Erdem Çıpa, "Dreaming Selim: The Memory of Sultan Selim I as a Divinely Ordained Monarch in Ottoman Historical Texts"

Author: CSSH: Social Sciences and Humanities Seminar Series
Time: 16:00
Location: CASE 134

Among the sultans of the Ottoman ‘Classical Age,’ Selim I is the sole monarch to have gained the dubious honor of posthumously acquiring an unflattering epithet. Ottoman chronicles remember Selim’s forefathers by honorific titles such as “Warrior of Faith” (Gazi), “Lord” (Hüdavendigar), “Thunderbolt” (Yıldırım), “Conqueror” (Fatih), “Saint” (Veli), and “Devout” (Sofu). In European sources Selim’s own son, Süleyman, is frequently dubbed “the Magnificent” while in Ottoman chronicles he is praised as “the Lawgiver” (Kanuni). However, due to his controversial rise to the Ottoman throne and his iron-fisted style of rule, Selim is less laudably remembered as “the Grim” (Yavuz).

            Judging by the anecdotes related in many Ottoman chronicles, Selim’s infamous nickname was well deserved. To begin with, he ruled by fear. He was also the first ever member of the Ottoman dynasty to have forcefully deposed, and almost certainly poisoned, a legitimate ruling sultan, his own father Bayezid II. Yet, Selim is represented differently in various genres of Ottoman historical writing—as a legitimate, idealized, and divinely ordained monarch. Exploring Selim’s self-identification in official documents, references in historiography produced during and after his reign as well as in dream narratives recorded in contemporaneous petitions addressed to his court, this talk addresses the development of his textual iconography as a sultan who ruled by divine decree.



H. Erdem Çıpa (PhD, Harvard University) is associate professor of Ottoman history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The primary focus of his work is the history and historiography of the Ottoman Empire, with a specific emphasis on dissident movements and succession struggles. He is the author of The Making of Selim: Succession, Legitimacy, and Memory in the Early Modern Ottoman World (Indiana University Press, 2017); co-editor of Writing History at the Ottoman Court: Editing the Past, Fashioning the Future (Indiana University Press, 2013) and co-editor, Disliking Others: Loathing, Hostility, and Distrust in Pre-Modern Ottoman Lands, Fashioning the Future (Indiana University Press, forthcoming, 2018).