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 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.