Selim II

Selim II
سليم ثانى
Caliph of Islam
Amir al-Mu'minin
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
11th Ottoman Sultan (Emperor)
Reign 7 September 1566 15 December 1574
Sword girding 8 September 1566
Predecessor Suleiman I
Successor Murad III
Born 28 May 1524
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Died 12/15 December 1574 (aged 50)
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Consort Nurbanu Sultan
and four others
Issue Murad III
Şehzade Abdullah
Şehzade Osman
Şehzade Mustafa
Şehzade Süleyman
Şehzade Mehmed
Şehzade Cihangir
Ismihan Sultan
Şah Sultan
Fatma Sultan
Gevherhan Sultan
Full name
Selim bin Suleiman
Dynasty House of Osman
Father Suleiman I
Mother Hürrem Sultan
Religion Sunni Islam
Sultan Selim II receiving the Safavid ambassador in the palace at Edirne in 1567.
16th century copy of the 1569 Capitulations between Charles IX and Selim II.

Selim II (Ottoman Turkish: سليم ثانى Selīm-i sānī, Turkish:II.Selim; 28 May 1524 – 12 December/15 December 1574), also known as "Selim the Sot" (i.e. "the drunkard", Sarhoş Selim; Mest Selim) and as Sarı Selim ("Selim the Blond"), was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1566 until his death in 1574. He was a son of Suleiman the Magnificent and Haseki Hürrem Sultan. Selim had been an unlikely candidate for the throne until his brother Mehmed died of smallpox, his half-brother Mustafa was strangled to death by the order of his father, and his brother Bayezid was killed in a coordinated effort between him and his father.

Early life

Selim was born in Constantinople (Istanbul), on 28 May 1524, during the reign of his father Suleiman the Magnificent. His mother was Hürrem, a slave and concubine who was born an Orthodox priest's daughter.[1] Selim had two elder brothers, Mehmed (born 1521) and Abdullah (born 1522), one elder sister Mihrimah (born 21 March 1522), and two younger brothers, Bayezid (born 1525) and Cihangir (born 9 December 1531). He also had half-siblings: Mustafa son of Mahidevran, Murad son of Gülfem, Mahmud, and Raziye. In 1533 or 1534, Suleiman freed Hürrem and made her his legal wife, making Selim the son of a free woman.

In 1545, at Konya, Selim married Nurbanu Sultan, whose background is disputed. It is said that she was originally named Cecelia Venier Baffo, or Rachel, or Kale Katenou. She was the mother of Murad III, Selim's successor. Hubbi Hatun, a famous poetess of the sixteenth century, was a lady-in-waiting to him.


After gaining the throne after palace intrigue and fraternal dispute, he succeeded as sultan on 7 September 1566. According to one source Selim II became the first sultan who took no interest in military matters and was willing to abandon power to his ministers, provided he was left free to pursue his orgies and debauches, earning him the byname of "Drunkard".[2] Kinross in The Seeds of Decline (1977) suggests a connection between Selim's decadence and his decision to invade Cyprus rather than supporting the Morisco Revolt (1568–1571) in Granada as well as in the manner of his death; Selim died in the Topkapı Palace after a period of fever brought on when he drunkenly slipped over on the wet floor of an unfinished bath-house, getting a head injury.[3]

Selim's Grand Vizier, Mehmed Sokollu, a native of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, controlled much of state affairs, and two years after Selim's accession succeeded in concluding at Constantinople an honourable treaty (17 February 1568) with the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II, whereby the Emperor agreed to pay an annual "present" of 30,000 ducats and essentially granted the Ottomans authority in Moldavia and Walachia.

Against Russia, Selim was less fortunate: the first encounter between the Ottoman Empire and her future northern rival gave presage of disaster to come. A plan had been prepared in Istanbul for uniting the Volga and Don by a canal, and in the summer of 1569 a large force of Janissaries and cavalry were sent to lay siege to Astrakhan and begin the canal works, while an Ottoman fleet besieged Azov. However, a sortie of the garrison of Astrakhan drove back the besiegers; a Russian relief army of 15,000 attacked and scattered the workmen and the Tatar force sent for their protection; and finally, the Ottoman fleet was destroyed by a storm. Early in 1570 the ambassadors of Ivan IV of Russia concluded at Constantinople a treaty which restored friendly relations between the Sultan and the Tsar.

Expeditions in the Hejaz and Yemen were more successful, but the conquest of Cyprus in 1571, which provided Selim with his favourite vintage, led to the naval defeat against Spain and Italian states in the Battle of Lepanto in the same year.

The Empire's shattered fleets were soon restored (in just six months; it consisted of about 150 galleys and 8 galleasses) and the Ottomans maintained control of the Mediterranean (1573). In August 1574, months before Selim's death, the Ottomans regained control of Tunisia from Spain, which had captured it in 1572.

During his reign, his elder sister Mihrimah Sultan acted as his Valide Sultan, because his mother Hürrem Sultan died before his reign began.

However, Sultan Selim was loved by the people because of his soft character and his sensitive attitude and for his generosity. He is known for giving back to Mahidevran Gülbahar her status and her wealth, contrasting with his father Suleiman's decision. He also built the tomb of his eldest brother, Şehzade Mustafa, who was executed in 1553.

Personal life

Selim's first and only wife, Nurbanu Sultan, was a Venetian who was the mother of his successor Murad III and three of his daughters. As a Haseki Sultan she received 1,000 aspers a day, while lower-ranking concubines who were the mothers of princes received 40 aspers a day. Selim bestowed upon Nurbanu 110,000 ducats as a dowry, surpassing the 100,000 ducats that his father bestowed upon Hürrem Sultan. According to Leslie Peirce, Selim had four other concubines, each one the mother of a single prince.



  1. The Speech of Ibrahim at the Coronation of Maximilian II, Thomas Conley, Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 2002), 266.
  2.  Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1916). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia. 20 (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. p. 684.
  3. Kinross 1977, p. 273
  4. 1 2 3 4 Leslie P. Peirce (1993). The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. Oxford University Press. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-195-08677-5.


Further reading

Media related to Selim II at Wikimedia Commons

Selim II
Born: May 28, 1524 Died: December 12, 1574[aged 50]
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Suleiman I
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Sep 5, 1566 – Dec 12, 1574
Succeeded by
Murad III
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Suleiman I
Caliph of Islam
Sep 5, 1566 – Dec 12, 1574
Succeeded by
Murad III
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