Ibrahim Pasha

Ibrahim Pasha

Life and death of Suleyman the Magnificent’s childhood friend and Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha
Our hotel is named after the neighbouring 16th century Ottoman palace (now the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum) built by Ibrahim Pasha, the most popular Grand Vizier of Ottoman history. Below is a short biography (taken from Wikipedia).
Ibrahim Pasha was born in the town of Parga and was Albanian by birth. He was sold as a slave at the age of six to the Ottoman palace for future sultans situated in Manisa in Western Anatolia. There he befriended Suleyman who was of the same age, and later, upon Suleyman's accession, was awarded various posts, the first being falconer to the Sultan. He was so rapidly promoted that at one point he begged Suleyman to not promote him too rapidly for fear of arousing jealousy. Pleased with this display of modesty, Suleyman purportedly swore that he would never be put to death during his reign. Later, after being appointed Grand Vizier, he continued to receive many gifts from the sultan, and his power in the Ottoman Empire was absolute, just as his master's. Amongst many titles, he was also unofficially known as "the most beautiful man in the empire" (a pity that we do not have a portrait of him).

Although he married Suleyman's sister and was as such a bridegroom to the Ottoman dynasty (Damat), this title is not frequently used in association with him, possibly in order not to confuse him with other illustrious grand viziers who were namesakes Damat Ibrahim Pasha (a Bosniak) and Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasha (Turkish). He is usually referred to as "Pargali Ibrahim Pasha" or "Frenk (the European) Ibrahim Pasha" due to his tastes and manners. Yet another name given by his contemporaries was "Makbul Maktul (loved and killed) Ibrahim Pasha".
His magnificent palace still standing in Istanbul is called Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. Attribution of Slavic, Italian (more precisely Genoese) or even Albanian or Jewish origins to this accomplished polyglot, mainly of speculative value, have been put forth, but many clues referring to his period of power, such as the fact that he chose to build his palace in immediate view of Atmeydani (today Sultanahmet Square) in Istanbul (the famed Hippodrome of the Byzantine emperors, facing Saint Sophia), clearly indicate that he was Greek. Built according to a design which is unmistakably defensive in concept (he had fearsome rivals), his palace is the only residence built by someone outside the Ottoman dynasty that deserves to be designated as a palace.

On the diplomatic front Ibrahim's work with Western Christendom was a complete success. Portraying himself as "the real power behind the Ottoman Empire", Ibrahim used a variety of tactics to negotiate favorable deals with the leaders of the Catholic powers. The Venetian diplomats even referred to him as "Ibrahim the Magnificent", a play on Suleyman's usual sobriquet. In 1533, he convinced Charles V to turn Hungary into an Ottoman vassal state. In 1535, he completed a monumental agreement with Francis I that gave France favorable trade rights within the Ottoman empire in exchange for joint action against the Habsburgs. This agreement would set the stage for joint Franco-Ottoman naval maneuvers, including the basing of the entire Ottoman fleet in southern France (in Nice) during the winter of 1543.

A skilled commander of Suleyman's army, he eventually fell from grace after an imprudence committed during a campaign against the Persian Safavid Empire, when he awarded himself a title including the word Sultan. This incident launched a series of events which culminated in his execution in 1536, thirteen years after having been promoted as Grand Vizier. It has also been suggested by a number of sources that Ibrahim Pasha had been a victim of Hurrem Sultan's (Roxelana, the sultan's wife) rising influence on the sovereign, especially in view of his past support for the cause of Sehzade Mustafa, Suleyman I's first son and heir to the throne, who had been strangled to death by his father on 6 October 1533, through a series of plots put in motion by Roxelana.

Since Suleyman had sworn not to take Ibrahim's life during his reign, he acquired a fetva, which permitted him to take back the oath by building a mosque in Istanbul. He announced the fetva one week before Ibrahim's execution and dined alone with him seven times before the final move, so to give his life-long friend a chance to flee the country or to take the sultan's own life. It was later discovered in Ibrahim's letters that he was perfectly aware of the situation but nevertheless decided to stay true to Suleyman.

Suleyman later greatly regretted Ibrahim's execution and his character changed dramatically, to the point where he became completely secluded from the daily work of governing. His regrets are reflected in his poems, in which even after twenty years he continually stresses topics of friendship and of love and trust between friends and often hints on character traits similar to Ibrahim's.