Fethiye Famous Heads: Yavuz Sultan Selim

We’re now up to number 4 in our series about the identity of the figures important in modern Turkish and Ottoman history; the figures considered significant enough to be made into a bust and fixed atop a marble fountain along Fethiye harbour. Known as the Fethiye heads, they’re a well known landmark and often used as a meeting point…but we want to know who these people were.

Yavuz Sultan Selim

Yavuz Sultan Selim – one of the ‘Fethiye heads.’

Yavuz Sultan Selim 1470-1520 
The last significant Ottoman figure we wrote about was Fatih Sultan Mehmet; he who is famous for finally conquering Constantinople in 1453 and making Istanbul the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Yavuz Sultan Selim was also a man of conquering habits and it was he and his armies who significantly expanded the size of the Ottoman Empire and cemented its power in the region by marching east and southwards to conquer Syria and Egypt.

We’ve said before that the history of the Ottoman dynasty is packed with murder, mystery and intrigue and Yavuz Sultan Selim (yavuz means stern or grim) certainly had his role in this. He earned his nickname for not only being a keen warrior but also for being a man who was determined to get and keep what he wanted – the position of Sultan.

In 1512, Selim gained his place on the historical timeline of Ottoman rulers by deposing his own father, Beyazid. And, fearing his two brothers may pose a threat to his rule – one of his brothers was actively challenging his leadership – he went to battle with them on separate occasions and both were strangled.

Yavuz Sultan Selim died in 1520 on the way to Edirne. Some accounts say he died from disease…others suggest he was being poisoned by his own doctor who was pretending to treat him. In his short 8 year reign he had expanded the Ottoman Empire to cover a landmass of over 1 billion acres. His only son, Süleyman, succeeded him without challenge.

You can read more about the Ottoman Empire in the fantastic book, ‘Osman’s Dream’ by Caroline Finkel.

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  1. Ahhh! The Master of the Silken Cord! Life and Death of the party, though.

  2. @ Alan: He certainly seemed that way. Wouldn’t have messed with him if we were alive in his day! He didn’t seem like the most compassionate of sultans.

  3. Ottoman history is deliciously racy – full of court intrigue, fratricide, sex, conquest and decadence. Well worth the read.

  4. @ Jack Scott: Certainly is! Wish we could get the channel on TV that has the series set in Ottoman times. All our friends love it and are always looking forward to the next episode. 🙂

  5. how interesting! his name sure fits his face!

  6. Gosh, guess you can’t make up this stuff! Not even soap operas can get it right.

  7. Over the last year or so I’ve started studying Turkish history and find it SO fascinating. 🙂 Love these little tidbits you share. 🙂

  8. oh my = such fascinating history- it is sad if he was poisoned. Just think if he had ruled longer, where Turkey might be today. He did so much in such a little time- of course his methods were not always wonderful.

  9. Amazing ambition and drive these sultans must have had. Love it.

  10. @ Jaz: A stern looking chap, isn’t he?

    @ Belinda: Everyone’s hooked to the soap opera that’s on TV now. We can’t get it unfortunately.

    @ Rambling Tart: Certainly keeps you reading on and on doesn’t it? We love to read up on it because we were never taught any at school or university.

    @ Anjuli: He certainly left his mark in the world and in the history of the Ottoman Empire.

    @ Italian Notes: I know, Can you imagine just jumping on a horse with your army and trotting thousands of miles and then after all that, going to battle and winning?

  11. A bit of a grizzly history here, then! Very interesting to read, though.

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