarchs' coronation.[8] A non-girded sultan was not eligible to have his children included in the line of succession.[9]

Although theocratic and absolute in theory and in principle, the sultan's powers were limited in practice. Political decisions had to take into account the opinions and attitudes of important members of the dynasty, the bureaucratic and military establishments, as well as religious leaders.[5] From the 17th century onwards, the empire entered into a long-term period of stagnation, during which the sultans were much enfeebled. Many of them ended up being deposed by the powerful Janissary corps. Despite being barred from inheriting the throne,[10] women of the Imperial Harem—especially the reigning sultan's mother, known as the Valide Sultan—also played an important behind-the-scenes political role, effectively ruling the empire during the period known as the sultanate of women.[11]

The declining powers of the sultans are evidenced by the difference in reign lengths between early sultans and later ones. Suleiman I, who ruled the empire when it was at its zenith in the 16th century, had a reign of 46 years, the longest in Ottoman history. Murad V, who ruled in the late 19th-century period of decline, had the shortest reign on record: he was in power for just 93 days before being deposed. Constitutionalism was only established during the reign of Murad V's successor, Abdülhamid II, who thus became the empire's last absolute ruler and its first constitutional monarch.[12] Since 2009, the head of the Ottoman Dynasty and pretender to the defunct Ottoman throne has been Bayezid Osman, a great-grandson of Abdülmecid I.[13]

List of sultans

The table below lists Ottoman sultans, as well as the last Ottoman caliph, in chronological order. The tughras were the calligraphic seals or signatures used by Ottoman sultans. They were displayed on all official documents as well as on coins, and were far more important in identifying a sultan than his portrait. The "Notes" column contains information on each sultan's parentage and fate. When a sultan's reign did not end through a natural death, the reason is indicated in bold. For earlier rulers, there is usually a time gap between the moment a sultan's reign ended and the moment his successor was enthroned. This is because the Ottomans in that era practiced what historian Quataert has described as "survival of the fittest, not eldest, son": when a sultan died, his sons had to fight each other for the throne until a victor emerged. Because of the infighting and numerous fratricides that occurred, a sultan's death date therefore did not always coincide with the accession date of his successor.[14] In 1617, the law of succession changed from survival of the fittest to a system based on agnatic seniority (اکبریت ekberiyet), whereby the throne went to the oldest male of the family. This in turn explains why from the 17th century onwards a deceased sultan was rarely succeeded by his own son, but usually by an uncle or brother.[15] Agnatic seniority was retained until the abolition of the sultanate, despite unsuccessful attempts in the 19th century to replace it with primogeniture.[16]

The official full style of the Ottoman Sultans was:

'Ala Hazrat-i-Aqdas-i-Hümayun (اعلی حضرت اقدس همایون, His Sacred and Imperial Majesty) Sultan (سلطان) N.N. Khan (خان),
Padishah (پادشاه), i.e. Emperor,
Hünkar-i Khanedan-i Âl-i Osman (شاه خاندان آل عثمان), i.e. Sovereign of the House of Osman,
Sultan us-Selatin (سلطان السلاطین), i.e. Sultan of Sultans,
Khakan (خاقان), i.e. Khan of Khans,
Amir ül-Mü'minin ve Khalifeh ül-Rasul Rabb al-A’alimin (امیر المؤمنین و خلیفه الرسول رب العالمین), i.e. Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the Lord of the Universe,
Khâdim ül-Haramayn ush-Sharifayn (خادم الحرمین الشریفین), i.e. Custodian of the Two Noble Sanctuaries (i.e. the Holy Cities of Mecca, and Medina),
Kaysar-i-Rûm (قیصر روم), i.e. Emperor of Rome
Padişah-i thalath şehireha-i Qostantiniyye, Edirne ve Hüdavendigâr, ül şehireyn-i Dimaşq ve Qahira, tamam Azerbayjan, Mağrib, Barqah, Kayravan, Haleb, ül-‘Iraq-i ‘Arab vel ‘Ajam, Basra, ül-dulan-i Lahsa, Rakka, Musul, Partiyye, Diyârbekir, Kilikiyye, ül vilâyatun-i Erzurum, Sivas, Adana, Karaman, Van, Barbariyye, Habeş, Tunus, Trablus-i Garb, Şam, Kıbrıs, Rodos, Girit, ül vilâyet-i Mora, ül Bahr-i Sefid vel Bahr-i Siyah ve i-swahil, Anadolu, Rumeli, Bagdâd, Kurdistân, Yunanistan, Türkistan, Tatariyye, Çerkesyye, ül mintaqateyn-i Kabarda, Gürjistan, ül-Deşt-i Qipçaq, tamam ül-mamlikat-i Tatar, Kefe ve tamam ül-etraf, Bosna, ül şehir ve hisar-i Belgrat, ül vilâyet-i Sırbistan bil tamam ül-hisareha ve şehireha, tamam Arnavut, tamam Eflak ve Boğdan, ve tamam ül-mustamlak vel-hududeha, ve muteaddit mamalekat ve şehireha, i.e. Emperor of The Three Cities of Constantinople, Adrianople and Bursa, and of the Cities of Damascus and Cairo, of all Azerbaijan, of the Magreb, of Barka, of Kairouan, of Aleppo, of the Arabic and the Persian Iraq, of Basra, of Al-Hasa strip, of Ar Raqqah, of Mosul, of Diyarbakır, of Cilicia, of the provinces of Erzurum, of Sivas, of Adana, of Karaman, Van, of Barbary, of Abyssinia, of Tunisia, of Tripoli, of Damascus, of Cyprus, of Rhodes, of Crete, of the province of Morea, of the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and also their coasts, of Anatolia, Rumelia, Baghdad, Greece, Turkistan, Tartary, Circassia, of the two regions of Kabarda, of Georgia, of the steppe of Kypchaks, of the whole country of the Tatars, of Kefe and of all the neighboring regions, of Bosnia, of the City and Fort of Belgrade, of the province of Serbia, with all the castles and cities, of all Albania, of all Eflak and Bogdania, as well as all the dependencies and borders, and many other countries and cities.
# Sultan Portrait Reigned from Reigned until Tughra Notes
1281) 1230 1281
  • Son of Ana;
  • Reigned until his death.[17]
  • Oghuz tribe.
1324) 1281 1299
Rise of Ottoman Empire
(27 July 129920 July 1402)
1 Osman I
GHAZI (The Warrior)
BEY (The Esquire)
KARA (lit. The Land or The Black for his bravery)
1299 1326
2 Orhan
GHAZI (The Warrior)
BEY (The Esquire)
1326 1362
3 Murad I
HÜDAVENDİGÂR - Khodāvandgār
(The God-like One)
ŞEHÎD (Shāhīd)

(Sultan since 1383)

1362 15 June 1389
4 Bayezid I
YILDIRIM (The Thunderbolt)
15 June 1389 20 July 1402
Ottoman Interregnum (20 July 1402 – 5 July 1413)
5 Mehmed I
ÇELEBİ (The Affable)
KİRİŞÇİ (lit. The Bowstring Maker for his support)
5 July 1413 26 May 1421
6 Murad II
KOCA (The Great)
25 June 1421 1444
7 Mehmed II
FATİH (The Conqueror)
1444 1446
Murad II
KOCA (The Great)
1446 3 February 1451
  • Second reign;
  • Forced to return to the throne following a Janissary insurgence;[25]
  • Reigned until his death.[22]
Growth of the Ottoman Empire
(29 May 145311 November 1606)
Mehmed II
FATİH (The Conqueror)
3 February 1451 3 May 1481
8 Bayezid II
VELÎ (The Saint)
19 May 1481 25 April 1512
9 Selim I
YAVUZ (The Strong)
Hadim'ul Haramain'ish-Sharifain
(Servant of Mecca and Medina)

(Caliph Of Muslims Since 1517)
25 April 1512 21 September 1520
10 Suleiman I
MUHTEŞEM (The Magnificent)

or KANÛNÎ (The Lawgiver)

30 September 1520 6 or 7 September 1566
11 Selim II
SARI (The Yellow-The Blond)
29 September 1566 21 December 1574
12 Murad III 22 December 1574 16 January 1595
13 Mehmed III
ADLÎ (The Just)
27 January 1595 20 or 21 December 1603
Stagnation of the Ottoman Empire
(11 November 160626 January 1699)
14 Ahmed I
BAKHTÎ (The Fortunate)
21 December 1603 22 November 1617
15 Mustafa I
DELİ (The Intestable)
22 November 1617 26 February 1618
16 Osman II
GENÇ (The Young)
ŞEHÎD (Shāhīd)

26 February 1618 19 May 1622
Mustafa I
DELİ (The Intestable)
20 May 1622 10 September 1623
17 Murad IV
The Conqueror of Baghdad
GHAZI (The Warrior)
10 September 1623 8 or 9 February 1640
18 Ibrahim
DELİ (The Deranged)
The Conqueror of Crete
ŞEHÎD (Shāhīd)
9 February 1640 8 August 1648
19 Mehmed IV
AVCI (The Hunter)
8 August 1648 8 November 1687
20 Suleiman II
GHAZI (The Warrior)
8 November 1687 22 June 1691
21 Ahmed II
KHAN GHAZI (The Warrior Prince)
22 June 1691 6 February 1695
22 Mustafa II
GHAZI (The Warrior)
6 February 1695 22 August 1703
Decline of the Ottoman Empire
(26 January 16999 January 1792)
23 Ahmed III
Tulip Era Sultan
GHAZI (The Warrior)
22 August 1703 1 or 2 October 1730
24 Mahmud I
GHAZI (The Warrior)
KAMBUR (The Hunchback)
2 October 1730 13 December 1754
25 Osman III
SOFU (The Devout)
13 December 1754 29 or 30 October 1757
26 Mustafa III
YENİLİKÇİ (The First Innovative)
30 October 1757 21 January 1774
  • Son of Ahmed III and Âminā Mehr-î-Shâh (Emine Mihr-î-Şâh) İkinci Kadın Efendi;
  • Reigned until his death.[45]
27 Abdülhamid I
Abd ūl-Hāmīd (The Servant of God)
ISLAHATÇI (The Improver)
GHAZI (The Warrior)
21 January 1774 6 or 7 April 1789
Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire[e]
(9 January 1792 1 November 1922)
28 Selim III
BESTEKÂR (The Composer)
NİZÂM-Î (Regulative - Orderly)
ŞEHÎD (Shāhīd)
7 April 1789 29 May 1807
29 Mustafa IV 29 May 1807 28 July 1808
30 Mahmud II
İNKILÂPÇI (The Reformer)
GHAZI (The Warrior)
28 July 1808 1 July 1839
31 Abdülmecid I
(The Strong Reformist or
The Advocate of Reorganization)

GHAZI (The Warrior)
1 July 1839 25 June 1861
  • Son of Mahmud II and Bezm-î-Âlem Vâlidā Sultân;
  • Proclaimed the Hatt-ı Sharif (Imperial Edict) of Gülhane (Tanzimât Fermânı) that launched the Tanzimat period of reforms and reorganization on 3 November 1839 at the behest of reformist Grand Vizier Great Mustafa Rashid Pasha;
  • Accepted the Islâhat Hatt-ı Hümayun (Imperial Reform Edict) (Islâhat Fermânı) on 18 February 1856;
  • Reigned until his death.[50]
32 Abdülaziz I
BAHTSIZ (The Unfortunate)
ŞEHÎD (Shāhīd)
25 June 1861 30 May 1876
33 Murad V
30 May 1876 31 August 1876
34 Abdülhamid II
Ulû Sultân Abd ūl-Hāmīd Khan

(The Sublime Khan)

31 August 1876 27 April 1909
35 Mehmed V
REŞÂD (Rashād)

(The True Path Follower)

27 April 1909 3 July 1918
36 Mehmed VI
VAHDETTİN (Wāhīd ād-Dīn)

(The Unifier of Religion (Islam) or The Oneness of Islam)

4 July 1918 1 November 1922
Republican Caliphate
( 1 November 1922 – 3 March 1924 )
Abdülmecid II

(The Last Ottoman Caliph Of Islam)

18 November 1922 3 March 1924

Interregnum period (1402–1413)

# Sultan Portrait Reigned from Reigned until Tughra Notes
Ottoman Interregnum[d]
(20 July 14025 July 1413)
İsa Çelebi
The Co-Sultan of Anatolia
1403 1405
  • After the Battle of Ankara on July 20, 1402, İsa Çelebi defeated Musa Çelebi and began controlling the western part of Anatolian territory of the empire for approximately two years.
  • Defeated by Mehmed Çelebi in the battle of Ulubat in 1405.
  • Murdered in 1406.
Emir (Amir)
Süleyman Çelebi

The First Sultan of Rumelia
20 July 1402 17 February 1411[59]
Musa Çelebi
The Second Sultan of Rumelia
18 February 1411 5 July 1413[61]
  • Acquired the title of The Sultan of Rumelia for the European portion of the empire[62] on 18 February 1411, just after the death of Süleyman Çelebi.
  • Killed on 5 July 1413 by Mehmed Çelebi’s forces in the battle of Çamurlu Derbent near Samokov in Bulgaria.[63]
Mehmed Çelebi
The Sultan of Anatolia
(Sultan of the Eastern Anatolian Territory)

(The Sultan of Anatolia)
5 July 1413
  • Acquired the control of the eastern part of the Anatolian territory as the Co-Sultan just after the defeat of the Battle of Ankara on 20 July 1402.
  • Defeated İsa Çelebi in the battle of Ulubat in 1405.
  • Became the sole ruler of the Anatolian territory of the Ottoman Empire upon İsa’s death in 1406.
  • Acquired the title of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed I Khan upon Musa’s death on 5 July 1413.

See also


a1 2 : The full style of the Ottoman ruler was complex, as it was composed of several titles and evolved over the centuries. The title of sultan was used continuously by all rulers almost from the beginning. However, because it was widespread in the Muslim world, the Ottomans quickly adopted variations of it to dissociate themselves from other Muslim rulers of lesser status. Murad I, the third Ottoman monarch, styled himself sultan-i azam (سلطان اعظم, the most exalted sultan) and hüdavendigar (خداوندگار, emperor), titles used by the Anatolian Seljuqs and the Mongol Ilkhanids respectively. His son Bayezid I adopted the style Sultan of Rûm, Rûm being an old islamic name for Anatolia. The combining of the Islamic and Central Asian heritages of the Ottomans led to the adoption of the title that became the standard designation of the Ottoman ruler: Sultan [Name] Khan.[64] Ironically, although the title of sultan is most often associated in the Western world with the Ottomans, people within Turkey generally use the title of padishah far more frequently when referring to rulers of the Ottoman Dynasty.[65] The full style of the Ottoman sultan once the empire's frontiers had stabilized became:[66]
"Sovereign of The House of Osman, Sultan es Selatin (Sultan of Sultans), Khakhan (Khan of the Khans), Commander of the faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the lord of the Universe, Custodian of the Holy Cities of Mecca, Medina and Kouds (Jerusalem), Padishah of The Three Cities of Istanbul (Constantinople), Edirne (Adrianople) and Bursa, and of the Cities of Châm (Damascus) and Cairo (Egypt), of all Azerbaijan, of the Magreb, of Barkah, of Kairouan, of Alep, of the Arab and Persian Iraq, of Basra, of El Hasa strip, of Raka, of Mosul, of Parthia, of Diyâr-ı Bekr, of Cilicia, of the provinces of Erzurum, of Sivas, of Adana, of Karaman, of Van, of Barbaria, of Habech (Abyssinia), of Tunisia, of Tripoli, of Châm (Syria), of Cyprus, of Rhodes, of Crete, of the province of Morea (Peloponnese), of Bahr-i Abyâz (Mediterranean Sea), of Bahr-i Siyah (Black Sea), of Anatolia, of Rumelia (the European part of the Empire), of Bagdad, of Kurdistan, of Greece, of Turkestan, of Tartary, of Circassia, of the two regions of Kabarda, of Gorjestan (Georgia), of the steppe of Kipchaks, of the whole country of the Tatars, of Kefa (Feodosiya) and of all the neighbouring regions, of Bosnia, of the City and Fort of Belgrade, of the province of Sirbistan (Serbia), with all the castles and cities, of all Arnaut, of all Eflak (Wallachia) and Bogdania (Moldavia), as well as all the dependencies and borders, and many others countries and cities"
b^ : The Ottoman Caliphate was one of the most important positions held by rulers of the Ottoman Dynasty. The caliphate symbolized their spiritual power, whereas the sultanate represented their temporal power. According to Ottoman historiography, Selim I acquired the title of caliph during his conquest of Egypt in 1517, after the last Abbasid in Cairo, Al-Mutawakkil III, relinquished the caliphate to him. However, the general consensus among modern scholars is that this transference of the caliphate was a fabricated myth invented in the 18th century when the idea of an Ottoman Caliphate became useful to bolster waning military power. In fact, Ottoman rulers had used the title of caliph before the conquest of Egypt, as early as Murad I. It is currently agreed that the caliphate "disappeared" for two-and-a-half centuries, before being revived with the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, signed between the Ottoman Empire and Catherine II of Russia in 1774. The treaty was highly symbolic, since it marked the first international recognition of the Ottomans' claim to the caliphate. Although the treaty officialised the Ottoman Empire's loss of the Crimean Khanate, it acknowledged the Ottoman caliph's continuing religious authority over Muslims in Russia.[67] From the 18th century onwards, Ottoman sultans increasingly emphasized their status as caliphs in order to stir Pan-Islamist sentiments among the empire's Muslims in the face of encroaching European imperialism. When World War I broke out, the sultan/caliph issued a call for jihad in 1914 against the Ottoman Empire's Allied enemies, vainly inciting the subjects of the French, British and Russian empires to revolt. Abdülhamid II was by far the Ottoman sultan who made the most use of his caliphal position, and was recognized as caliph by many Muslim heads of state, even as far away as Sumatra.[68] He had his claim to the title inserted into the 1876 Constitution (Article 4).[69]
c1 2 : Tughras were used by 35 out of 36 Ottoman sultans, starting with Orhan in the 14th century, whose tughra has been found on two different documents. No tughra bearing the name of Osman I, the founder of the empire, has ever been discovered, although a coin with the inscription "Osman bin Ertuğrul bin Gündüz Alp" has been identified.[70] Abdülmecid II, the last Ottoman caliph, also lacked a tughra of his own, since he did not serve as head of state (that position being held by Mustafa Kemal, President of the newly founded Republic of Turkey) but as a religious and royal figurehead.
d^ : The Ottoman Interregnum, also known as the Ottoman Triumvirate (Turkish: Fetret Devri), was a period of chaos in the Ottoman Empire which lasted from 1402 to 1413. It started following the defeat and capture of Bayezid I by the Turco-Mongol warlord Tamerlane at the Battle of Ankara, which was fought on 20 July 1402. Bayezid's sons fought each other for over a decade, until Mehmed I emerged as the undisputed victor in 1413.[71]
e^ : The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire was a gradual process which started with the abolition of the sultanate and ended with that of the caliphate 16 months later. The sultanate was formally abolished on 1 November 1922. Sultan Mehmed VI fled to Malta on 17 November aboard the British warship Malaya.[55] This event marked the end of the Ottoman Dynasty, not of the Ottoman State nor of the Ottoman Caliphate. On 18 November, the Grand National Assembly (TBMM) elected Mehmed VI's cousin Abdülmecid II, the then crown prince, as caliph.[72] The official end of the Ottoman State was declared through the Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923), which recognized the new "Ankara government," and not the old Istanbul-based Ottoman government, as representing the rightful owner and successor state. The Republic of Turkey was proclaimed by the TBMM on 29 October 1923, with Mustafa Kemal as its first President.[73] Although Abdülmecid II was a figurehead lacking any political power, he remained in his position of caliph until the office of the caliphate was abolished by the TBMM on 3 March 1924.[69] Mehmed VI later tried unsuccessfully to reinstall himself as caliph in the Hejaz.[74]



External links

Royal house
Ottoman Dynasty
New creation
Rulers of the Ottoman Empire
Sultanate abolished
Powers transferred to
The Presidents of Turkey
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Abbasid Dynasty
in Cairo
Holders of the Caliphate
Ottoman Caliphate abolished
Succeeded by Sharifian Caliphate
Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca

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