Ottoman Empire: Notes - Archontology

Ottoman Empire: Notes


With the introduction of the alphabet, based on the Latin alphabet, prescribed by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) the issue of the spelling of personal names became tangled in confusion. For instance, İnalcık (1973) writes Bâyezîd, where Alderson (1956) writes Bayezid, and the most common current spelling is Beyazıt.

This record follows the policy of İslâm Ansiklopedisi.

Style of the Rulers

In the record, the only term denoting the ruler's style is padışah, which is recognized by all as signifying his "imperial" status, and is routinely used when referring to the Ottoman sovereigns. Murphey (2008), who investigated the Ottomans' use of titulature in coins and chancellery documents, made the following conclusion:

In the high imperial era, padishah represented the most common form both of address and of self-reference; it was encountered with equal frequency in the domains of internal communication and inter-state correspondence.

In addition to padışah, each ruler used an immense variety of additional titles, varying from one use to another. A good comment on this point is made by Arnold (1924, p. 164):

They [scil. protocols] are couched in elaborate formulae, made up of a strange mixture of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish <...>. It does not appear that official usage prescribed one single and invariable formula, it being probably left to the epistolary ingenuity of each secretary to elaborate such high-flown eulogies as the occasion inspired.

To illustrate the variety of such florescence of titles, Arnold gives some specimens taken from the collection of diplomatic correspondence, compiled by Feridun Ahmed Bey, secretary to the Grand Vizier, Sokollu Mehmet Paşa, and presented by him to Murad III in 1575. Although some sources claim this variety to have formed the 'official style' of the Ottoman rulers, the styles actually used in official documents tend to be more concise. The matter is discussed in some detail in Reychman and Zajączkowski (1968) and Theunissen (1998).

Among other diplomatic evidence, Reychman and Zajączkowski (1968, p. 142) provide a facsimile of the instrument issued under the authority of Süleyman I. A part of the 'protocol' of such instruments is the statement of the drawer's name and title (intitulatio) which reads in translation as:

The sultan of sultans, the proof of emperors, the distributor of crowns to the monarchs of the surface of the earth, the shadow of God on the lands, the sultan and the padışah of the White Sea, the Black Sea, Rumelia, Anatolia, Karaman, of Rum, of the provinces of the Zulkadırs, of Diyarbakır, of Kurdistan, of Azerbaycan, of Acem [Persia], of Şam [Damascus], of Halep [Aleppo], of Mısır [Cairo], of Mecca and Medina, of Jerusalem, of all the lands of Arabia, of the Yemen, and of the many lands conquered by the irresistible power of my noble fathers and illustrious ancestors - may God illuminate their manifestations -, and of the many lands which my glorious and august majesty has conquered with a flaming sword.

Another document addressed to the Venetian state in 1641 is found in Theunissen (1998, p. 626) and recorded as:

... sultan-i selatin-i cihan ve bürhan-i havakin-i devran tacbahş-i husrevan-i ru-i zemin sultan İbrahim han ibn Ahmed han ibn Mehemmed han ibn Murad han ibn Selim han ibn Süleyman han ibn Selim hanın.

The Office of Halife

The claim that, upon the conquest of Egypt in 1517 and the displacement of the last Abbasid holder of the office, al-Mutawakkil III, the office and style of Khalīfat Rasūl Allāh, Amīr al-Mu’minīn (Halife-i Resulullah, Emirülmüminin) was transferred to the Ottoman ruler by a formal deed of assignment has no corroboration from any contemporary source. A variety of "khalifal" titles was used by Ottoman rulers, and accorded to them by others in diplomatic correspondence and treaties. An authoritative account of the situation before 1774 is given by İnalcık (1973, p.57):

During the reign of Selîm I the status of the Ottoman sultan changed radically. By annexing Syria, Egypt and Arabia, the old heartland of the caliphate, to the empire, Selîm became more than simply a gâzî sultan on the frontiers of the Islamic world; he became at the same time the protector of Mecca and Medina and guardian of the pilgrimage routes. This was more significant than his bearing the title of caliph, a title then in use by every Muslim ruler. Although Selîm sent to his Palace in Istanbul the holy relics of the Prophet, considered the symbols of the caliphate, it is not true that the Abbasid caliph, al-Mutawakkil, surrendered the office of caliph to Selîm, or that Selîm claimed to be, in the classical sense, caliph of the whole Islamic world. According to sunnî doctrine, the caliph had to be from the Kuraysh, the Prophet's tribe, and, furthermore, the classical concept of a single caliph for the whole Islamic community had had no force since the thirteenth century. When Süleymân I laid claim to the 'Supreme Caliphate' and used the title 'Caliph of the Muslims', he meant only to emphasize his preeminence among Muslim rulers and his protectorship of Islam. In a letter sent to congratulate Süleymân on his accesssion to the throne, the Sherif of Mecca wrote that his success in Holy War had exalted him above all other Islamic sovereigns. The Ottoman sultans always remained gâzî sultans but they extended the concept of gazâ to bring the whole Islamic world under their protection. They invested the institution of the caliphate with new meaning, basing their concept not on the classical doctrines but on the principles of gazâ - Holy War.

The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (21 July 1774 N.S.) between the Ottoman and the Russian Empire for the first time ceded territory held to be under Ottoman rule; in it the Ottoman side consequently forcefully asserted the remaining authority of the Ottoman ruler in his capacity as halife (khalīfa) over all Muslims in the ceded territories. The assertion of khalifal status and authority became from that moment a significant component of the political understanding of the nature and attributes of the office of padışah. An exhaustive study of the evolution of the status of the Ottoman ruler as halife, its public and international recognition, as well as contrary views, after 1774, is found in Buzpınar (2005). The status of the padışah as halife was given formal sanction in the Ottoman Constitution of 23 Nov 1876 N.S. (rescinded 13 Feb 1878 N.S., restored 24 Jul 1908 N.S.) Upon the extinction of the Ottoman Empire by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 1 Nov 1922, the ruler, Mehmed VI, continued to be recognised as halife. After his flight from Constantinople on 17 Nov 1922, he was declared deposed from the office of halife by a fetva, endorsed by the Şeyhülislam and ratified by the Grand National Assembly on 19 Nov 1922, and replaced on that date by Abdülmecid bin Abdülâziz Hân, who was installed on 24 Nov 1922. The office of halife was finally abolished by the Grand National Assembly on 3 Mar 1924.