Famous Men of Modern Times - John Haaren

Solyman the Sublime


Solyman I (sol' e man), sometimes called the Sublime, was sultan of Turkey when Charles V was emperor of Germany. He was born about the year 1490, and became sultan at the age of twenty-five.

When his father, Selim I, lay upon his death bed, he said to his son Solyman, "My son, I am passing away, and you will soon be ruler of Turkey. During my reign I have tried to make my empire a strong military power. Promise me that you will carry on the work which I have begun. Try to make the Turkish nation respected and feared."

"Father," said Solyman, "I will do all that I can to make my country the equal of any in the world."

We know nothing of the Turks until about the time of Louis IX, the crusading king of France. Then a small body of the strange warlike people came from central Asia; and in about fifty years they had gained possession of all that part of Asia which we call Asia Minor.

Only the narrow strait called the Bosporus, about one mile wide, lay between them and the beautiful city of Constantinople, which was then the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. From the Asiatic side of the Bosporus the Turks could see the palaces of the Christian city and the church of Santa Sophia (so fee' a), then the most magnificent church in Christendom.



In 1453, when Gutenberg was printing his first Latin Bible, the Turks attacked Constantinople with a powerful fleet. The Greeks had put a chain across the mouth of the harbor, but the Turks made a plank road five miles long, drew their war galleys over it, and launched them under the very walls of the city. Their cannon made a breach in the walls, and through it the Turks entered and stormed the place.

The Greek emperor, though fighting bravely, fell; and the Turks completely overpowered the Christians.

At sunset the sultan gave thanks for his victory. The church of St. Sophia was at once turned into a mosque, and so remains to the present day.

Mahomet II


By the capture of Constantinople the Turks gained their first foothold in Europe; and for more than two hundred years afterward it was their constant effort to make themselves masters of the whole continent.

With this idea in mind, Solyman invaded Servia and besieged Belgrade, the capital. Belgrade was at that time one of the strongest fortifications in the world. It was also the great stronghold of the Christians of the east. Solyman captured the city and annexed Servia to the empire of Turkey.

He next invaded Hungary, and in 1526 a terrible battle was fought at Mohacs (mo hach'). Solyman gained the victory. A great number of the Hungarian nobility perished and their king, Louis II, lost his life.

A large part of the valley of the Danube was now at the mercy of Solyman, and portions of it continued to be Turkish territory for three centuries.

After this battle some of the Hungarian nobles elected as king a man named John Zapolya (za' pol ya). A prince who had a better right to the throne was Ferdinand, duke of Austria, who was the brother of Charles V.

Incident of the Turkish Invasion


Zapolya could not drive Ferdinand's troops out of the kingdom. He asked Solyman to help him. This Solyman was glad to do because he saw that it might give him the opportunity to take possession of all Hungary. With a large army he marched into the country. He took from Ferdinand the fortified city of Buda and made it his own headquarters.

Not long afterwards he appeared with an army of nearly two hundred thousand men before Vienna which was Ferdinand's capital. After trying several times to storm the city, however, he had to abandon the siege. But fighting continued until it was agreed that Zapolya should be king of one half of Hungary, and of course he became a vassal to Solyman.

Some time later Solyman compelled Ferdinand to pay tribute for the other half—thus all Hungary became a province of the Turkish empire, and this it continued to be for more than a hundred and fifty years.

All of northern Africa was Mohammedan, and from its shores it was easy to send out expeditions to attack the ships of Christian nations. Solyman selected Tunis as the headquarters for his fleet. His great admiral, Barbarossa, was the terror of every Christian seaman. He forced the nations who carried on commerce on the Mediterranean to pay him tribute, as if the sea belonged to the Turks, and as if the ships of no other nation had the right to sail upon it.

Charles V determined to capture Algiers and put a stop to the sufferings of the many thousand Christians whom the Turks kept in prison or slavery. With an army of over twenty thousand men he landed near Algiers, and it looked as though he would certainly take the city.

But the night before he intended to make the attack a storm arose. A torrent of rain fell. The soldiers had no tents, and they were drenched. The wind blew bitterly cold; and toward morning the Turks sallied forth from the gate of the city and, making a sudden attack upon the Christians, threw them into confusion.

Charles V himself mounted his horse and rallied the troops. But though they fought bravely they could not capture the city, and after losing several hundred men they retreated to their ships and sailed back to Spain.

Another of Solyman's pirate captains was Dragoot. He attacked two villages not far from Naples, and took about a thousand prisoners—men, women and children. Then he let the Christian people know that if they brought a sufficient sum of money they might ransom relatives or friends whom he had captured. He also told the Turks that they could buy his captives as slaves.

Thus both by sea and by land the Turks under Solyman were dreaded by the most powerful nations of Europe. But they were able to go no farther than Hungary, except on the one occasion when they attacked Vienna.

Being checked in Europe, Solyman turned his thoughts toward Asia, and with a powerful army he invaded Persia.

The Persians met him in battle; but finally the Persian monarch had to purchase peace by payment of a large sum of money. Except for this Solyman would certainly have taken possession of the whole country.

Solyman's promise to his father was well kept. He pushed the empire of Turkey westward into the heart of Europe, and eastward into the heart of Asia. He filled both continents with dismay.

But the end was near. In 1566 a revolution broke out in Hungary, and Solyman, at the head of a vast army, went to quell it. He was then a white-haired man of seventy-six, but vigorous and active. He rode at the head of his troops on a favorite black horse which had carried him in many a campaign. He was cheerful and hopeful, and as he went along he conversed with his officers.

"I must conquer the Hungarians this time so thoroughly," said he, "that they will never revolt again. Then I will return home and hang up my sword, for I am getting too old to bear the hardships of war."

He crossed the river Drave and laid siege to the fortress of Szigeth (se' get), which was defended by a small force of Hungarians. They gallantly resisted the attack of the Turks; but at the end of four weeks, were forced to surrender.

The conqueror, however, did not live to enjoy his victory. He was stricken with apoplexy and died while the siege was going on.

If Solyman had devoted himself to the advancement of his own people, instead of spending his life in fighting others, he might have done a great deal of good; for in the first years of his reign he made excellent laws. He tried to do justice to all; and he severely punished any officer of his kingdom who oppressed the people.

He was probably the greatest of all the sultans of Turkey.