February 9, 2008

February 9 | Murad IV

June 16, 1612 - February 9, 1640: Age 27

Murad IV was the quintessential oriental despot. His father, also a Sultan, died when he was five, leaving the throne to his elder brother Osman. Six years later Murad himself ascended the throne "after the second dethronement of his insane uncle, Mad Mustafa" who had murdered and replaced his brother. It was a conspiracy led by his Greek mother that put him there, and she ruled the country from behind the throne. Fully aware of the level of intrigue and danger that existed in the women's world of the harem, she encouraged him to develop a taste for boys, but succeeded only in instilling in him a toxic combination of lust, suspicion and hatred toward women. Come to think of it, suspicion and hatred where part of his attitude toward men, too.

The political situation in the Empire was in crisis, with corruption rife, revolts breaking out all over, and the Persians invading. When he was about 20 he set about the hard work of taking control: banning coffee shops (people might talk politics in there), murdering the rest of his brothers, having 500 military officers strangled, and patrolling the streets in civilian clothing and providing on-the-spot executions for people who looking like they might be breaking the law.

Very proud of his strength, he used to wrestle two or three opponents at once, often lifting them right off the ground. He was big, but also willful and cruel. He had a courier impaled for bringing him news of his new child: the courier mistakenly said the child was a boy, when it was actually a girl. He had a musician beheaded for playing a Persian song. Once he came across a group of women singing, and ordered them all to be drowned for disturbing the peace. "Murad's cruelty became legendary and his approach created a terrified silence everywhere." Over the course of his rule it is estimated that he ordered the deaths of tens of thousands of his own subjects.

Although he banned alcohol, tobacco, and coffee, he partook liberally of all three, and eventually developed liver disease, to which he succumbed in 1640 at the age of 27. His mother had succeeded in persuading him to let one of his brothers live: Ibrahim, who was considered too crazy to be a threat. Although Murad ordered him killed as he himself lay dying, the order was not carried out, and Ibrahim succeeded him as Sultan, known to posterity as Ibrahim the Mad.

Sources: Wikipedia, Murad IV of Turkey

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