Süleyman I 1494–1566 Turkish Sultan

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Süleyman I
1494–1566 Turkish sultan

Known as "the Magnificent" and "the lawgiver," Süleyman I was one of the most famous rulers of the Ottoman Turks*. Through military victories, he greatly expanded the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. He also waged a jihad (holy war) in Europe at a time when the Holy Roman Empire* under the Habsburg dynasty was expanding rapidly and battling the spread of Protestantism.

Süleyman I, the son of Selim I, took power in 1520. During the early years of his reign, he defeated the armies of Louis II of Hungary in the battle of Mohács (1526). His numerous military expeditions into that country led to the conquest of central Hungary and control over Transylvania in present-day Romania. After the Ottomans took the Mediterranean island of Rhodes in 1522, the Turkish fleet led by the famous pirate Barbarossa (Khayr ad-Din) conducted constant raids on ships and coastal areas.

Süleyman's military successes had a substantial impact on the Protestant Reformation* in Germany. In 1536 Süleyman formed an alliance with the French king Francis I against the Habsburg emperor Charles V. Protestant princes in Germany took advantage of Charles's military engagements with Süleyman and the French to advance their goal of establishing the Lutheran church in Germany.

Süleyman's reputation as a lawgiver is based on laws to eliminate corruption and restore the basic principles of Ottoman legislation handed down by Mehmed II in the 1400s. Süleyman's greatest achievement was in maintaining and enlarging the Islamic empire. After his death, however, internal and external forces worked to undermine the stability and power of the Ottoman rulers, leading to a period of decline.

(See alsoHoly Roman Empire; Ottoman Empire; Piracy. )

* Ottoman Turks

Turkish followers of Islam who founded the Ottoman Empire in the 1300s; the empire eventually included large areas of eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa

* Holy Roman Empire

political body in central Europe composed of several states; existed until 1806

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches