Selim I (Ottoman Turkish: سليم اوّل, Modern Turkish: I.Selim), also known as "the Excellent," "the Brave" or the best translation "the Stern", Yavuz in Turkish, the long name is Yavuz Sultan Selim; (October 10, 1465/1466/1470 – September 22, 1520) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to 1520. He was also the first Ottoman Sultan to assume the title of Caliph of Islam.
Selim carried the empire to the leadership of the Sunni branch of Islam by his conquest of the Middle East. He represents a sudden change in the expansion policy of the empire, which was working mostly against the West and the Beyliks before his reign. On the eve of his death in 1520, the Ottoman empire spanned almost 1 billion acres (trebling during Selim's reign).
Born in Amasya, Selim dethroned his father Bayezid II (1481–1512) in 1512. Bayezid's death followed immediately thereafter. Like his grandfather Mehmed II (1451–81), Selim put his brothers and nephews to death upon his accession in order to eliminate potential pretenders to the throne. This fratricidal policy was motivated by bouts of civil strife that had been sparked by the antagonism between Selim's father Beyazid and his uncle Cem, and between Selim himself and his brother Ahmed.
He married Valide Sultan (1520) Hafsa Hatun Sultan, (Turkish: Ayşe Hafsa Sultan ), who died in 1534, mother of Suleiman I. Selim's mother was Ayşe Hatun, from Dulkadir. Selim was described as being tall, having very broad shoulders and a long mustache. He was skilled in politics and was said to be fond of fighting.
Conquest of the Middle East
For Selim, one of the first challenges as the Sultan was the conflict between his empire and the powerful Safavid Empire of Persia. Shah Ismail had a Kurdish and Azeri ancestry and was patron of Shia Islam in the region, a situation which was a threat against the Sunni rulers of the Ottoman Empire. Selim had to eliminate the risk of a westward attack from Iran to Anatolia while he was attacking the Mamluks of Egypt. Therefore, Selim assembled his army and marched to Iran in 1514 and delivered a devastating blow to Safavids and Shah Ismail at the Battle of Chaldiran, a battle of historical significance. The Ottoman army thereafter paraded in the capital of the Safavid Empire, Tabriz.
Then, Selim attacked and destroyed the Mamluk Sultanate first at the Battle of Marj Dabiq and then at the Battle of Ridanieh, which led to the annexation of Syria, Palestine and Egypt. He also extended Ottoman power to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Rather than style himself the Hakim ul Haremeyn, or The Ruler of The Two Holy Shrines, he accepted the more pious title Khadim ul Haremeyn, or The Servant of The Two Holy Shrines.
After the conquest of Egypt and the Holy Cities in 1517, Selim induced Al-Mutawakkil III (1509–17), the last in the line of Abbasid caliphs who resided in Cairo since 1261 as nominal rulers legitimizing the de facto rule of the Mamluk sultans over the Mamluk Sultanate , to formally surrender the title of Caliph and its emblems, the sword and the mantle of Muhammad. These are kept in the Topkapi Palace Museum at Istanbul, Turkey.
After his return from his Egyptian campaign, Selim began to prepare for an expedition which is believed to be against Rhodes. This campaign was cut short when he was overwhelmed by sickness and subsequently died in the ninth year of his reign. He was about fifty-five years of age. It is said that Selim succumbed to sirpence, a skin infection which he developed during his long campaigns on horseback. (Sirpence was an anthrax infection sometimes seen among leatherworkers and others who worked with livestock). Some historians claim that he was poisoned by the doctor tending to his infection and some historians claim that the disease he suffered from was skin cancer. He died at Corlu, Tekirdağ.
After claiming the Caliphate, Selim assumed the title Malik ul-Barreyn, wa Khakan ul-Bahrayn, wa Kasir ul-Jayshayn, wa Khadim ul-Haramayn - that is, King of the Two Lands (continents Europe and Asia), Khagan of the Two Seas (Mediterranian and Indian Seas), Conqueror of the Two Armies (European and Safavid armies), and Servant of the Two Holy Shrines (Mecca and Medina). This title alludes to his dominions in Africa and Asia (namely, Egypt, Anatolia, and much of the Fertile Crescent), his control over the Mediterranean and Black seas, his defeat of both the Mamluk and Safavid armies, and his guardianship of the shrines of Mecca and Medina.
By most accounts, Selim had a fiery temper and full-blooded personality like a hero. He seems to have had high expectations of his subordinates, and executed many of his own viziers (one vizier playfully asked for advance notice of his own execution, so that he could put his affairs in order, to which Selim replied that he had indeed been thinking for a while of having him executed but hadn't found a suitable replacement, but that as soon as he did, he would be happy to oblige).
Accordingly, his court was dynamic, with the rewards as great as the risks. He was possibly very energetic and effective, though sometimes cruel, ruler. His reign was short, but may have prepared the Ottoman empire for its zenith under the achievements of his son. A popular legend has it that Selim had filled the royal treasury to the brink and locked it with his own seal. He decreed that "he who will fill the treasury more than this, may use his seal to lock it." The treasury remained locked with Selim's seal until the collapse of the Empire 400 years later.
Selim was also a distinguished poet who wrote both Turkish and Persian verse under the nickname mahlas Selimi; collections of his Persian poetry are extant today. In one of his poems, he wrote;
A carpet is large enough to accommodate two sufis, but the world is not large enough for two Kings.
– Yavuz Sultan Selim