Statesman, admiral in chief, grand
vizier (B. 1505, Sokolovic / Visegrad / Bosnia –D. 1579, Istanbul). He was an
Ottoman statesman of Serbian origin and his first name was Bajo Sokolovic.
Therefore, he is known as Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic among the Balkan folks. He
served as the grand vizier during the reigns of Sultan Süleyman, Selim II and
Murad III for over fourteen years; he achieved great success in state
government and politics as well as in the wars.
Sokollu Mehmed, who was one of the greatest statesmen of the Ottoman Empire,
was called “Sokollu” because he was born in Sokolovic (Sokol) village. Our old
historians distinguished him from other Mehmed Pashas by the description
“Tavil” because he was tall.
His father Dimitriye had one daughter
and according to Serbian historians, he had three more sons and according to
Turkish writers, he had two more sons. Sokollu Mehmed was brought to Edirne
Palace at an early age as part of the devshirmeh (T.N. selection system in the
Ottoman) system in 1519 and by being given the name “Mehmed” he was raised with
Turkish and Muslim culture. Afterwards, he was sent to Istanbul.
First, he served in certain positions in
Enderun department of the Topkapı Palace. In 1541 he was promoted to
Kapıcıbaşılık (T.N Head of the Palace Doorkeepers) in Enderun. In 1546, as per
the tradition that was about appointing the successful palace employees to
duties outside the palace and upon the death of Barbarossa
Hayreddin Pasha he was appointed as the
Chief Admiral. While he was an admiral-in-chief, he participated in Trablusgarp
Campaign and he expanded and renovated the Istanbul Shipyard. In 1549, by being
promoted to the rank vizier he was appointed as the Governor of Rumelia. As the
peace treaty signed with Austria in 1547 was broken, he was appointed as the
commander of the expedition forces that marched on Transylvania in 1551.
Pasha, who came to Transylvania with an
army of 80,000 men, captured important and strategic forts. However, he
couldn’t achieve success in the Siege of Timisoara he retreated. Timisoara was
captured by Kara Ahmet Pasha in 1552, who was appointed as the Hungarian serdar
(T.N. commander in chief).
Kanunî Sultan Süleyman sent Sokollu
Mehmed Pasha to Anatolia in command of Rumelian soldiers in 1533. Rumelian
soldiers achieved great success under the command of Sokollu in Nakhchivan
Campaign that started in the same year. Upon his return from the campaign,
Sokollu was promoted to the rank of vizier for the third time and joined the
Kubbealtı viziers (T. N. Divan member viziers).
He always took sides with Selim in the
struggles between Kanunî’s sons for the throne and hence Selim won the throne
struggle. Sokollu, who became the second vizier upon the promotion of Semiz Ali
Pasha as the grand vizier, and was appointed as the grand vizier in 1565 upon
Semiz Ali Pasha’s death.
Kanunî, who got really old, granted
Sokollu, whom he trusted, vast authorities. Sokollu married Esmehan Sultan, who
was the granddaughter of Kanunî Sultan Süleyman and the daughter of Sultan
Selim II, while he was the third vizier in 1561. He was appointed as the grand
vizier upon the death of Semiz Ali Pasha, when he was the second vizier in
1564. From that date until his death, he held the government of the Ottoman
Empire in his hands.
Sokollu’s Grand Vizier period during the
reign of Sultan Suleiman was only two years. He encouraged Kanunî to go on his
last campaign, the Szigetvar war. As the padishah was on his deathbed in the
battlefi eld when the Fort of Szigetvar was captured, it was Sokollu Mehmed
Pasha who led the battle and achieved victory.
Upon the death of sultan he managed to
keep the death of sultan as a secret for forty eight days –to keep the army
from dissolving- and to have Selim II quietly succeed to the throne. Selim II
showed the wisdom of keeping his son-in-law Sokollu as his grand vizier. Selim
found the opportunity to spend time in luxury and to keep away from the state
affairs as Sokollu was his son-in-law. Sokollu remained as the grand vizier
throughout Selim’s sultanate, around eight years and after him Murat III
succeeded to the throne. Although Sokollu did not like Murad III, he did not
dare to replace him.
The fi rst of two events that proved
that Sokollu was a great statesman was Sokollu’s initiative of opening a canal
between Don and Volga to have the navy and troops sent to Middle Asia by way of
sea. He wanted to open the way to Caspian Sea for the Ottoman navy by building
this canal. He also had projects ahead of his time such as opening the Suez
Canal and opening an alternative strait to Black Sea over İzmit Gulf – Sapanca
Lake – Sakarya River. The required work force was gathered and mobilized for
the Don-Volga River Canal. However, due to weather conditions and the protest
of certain statesmen the operation could not continue. Sudan was taken as the
fi rst step to Suez Canal, however this design could not be concluded either.
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, kept the Guild of
Janissaries strong; he resolved the discipline problem among the soldiers. By
capturing the Island of Cyprus he strengthened the domination over
Mediterranean Sea. Although it was a disaster for the Ottoman Empire that the
Venetians burned down the
Ottoman navy in Lepanto, a new navy was
built after a single winter session with the help of Sokollu and the effort of
Kılıç Ali Pasha. It is famous that Sokollu Mehmed Pasha had told the Venetian
ambassador: “By conquering Cyprus we have cut off one of your arms. By
defeating our navy in Lepanto you have only shaved off our beard.
However, an arm that had been cut off
cannot be restored but a beard that had been shaved off grows thicker”. He
accomplished what he had told.
Sokollu was a statesman, who operated on
a scale befi tting a magnifi cent empire. He pursued an outward-oriented and fi
rm policy and knew how to make the empire distinguished among the foreigners.
Sokollu served for fi ve years as the
grand vizier during the reign of his brother-in-law Murad III, who succeeded
the throne after Selim II, who was Sokollu’s father-inlaw.
He was stabbed and killed by a madman,
who approached him in order to supposedly hand him a petition, while he was
dealing with state affairs in the afternoon session of the divan. He was buried
in Eyüp. Although it is said that this madman was manipulated by his enemies,
who were jealous of him, this claim is questionable. The madman who killed the
Pasha was killed on the spot by the soldiers and all the notables of the state
were taken inside. Sokollu could not be saved despite all the medical attention
and lost his life after a short while. Sokollus death has been considered as
the end of Ottoman Empires rise and the beginning of its stagnation period.
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha served as the grand
vizier for one year, three months and two days during the reign of Kanunî
Sultan Süleyman; for eight years, two months and twenty one days during the
reign of Selim II; for four years, nine months and twenty one days during the reign
of Murat III. His term of Grand Viziership throughout the reign of three
sultans was a total of fourteen years, three months and fi fteen days. He was
not discharged from any office or position during his sixty years of state
service and he became prominent as a master politician during his grand vizier
period of over fourteen years. He played the first role in the achievement of
many military and political successes. The fact that he was always promoted to
a higher position is another one of his qualities.
Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mausoleum, is
within Sokollu’s külliye (T. N. Islamic social complex), which consists of a
madrasah, a darülqurra, a mausoleum and a fountain, in Eyüp, Istanbul. The
reason why külliye does not have a mosque is that Eyüp Sultan Mosque is located
nearby. Sokollu Mehmed Pasha had Mimar Sinan built this külliye in 1568-1569
and it was renovated in 1961-1962.
Today, madrasah of the külliye is used
as Eyüp Health Center, and its darülqurra is used as Children’s Library.
There are many works of Sokollu spread
almost all over the empire, such as his fi ve külliyes, one of which is in
Istanbul and the other ones are in Lüleburgaz, Havsa (Edirne) and Payas
(Hatay). A school ship in modern day’s navy and many agencies and institutions
are named after Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. He has mosques, madrasahs in his name in
Kadırga, Azap Kapısı and Belgrat and charities in Eyüp such as madrasah and
KAYNAKÇA: İbrahim Alaeddin Gövsa / Türk Meşhurları (1946), Radovan Samarcic / Mehmed Paşa (1995) - At that time all people of Bosnia were regarded as Bosniaks: Mehmed Paşa (2004), Osmanlı Ansiklopedisi (c. 12, 1999), TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi (c. 36, s. 354, 2007), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Devlet Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 1, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).hsan Işık / Ünlü Devlet Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 1, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).