|Caliph of Islam
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Portrait of Sultan Mahmud II in 1830
|Reign||July 28, 1808 – July 1, 1839|
|Sultan of the Ottoman Empire|
Haciye Hoşyar Kadınefendi
|Royal house||House of Osman|
|Born||20 July 1789|
|Died||1 July 1839(aged 49)|
Mahmud II (Ottoman Turkish: محمود ثانى Mahmud-u sānī, محمود عدلى Mahmud-u Âdlî) (Turkish: II. Mahmud) (20 July 1789 – 1 July 1839) was the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1808 until his death in 1839. He was born in the Topkapi Palace, Constantinople, the posthumous son of Sultan Abdul Hamid I.
His reign is recognized for the extensive administrative, military, and fiscal reforms he instituted, which culminated into the Decree of Tanzimat ("Reorganization") that was carried out by his sons Abdülmecid I and Abdülaziz I. Often known as "Peter the Great of Turkey", Mahmud's reforms included the 1826 abolishment of the conservative Janissary corps, which removed a major obstacle to his and his successors reforms in the Empire.
His mother was valide sultan Nakşidil (who according to legend was a cousin of Joséphine de Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte). In 1808, Mahmud II's predecessor, and half-brother, Mustafa IV ordered his execution along with his cousin, the deposed Sultan Selim III, in order to defuse the rebellion. Selim III was killed, but Mahmud was safely kept hidden by his mother and was placed on the throne after the rebels deposed Mustafa IV. The leader of this rebellion, Alemdar Mustafa Pasha, later became Mahmud II's vizier. Western Historians give Mahmud a bad reputation for simply being the Sultan during a time of deterioration of the Ottoman Empire. 
There are many stories surrounding the circumstances of his attempted murder. A version by the 19th-century Ottoman historian Cevdet Pasha gives the following account: one of his slaves, a Georgian girl named Cevri, gathered ashes when she heard the commotion in the palace surrounding the murder of Selim III. When the assassins approached the Harem chambers where Mahmud was staying, she was able to keep them away for a while by throwing ashes into their faces, temporary blinding them. This allowed Mahmud to escape through a window and climb onto the roof of the Harem. He apparently ran to the roof of the Third Court where other pages saw him and helped him come down with pieces of clothes that were quickly tied together as a ladder. By this time one of the leaders of the rebellion, Alemdar Mustafa Pasha arrived with his armed men and upon seeing the dead body of Selim III proclaimed Mahmud as padishah. The slave girl Cevri Kalfa was awarded for her bravery and loyalty and appointed haznedar usta, the chief treasurer of the imperial Harem, which was the second most important position in the hierarchy. A plain stone staircase at the Altınyol (Golden Way) of the Harem is called Staircase of Cevri (Jevri) Kalfa, since the events apparently happened around there and are associated with her.
The vizier took the initiative in resuming reforms that had been terminated by the conservative coup of 1807 that had brought Mustafa IV to power. However he was killed during a rebellion in 1808 and Mahmud II temporarily abandoned the reforms. Mahmud II's later reformation efforts were more successful.
His reign also marked the first breakaway from the Ottoman Empire, with Greece gaining its independence following a rebellion that started in 1821. During the Battle of Erzurum (1821), part of the Ottoman-Persian War (1821-1823), Mahmud II's superior force got routed by Abbas Mirza, resulting in a Qajar Persian victory which got confirmed in the Treaties of Erzurum. Several years later, in 1827, the combined British, French and Russian navies defeated the Ottoman Navy at the Battle of Navarino; in the aftermath, the Ottoman Empire was forced to recognize Greece with the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832. This event, together with the occupation of the Ottoman province of Algeria by France in 1830, marked the beginning of the gradual break-up of the Ottoman Empire. Non-Turkish ethnic groups living in the empire's territories, especially in Europe, started their own independence movements.
Among Mahmud II's most notable acts during his reign was the abolition of the Janissary corps in 1826, permitting the establishment of a European-style conscript army, recruited largely from Turkish speakers of Rumelia and Asia Minor. Mahmud was also responsible for the subjugation of the Iraqi Mamluks by Ali Ridha Pasha in 1831. He ordered the execution of the renowned Ali Pasha of Tepelena. He sent his Grand Vizier to execute the Bosniak hero Husein Gradaščević and dissolute the Bosnia Eyalet.
He began preparations for the Tanzimat reforms in 1839 which included introducing a Council of Ministers or the Meclis-i Vukela.:49 The Tanzimat marked the beginning of modernization in Turkey, and had immediate effects on social and legal aspects of life in the Empire, such as European style clothing, architecture, legislation, institutional organization and land reform.
He was concerned also for aspects of tradition. He made great efforts to revive the sport of archery. He ordered archery master Mustafa Kani to write a book about the history, construction, and use of Turkish bows, from which comes most of what is now known of Turkish bowyery.
Mahmud II died of tuberculosis - some say he was murdered - at the Esma Sultana Palace, Çamlıca, in 1839. His funeral was attended by crowds of people who came to bid the Sultan farewell. His son Abdülmecid succeeded him.
Previous to the first of the Firmans the property of all persons banished or condemned to death was forfeited to the crown; and a sordid motive for acts of cruelty was thus kept in perpetual operation, besides the encouragement of a host of vile Delators.
The second firman removed the ancient rights of Turkish governors to doom men to instant death by their will; the Paşas, the Ağas, and other officers, were enjoined that "they should not presume to inflict, themselves, the punishment of death on any man, whether Raya or Turk, unless authorized by a legal sentence pronounced by the Kadi, and regularly signed by the judge." Mahmud also created an appeal system by a criminal to one of the Kazasker (chief military judge) of Asia or Europe, and finally to the Sultan himself, if the criminal chose to persist in his appeal.
About the same time that Mahmud II ordained these changes, he personally set an example of reform by regularly attending the Divan, or state council, instead of secluding himself from the labors of state. The practice of the Sultan avoiding the Divan had been introduced as long ago as the reign of Suleiman I, and was considered as one of the causes of the decline of the Empire by a Turkish historian nearly two centuries before Mahmud II's time.
Mahmud II also addressed some of the worst abuses connected with the vakıfs, by placing their revenues under state administration. However, he did not venture to apply this vast mass of property to the general purposes of the government. His modernizations included the relaxation of much of the restrictions on alcoholic beverages in the Empire, and the sultan himself was known to drink socially with his ministers. By the end of his reign, his reforms had mostly normalized drinking among the upper classes and political figures in the Empire.
In his time the financial situation of the Empire was troubling, and certain social classes had long been under oppression under difficult taxes. In dealing with the complicated questions that therefore arose, Mahmud II is considered to have demonstrated the best spirit of the best of the Köprülüs. A Firman of February 22, 1834 abolished the vexatious charges which public functionaries, when traversing the provinces, had long been accustomed to take from the inhabitants. By the same edict all collection of money, except for the two regular half-yearly periods, was denounced as abuses. "No one is ignorant," said Sultan Mahmud II in this document, "that I am bound to afford support to all my subjects against vexatious proceedings; to endeavour unceasingly to lighten, instead of increasing their burdens, and to ensure peace and tranquility. Therefore, those acts of oppression are at once contrary to the will of God, and to my imperial orders."
The haraç, or capitation-tax, though moderate and exempting those who paid it from military service, had long been made an engine of gross tyranny through the insolence and misconduct of the government collectors. The Firman of 1834 abolished the old mode of levying it, and ordained that it should be raised by a commission composed of the Kadı, the Muslim governors, and the Ayans, or municipal chiefs of Rayas in each district. Many other financial improvements were effected. By another important series of measures, the administrative government was simplified and strengthened, and a large number of sinecure offices were abolished. Sultan Mahmud II provided a valuable personal example of good sense, and economy, organising the imperial household, suppressing all titles without duties, and all salaried officials without functions.
Mahmud II dealt effectively with the military fiefs, the "Tımar"s and the "Ziamet"s. These had been instituted to furnish the old effective military force, but had long ceased to serve this purpose. By attaching them to the public domains, Mahmud II materially strengthened the resources of the state, and put an end to a host of corruptions. One of the most resolute acts of his ruling was the suppression of the Dere Beys, the hereditary local chiefs (with power to nominate their successors in default of male heirs), which, in one of the worst abuses of the Ottoman feudal system, had made themselves petty princes in almost every province of the empire.
The reduction of these insubordinate feudatories was not effected at once, or without severe struggles and frequent insurrections. Mahmud II steadily persevered in this great measure and ultimately the island of Cyprus became the only part of empire in which power not emanating from the Sultan was allowed to be retained by Dere Beys.
One of his most notable achievement was the abolition (through use of military force, execution and exile, and banning of the Bektashi order) of the Janissary Corps, event known as The Auspicious Incident, in 1826 and the establishment of a modern Ottoman Army, named the Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye (meaning 'Victorious Soldiers of Muhammad' in Ottoman Turkish).
Following the loss of Greece after the Battle of Navarino against the combined British-French-Russian flotilla in 1827, Mahmud II gave top priority to rebuilding a strong Ottoman naval force. The first steam ships of the Ottoman Navy were acquired in 1828. In 1829 the world's largest warship for many years, the 201 x 56 kadem (1 kadem = 37.887 cm) or 76.15 m × 21.22 m (249.8 ft × 69.6 ft) ship of the line Mahmudiye, which had 128 cannons on 3 decks and carried 1,280 sailors on board, was built for the Ottoman Navy at the Imperial Naval Arsenal (Tersâne-i Âmire) on the Golden Horn in Constantinople (kadem, which translates as "foot", is often misinterpreted as equivalent in length to one imperial foot, hence the wrongly converted dimensions of "201 x 56 ft, or 62 x 17 m" in some sources.)
The 2006 historical detective novel The Janissary Tree, by Jason Goodwin, is set in 1836 Constantinople, with Mahmud II's modernising reforms (and conservative opposition to them) forming the background of the plot. The Sultan himself and his mother appear in several scenes.
The 1989 film Intimate Power, also known as The Favorite, is adapted from an historical fiction novel by Prince Michael of Greece. It portrays a legend about Aimée du Buc de Rivéry as a young captured French girl who, after spending years in an Ottoman harem, outlives two Sultans and protects Mahmud as his surrogate mother. Mahmud is a minor role in the film but is portrayed as both an adult and a child. The film concludes with a variation of his dramatic succession.
Media related to Mahmud II at Wikimedia Commons
Mahmud IIBorn: July 20, 1785 Died: July 1, 1839
|Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Nov 15, 1808 – Jul 1, 1839
|Sunni Islam titles|
|Caliph of Islam
Nov 15, 1808 – Jul 1, 1839