He was known as a fierce and cruel man which led to his nickname ‘Selim the Grim’.
Selim was forty two years old when he became sultan having served as Governor of Trabzon for eighteen years. He was known as a fierce and cruel man which led to his nickname ‘Selim the Grim’. His first task was to deal with rivals to the throne, and within a year of his succession he had killed his two brothers and went on to eliminate six nephews. Finally, to make sure everyone had got the message, on 20 December 1512 he executed three of his own sons leaving a sole male heir, Süleyman.
Having dealt with any succession problems he turned his attention to enlarging the Ottoman Empire. On 23 August 1514 he defeated the Shah of Iran and thus added all of eastern Anatolia to his lands. He then overcame the Mamluke dynasty in Egypt, capturing Cairo on 20 January 1517 and also taking over the role of caliph, or leader of the Islamic world. Selim returned to Istanbul with relics of the Prophet Mohammed which were displayed in a new ‘Pavilion of the Holy Mantle’ in Topkapi Palace and can still be seen there today.
In 1520, en route to Edirne for the summer, Selim fell ill at the same place where his father had died eight years earlier. He finally succumbed on 22 September 1520 and his death was concealed so that Süleyman, then serving as provincial governor in Manisa, could rush to Istanbul and ensure his succession. Prior to his death, and following his successful campaigns in the east of the empire, Selim had been planning to advance on Budapest. When he died an anonymous commentator recorded:
‘Selim the Grim died of an infected boil and thereby Hungary was spared.’
Soon after his succession, his son Süleyman built a mosque complex called the Selimiye on Istanbul’s Fifth Hill, and had his father interred in a türbe behind the mosque.