Murad IV of Turkey (1612-1640) was both strong-willed and physically strong.
His dominant mother had tried to make him abhor women, and all his life they induced both lust and hate in Murad.
His cruelty became legendary, and, in his later years, he killed people, especially females, just because off ill humour or a whim.
Murad, born on July 27, 1612, was 5 years old, when his father, Sultan Ahmed I (1590-1617), died. Six years later, he ascended the throne after the second dethronement of his insane uncle, Mad Mustafa I (1591-1639). Over the next years his mother, Sultana Kösem, ruled with ability from the harem, but much power was also held by the civil aristocracy and the military, who where mainly interested in their own advancement. In 1623, the Persians invaded Iraq. Revolts broke out in Anatolia, and in November 1631 the Janissaries, the Sultan's standing infantry corps, rioted and broke into the Palace, killing the Grand Vezir, the Grand Mufti, Murad's favourite page and 13 other high officials. Fearing the fate of his half-brother Osman II, Young Murad was forced to appoint a Grand Vezir of their choice, but within half a year he took command of the government, and had the unwanted Grand Vezir executed. He took revenge on the military that had humiliated him by ordering the strangulation of more than 500 of their leaders. He had spies scouring Istanbul, tracking down the leaders of the revolt and other traitors, executing them on the spot. In Anatolia Murad had 20.000 men executed. In 1635 Murad intended to execute the Armanian immigrants of Constantinople too, but his Grand Vezir managed to talk this idea out of his mind.
Murad was an uncultivated, strong-willed, dark-eyed giant and he was immensely cruel. Boastful of his muscular strength, he excelled in wrestling and javelin throwing. His popular brother Bayezid was highly skilled in jousting and in 1635 he threw Murad off in a joust. Shortly thereafter, Bayezid was killed by Murad's order. Murad had another brother killed in 1638. Kösem prevented him from murdering his only surviving brother, Mad Ibrahim (1615-1648), by arguing that Ibrahim was too mad to be a threat.
Murad attempted to re-establish Royal authority and is known as one of the more able Sultans of Turkey. He showed ability as a military commander in the Caucasus and Mesopotamia and gained respect by sharing the hardships with his men. Nevertheless, after the siege of Bagdad in 1638 he slaughtered some 30,000 soldiers and another 30,000 civilians. After this conquest he proceeded in triumph through Istanbul, followed by captive Persian chiefs in chains.
Sometimes Murad disguised himself and, accompanied by his executioner, he wandered the streets incognito, personally carrying out inspections. When he came across some "troublemaker", Murad would turn to the executioner and select the tool he thought most suited to the job. Thus Murad had many people mercilessly executed and corpses hung at every street corner. In the early years of his reign, his executions had been justified by unquestionable guilt, but later he was killing out off ill humour or a whim. Once, he forced one of his doctors to swallow an overdose of his own opium. He impaled a courier for informing him mistakenly that he had become father of a boy, whereas in fact it was a daughter. Murad's cruelty became legendary and his approach created a terrified silence everywhere. He cut off the head of every man who came under the slightest suspicion; in 5 years time he executed some 25,000 subjects. His musician, for example, was beheaded for playing a Persian melody. In 1633, coffee houses, wine shops and taverns were closed, because they were meeting places where people could spend their time criticising the government. Murad passed a law prohibiting smoking and the consumption of alcohol or coffee throughout the Ottoman Empire on pain of death. When he caught anyone with a pipe or a cup of coffee, Murad had the offender executed on the spot, although he himself indulged in both habits - often in the company of some favoured Persians.
Knowing the strife among the harem women, Sultana Kösem had tried to encourage her son to homosexual love, showing him only beautiful boys and keeping him away from girls. During the rest of his life Murad was to show both feelings of lust and hate for women. Once Murad encountered a group of women singing in a meadow and ordered all of them to be drowned for disturbing his peace. When a boat with ladies came too close to the harem walls, Murad ordered his gunners to open fire, sinking the boat and drowning them all. At other times, he forced his harem women to jump naked into a pool. He liked to fire harmless pellets at their bodies or fill the pool with so much water that they had to jump up and down to take a breath. Murad was also intensely jealous. A man who added a room to the top of his house was hanged, because Murad thought he had done it to peer over the palace walls into his harem.
During the last years of his life Murad became addicted to alcohol. It turned him into a homicidal maniac. Dimitrie Cantemir of Moldavia (1678-1723) wrote: "Very often at midnight he stole out of the women's quarters through the private gate of the palace with his drawn sword, and running through the streets barefooted with only a loose gown around him, like a madman, killed whoever came his way." He took particular pleasure in beheading men with fat necks. Murad practised his powers with the arquebus from the palace walls on passers by - in case they were intending to look into the harem. While riding out, armed with his bow, he used to practise his aim on any passing woman.
On February 9, 1640, this Sultan, who had prohibited drinking, died from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 27. Since Murad's sons had all died young, his insane brother Ibrahim became the new Sultan.
Copyright © 1997-2000, 2008 by J.N.W. Bos. All rights reserved.