Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
A life-size portrait of Sultan Murad III (1574-1595), attributed to a Spanish artist, 17th century.
|12th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Padishah)|
|Reign||15 December 1574 –|
|Born||4 July 1546|
Manisa, Ottoman Empire
|Died||16 January 1595 (aged 48)|
Topkap? Palace, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Born in Manisa on 4 July 1546, ?ehzade Murad was the oldest son of ?ehzade Selim and his powerful wife Nurbanu Sultan. He received a good education and learned Arabic and Persian language. After his ceremonial circumcision in 1557, Murad's grandfather, the Sultan Suleiman I, appointed him sancakbeyi (governor) of Ak?ehir in 1558. At the age of 18 he was appointed sancakbeyi of Saruhan. Suleiman died (1566) when Murad was 20, and his father became the new sultan, Selim II. Selim II broke with tradition by sending only his oldest son out of the palace to govern a province, assigning Murad to Manisa.:21-22
Selim died in 1574 and was succeeded by Murad, who began his reign by having his five younger brothers strangled. His authority was undermined by harem influences - more specifically, those of his mother and later of his favorite wife Safiye Sultan, often to the detriment of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha's influence on the court. Under Selim II power had only been maintained by the genius of the powerful Grand Vizier, Mehmed Sokollu, who remained in office until his assassination in October 1579. During Murad's reign the northern borders with the Habsburg Monarchy were defended by the Bosnian governor Hasan Predojevi?. The reign of Murad III was marked by exhausting wars on the empire's western and eastern fronts. The Ottomans also suffered defeats in battles such as the Battle of Sisak.
The Ottomans had been at peace with the neighbouring rivaling Safavid Empire since 1555, per the Treaty of Amasya, that for some time had settled border disputes. But in 1577 Murad declared war, starting the Ottoman-Safavid War (1578-90), seeking to take advantage of the chaos in the Safavid court after the death of Shah Tahmasp I. Murad also tried to explore North America and make the ideas of colonizing America be more possible. However, he later abandoned all of these ideas after the Spanish navy responded by a naval attack on the Ottoman ships trying to explore North America. Murad was influenced by viziers Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha and Sinan Pasha and disregarded the opposing counsel of Grand Vizier Sokollu. Murad also fought the Safavids which would drag on for 12 years, ending with the Treaty of Constantinople (1590), which resulted in temporary significant territorial gains for the Ottomans.:198-199
Murad's reign was a time of financial stress for the Ottoman state. To keep up with changing military techniques, the Ottomans trained infantrymen in the use of firearms, paying them directly from the treasury. By 1580 an influx of silver from the New World had caused high inflation and social unrest, especially among Janissaries and government officials who were paid in debased currency. Deprivation from the resulting rebellions, coupled with the pressure of over-population, was especially felt in Anatolia.:24 Competition for positions within the government grew fierce, leading to bribery and corruption. Ottoman and Habsburg sources accuse Murad himself of accepting enormous bribes, including 20,000 ducats from a statesman in exchange for the governorship of Tripoli and Tunisia, thus outbidding a rival who had tried bribing the Grand Vizier.:35
During his period, excessive inflation was experienced, the value of silver money was constantly played, food prices increased. 400 dirhams should be cut from 600 dirhams of silver, while 800 was cut, which meant 100 percent inflation. For the same reason, the purchasing power of wage earners was halved, and the consequence was an uprising. 
Numerous envoys and letters were exchanged between Elizabeth I and Sultan Murad III.:39 In one correspondence, Murad entertained the notion that Islam and Protestantism had "much more in common than either did with Roman Catholicism, as both rejected the worship of idols", and argued for an alliance between England and the Ottoman Empire.:40 To the dismay of Catholic Europe, England exported tin and lead (for cannon-casting) and ammunition from the Ottoman Empire, and Elizabeth seriously discussed joint military operations with Murad III during the outbreak of war with Spain in 1585, as Francis Walsingham was lobbying for a direct Ottoman military involvement against the common Spanish enemy.:41 This diplomacy would be continued under Murad's successor Mehmed III, by both the sultan and Safiye Sultan alike.
Following the example of his father Selim II, Murad was the second Ottoman sultan who never went on campaign during his reign, instead spending it entirely in Constantinople. During the final years of his reign, he did not even leave Topkap? Palace. For two consecutive years he did not attend the Friday procession to the imperial mosque--an unprecedented breaking of custom. The Ottoman historian Mustafa Selaniki wrote that whenever Murad planned to go out to Friday prayer, he changed his mind after hearing of alleged plots by the Janissaries to dethrone him once he left the palace. Murad withdrew from his subjects and spent the majority of his reign keeping to the company of few people and abiding by a daily routine structured by the five daily Islamic prayers. Murad's personal physician Domenico Hierosolimitano described a typical day in the life of the sultan:
In the morning he rises at dawn to say his prayer for half an hour, then for another half-hour he writes. Then he is given something pleasant as a collation, and afterwards sets himself to read for another hour. Then he begins to give audience to the members of the Divan on the four days of the week that this occurs, as had been said above. Then he goes for a walk through the garden, taking pleasure in the delight of fountains and animals for another hour, taking with him the dwarves, buffoons and others to entertain him. Then he goes back once again to studying until he considers the time for lunch has arrived. He stays at table only half an hour, and rises (to go) once again into the garden for as long as he pleases. Then he goes to say his midday prayer. Then he stops to pass the time and amuse himself with the women, and he will stay one or two hours with them, when it is time to say the evening prayer. Then he returns to his apartments or, if it pleases him more, he stays in the garden reading or passing the time until evening with the dwarfs and buffoons, and then he returns to say his prayers, that is at nightfall. Then he dines and takes more time over dinner than over lunch, making conversation until two hours after dark, until it is time for prayer [...] He never fails to observe this schedule every day.:29-30
Murad's sedentary lifestyle and lack of participation in military campaigns earned him the disapproval of Mustafa Âlî and Mustafa Selaniki, the major Ottoman historians who lived during his reign. Their negative portrayals of Murad influenced later historians.:17-19 Both historians also accused Murad of sexual excess.
Before becoming sultan, Murad had been loyal to Safiye Sultan, his Albanian concubine who had given him a son, Mehmed, and two daughters. His monogamy was disapproved of by his mother Nurbanu Sultan, who worried that Murad needed more sons to succeed him in case Mehmed died young. She also worried about Safiye's influence over her son and the Ottoman dynasty. Five or six years after his accession to the throne, Murad was given a pair of concubines by his sister Ismihan. Upon attempting sexual intercourse with them, he proved impotent. "The arrow [of Murad], [despite] keeping with his created nature, for many times [and] for many days has been unable to reach at the target of union and pleasure," wrote Mustafa Ali. Nurbanu accused Safiyye and her retainers of causing Murad's impotence with witchcraft. Several of Safiye's servants were tortured by eunuchs in order to discover a culprit. Court physicians, working under Nurbanu's orders, eventually prepared a successful cure, but a side effect was a drastic increase in sexual appetite--by the time Murad died, he was said to have fathered over a hundred children.:31-32 Nineteen of these were executed by Mehmed III when he became sultan.
Influential ladies of his court included his mother Nurbanu Sultan, his sister Ismihan Sultan, wife of grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, and musahibes (favourites) mistress of the housekeeper Canfeda Hatun, mistress of financial affairs Raziye Hatun, and the poet Hubbi Hatun, Finally, after the death of his mother and older sister, his wife Safiye Sultan was the only influential woman in the court.
Before Murad, the palace eunuchs had been mostly white. This began to change in 1582 when Murad gave an important position to a black eunuch. By 1592, the eunuchs' roles in the palace were racially determined: black eunuchs guarded the Sultan and the women, and white eunuchs guarded the male pages in another part of the palace. The chief black eunuch was known as the Kizlar Agha, and the chief white eunuch was known as the Kapi Agha.
Murad took great interest in the arts, particularly miniatures and books. He actively supported the court Society of Miniaturists, commissioning several volumes including the Siyer-i Nebi, the most heavily illustrated biographical work on the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the Book of Skills, the Book of Festivities and the Book of Victories. He had two large alabaster urns transported from Pergamon and placed on two sides of the nave in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and a large wax candle dressed in tin which was donated by him to the Rila monastery in Bulgaria is on display in the monastery museum.
Murad also furnished the content of Kitabü'l-Menamat (The Book of Dreams), addressed to Murad's spiritual advisor, ?üca Dede. A collection of first person accounts, it tells of Murad's spiritual experiences as a Sufi disciple. Compiled from thousands of letters Murad wrote describing his dream visions, it presents a hagiographic self-portrait. Murad dreams of various activities, including being stripped naked by his father and having to sit on his lap,:72 single-handedly killing 12,000 infidels in battle,:99 walking on water, ascending to heaven, and producing milk from his fingers.:143 He frequently encounters the Prophet Muhammed, and in one dream sits in the Prophet's lap and kisses his mouth.:189
In another letter addressed to ?üca Dede, Murad wrote "I wish that God, may He be glorified and exalted, had not created this poor servant as the descendant of the Ottomans so that I would not hear this and that, and would not worry. I wish I were of unknown pedigree. Then, I would have one single task, and could ignore the whole world.":171
The diplomatic edition of these dream letters have been recently published by Ozgen Felek in Turkish.
Murad died from what is assumed to be natural causes in the Topkap? Palace and was buried in tomb next to the Hagia Sophia. In the mausoleum are 54 sarcophagus of the sultan, his wives and children that are also buried there. He is also responsible for changing the burial customs of the sultans' mothers. Murad had his mother Nurbanu buried next to her husband Selim II, making her the first consort to share a sultan's tomb.:33-34
Murad's named consorts were:
Murad had twenty-two sons:
Orhan Pamuk's historical novel Benim Ad?m K?rm?z? (My Name is Red, 1998) takes place at the court of Murad III, during nine snowy winter days of 1591, which the writer uses in order to convey the tension between East and West.
The Harem Midwife by Roberta Rich - a historical fiction set in Constantinople (1578) which follows Hannah, a midwife, who tends to many of the women in Sultan Murad III's harem.
Media related to Murad III at Wikimedia Commons
Murad IIIBorn: 4 July 1546 Died: 15 January 1595[aged 48]
| Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
12 December 1574 - 15 January 1595
|Sunni Islam titles|
| Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate
12 December 1574 - 15 January 1595