chapter  8
14 Pages

‘On the tranquillity and repose of the sultan': the construction of a topos: Hakan T. Karateke

Those who received their high school education in Turkey learned from the history textbooks that one of the reasons for the stagnation and decline of the Ottoman empire was the lack of participation by sultans in military campaigns. The section that dealt with this decline usually followed one on the glorious Süleymanic age (– ), and gave either the reign of Selim II (–) or that of Murad III (–) as the beginning of the period of stagnation and decline. Although the absence of the sultan from the battlefront was not necessarily prominent among the many ‘internal’ and ‘external’ factors that were usually listed in this section, it tended to stick in the collective memory of those who went through the Turkish education system. This historical detail was perhaps so salient because it was generally mentioned in connection with the fact that sultans now ‘spent much of their time submerged in pleasures in their palaces’. Such information may have been more likely to capture the attention of a typical teenager, in contrast to the otherwise quite tedious narratives of history.