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Extra History: Season 13

Suleiman the Magnificent 2016

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  • 2016-03-12T16:00:00Z on YouTube
  • 10 mins
  • 1 hour, 0 mins (6 episodes)
  • United States
  • English
  • Animation, Documentary, History
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The reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan at the apex of the Ottoman Empire.

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6 episodes

13x01 Suleiman the Magnificent - Hero of All That Is

  • Season Premiere

    2016-03-12T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

A young Suleiman ascends the throne of the Ottoman Empire. He wants to be a benevolent ruler, but he must prove that he is no pushover.

Perhaps it all began when Suleiman's father died...

Suleiman's father, Selim I, had pushed the borders of the Ottoman Empire further than any before him. Suleiman and his childhood friend, a Greek named Ibrahim who'd once been his slave, had to race back to Constantinople to claim the throne before news got out. Suleiman immediately bestowed gifts on the janissaries and court officials whose favor he would need for a successful reign, but he also carried out executions against those he suspected of treachery. He could not afford to be too kind. Indeed, his rule was challenged immediately by a revolt in Syria, which Suleiman crushed with overwhelming force to secure his reputation as a powerful leader. He wanted to stretch the empire even more, to bring it into Europe, which brought his attention to Hungary (his gateway to Europe) and Rhodes (a thorn in his side in the Mediterranean). The young prince of Hungary gave him the excuse he needed by executing an Ottoman envoy who'd come to collect tribute. Suleiman prepared his troops for war.

Knowing that most of Europe is preoccupied with internal struggles, Suleiman launches his wars against Hungary and Rhodes while they're cut off from outside reinforcements.

Suleiman wanted to erase the failures of his predecessor, and extend the Ottoman Empire into Europe...

The boy king of Hungary had given Suleiman the perfect pretext for war by killing his envoy, and he'd done it at a time when Hungary was especially isolated from the rest of the continent. The Holy Roman Empire and Papal States were being torn apart by the declarations of Martin Luther. Spain and France were busy fighting each other. Suleiman even ensured that Venice would stay out of the dispute by offering them a lucrative trade treaty with his empire. Though he felt certain of victory, he still studied every route and painstakingly worked out the logistics of moving his army. He would not risk failure through carelessness. Yet the siege from his cannons could not bring down the walls of Belgrade, so he turned to treachery: eventually, the Orthodox Serbian contingent in the city gave him access in order to escape the oppression of the Catholic Hungarians. Suleiman massacred the Hungarians, but honored his agreement with the Serbs and let them leave. Then he turned to Rhodes. He offered them a chance to surrender in advance, but they refused. The Knights of Rhodes were after all a sacred order, equal in discipline to his janissary forces. They fought hard, repulsing several attempts by the Turks to invade through collapsed walls and repeatedly refusing Suleiman's offers to let them surrender. But at last they wore down and agreed to terms of truce. Suleiman allowed them to leave along with any Christian subjects who wished to go with them. It had taken him two years to complete his wars, but he had succeeded.

The victorious Suleiman begins to consolidate his empire and his home. With Ibrahim and his favorite concubine, Roxelana, by his side, he reorganizes the empire and begins his great work: a book of laws. But Hungary still stands untaken, and he must have it.

Suleiman had made so many decisions out of earnest love, but now he could only look back with regret...

Suleiman returned from his campaigns to find that two of his sons had died of illness that year, but also that his favorite concubine had borne him a new son. Her name was Roxelana, and although she was only a Polish slave, he loved her deeply and soon elevated her to become his legal wife, the Hürrem Sultan. He also promoted his best friend, Ibrahim, up the ranks until he finally appointed him grand vizier. With these two ruling at his side, he felt ready to take on the world. But Ahmed Pasha, his second vizier, was jealous of Ibrahim. He'd expected to get the position of grand vizier for himself, and when he didn't, he asked for a governorship of Egypt instead - which he then used to mount a rebellion against Suleiman. His rebellion triggered a wave of uprisings through the empire. Suleiman sent Ibrahim to quell them all, which he did, and then reorganized the provinces to break up the power blocs that had acted against his sultan. At the same time, Suleiman had begun working on a great work of law, reforming the hodgepodge legal heritage of the Ottmans into a unified code that would guide the empire for the rest of its days. While it was still in progress, he saw an opportunity to reach for Hungary again and he took it. His troops marched through a torrential downpour of rain until they encountered the Hungarian troops on the Field of Mohács. Impetuous nobles had pushed the young King Louis II to take the field and go on the offensive, despite being outnumbered and outgunned by the vast Ottoman force. Their brave but foolhardy charge failed, and the Ottomans surrounded and destroyed them. Although S

When a dispute arose over the control of Hungary, Suleiman saw an opportunity to extend his empire into Europe and gain allies from those who'd asked for his help. Though he took Buda quickly, Vienna had time to fortify against him and pushed his troops back.

Suleiman looked back on those heady days, and wondered how his victories had all turned to ash...

After the Battle of Mohács, Suleiman found himself quickly pulled into the politics of western Europe. The Queen Mother of France asked him to intercede for her in a quarrel with the King of Spain, and the Austrian Hapsburgs had claimed Hungary as their own territory despite his recent victory there. The Hungarians, meanwhile, had elected their own king John Zápolya and refused to acknowledge the Austrians. Suleiman decided to settle the matter by marching with his armies again, and found Zápolya a willing ally. Bad weather slowed his advance and cut his numbers, but he nonetheless took Buda by storm and made an example out of the Austrians they found there. When they got to Vienna, however, they found that the city had been fortified and reinforced by several European nations. Though Suleiman offered a king's ransom to the first man over the walls of Vienna, his troops just couldn't push through. The arrival of winter forced him to withdraw the siege, unsuccessful. He pretend to consider it a victory, but he knew that this defeat meant he'd never be able to acquire the European empire he had dreamed about. Besides, he was growing older, and the question of succession weighed heavy on his mind. By tradition, only one of his sons would be allowed to live and inherit the throne, but he couldn't bear the thought of his beloved Roxelana forced to watch her sons die. Especially considering his most likely heir, Mustafa, wasn't a son of Roxelana's at all. The quandary weighed heavy on him.

Suleiman's empire stretches across the Mediterranean, but in the midst of his success, he suspects betrayal in his own house. His best friend, Ibrahim, and his most promising son, Mustafa, both seem to have designs upon the throne.

Suleiman was alone in his garden, unable to escape the doubts and regrets that shadowed him...

Suleiman and Ibrahim marched south upon the Safavid kingdom, where they met no resistance. Faced with an unbeatable Ottoman army, the Safavids simply yielded and scorched the earth behind them so Suleiman would not be able to hold the territory he took. Ibrahim suggested that he take on the role of sultan in this new territory so that he could govern it, but his words enraged Suleiman. Roxelana had been warning him that Ibrahim had grown ambitious and disrespectful, and now he saw it. He had Ibrahim assassinated and appointed a new chief vizier. But now his Western empire was in shambles. He allied with the French against his enemy, Charles of Spain, but they conducted their war in Italy, well beyond his usual sphere of control. The mismanaged war had to be called off after Charles and Ferdinand attacked Hungary in the wake of John Zápolya's death. Suleiman defeated them and annexed it officially. Again war called. This time he sent his troops south without him, only to hear word that they felt Mustafa was a better leader than he was and Mustafa didn't disagree. He joined them in the field and ordered Mustafa to come to him and prove his innocence, but it was a trap. He had Mustafa killed. The consequences rippled out. He killed Mustafa's son, his grandson. One of his own sons died from grief. Roxelana died of old age. His two remaining sons, Selim II and Bayezid, began to quarrel for the throne, and he ordered them both out of the capital. Bayezid hesitated, and Suleiman turned against him. Even after Bayezid fled to the Safavids, Suleiman pressed for his execution and bribed the Safavid sultan to carry it out for him. Now, he had only o

Suleiman's decisions came back to haunt him, starting with the Knights of Malta (once Rhodes). He tried to kick them off their island again, but failed. He launched a new campaign to take Vienna and prove the might of his empire. But he was so old...

A messenger disrupted Suleiman in his reverie. He brought news from Malta...

Suleiman had outlived both his friends and his rivals. Charles V had passed, but his throne had passed to a son who proved just as vexing. An ardent Catholic, Philip II set his ships to harass Ottoman fleets in the Mediterranean and emboldened others to dispute Suleiman's mastery of the sea. The Knights of Malta, whom Suleiman had defeated at Rhodes and allowed to leave peacefully, once again gave safe habor to these Christian ships. Suleiman sent a force to take their island, but his commanders argued with each other and Christian Europe united against him in a way that it could not when he'd been a younger man. The Knights Hospitallier withdrew into their forts. His army struggled for three weeks to take just one of them, and although they succeeded, Suleiman's commander died and the Christian reinforcements had time to join the remaining two forts. At last, faced with yet another fleet of reinforcements, Suleiman's commanders decided to withdraw.

Back in his garden, Suleiman knew that this defeat would destroy the invincible image of his empire. He resolved to prove that the Turks were still a force to be feared, and organized a campaign to take Vienna. He would lead them himself. They left in 1566 with great fanfare, but they were immediately greeted by torrential rains that slowed their advance and cost them materiel. Suleiman spent the whole trip confined to a carriage, and when they finally arrived to siege Szeged, he had to retreat a sickbed in his tent. He died while the battle still raged outside, never to know his empire's fate.

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