16th century. In the times when Europe was immersed in some of it’s darkest times, when the mighty city of Rome was pillaged, the influence of the Holy Roman Emperror tried by the Pappal states, when the faith itself was threatened, a heartbreaking story was moving towards its end in the near East of the Ottoman Empire. It was the story of two friends. The two mightiest men of the Ottoman Empire at that time, actually, one of which was particularly remarkable. And he was not even born a Muslim.
Pargali Ibrahim Pasha began his story as a slave. He was born to a Christian family in Northern Greece. When he was still a boy, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave in the Ottoman Empire, to the Manise palace, where he met young crowned prince, Suleiman. The prince was charmed by Ibrahim and became fond of him. They forged a friendship, which was to last a lifetime. In Ibrahim’s case, it did.
As the power of Suleiman grew, he was able to provide his friend with various titles and honors. When Suleiman was already the Sultan, he made Ibrahim his falconer. Later on, Ibrahim acquired the rank of Pasha and became the grand vizier.
But it was not only thanks to Suleiman that Ibrahim gained these privileges. He had proven to be skilled in diplomacy and military leadership on various occasions. His career began by re-establishing the subjection of Egypt to the Ottoman Empire. Ibrahim Pasha took part in the Siege of Vienna and thanks to his diplomatic skill; the Ottoman Empire gained a large part of Hungary, which had allowed the siege in the first place.
Sultan Suleiman did not bother to conceal, that Ibrahim Pasha was his dearest friend, which made him practically untouchable. Still, Ibrahim Pasha feared the envy of other influential officials of the Ottoman Empire. He had good reason to be concerned - intrigues and assassinations were frequent in that time. To assure him of his security, the Sultan made him a promise that he would never end up like all the other men who had lost the Sultan’s favor.
Eventually, the influence of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha became so great, that it almost matched the power of the Sultan himself. A former Christian and a former slave, became the second most powerful man in the Ottoman Empire. With this kind of power, one’s pride rises as well. And it was mainly pride, which brought about Ibrahim’s demise.
After being appointed the title of Serasker and sent East to solve numerous conflicts, concerning mainly a Persian empire called Safavid, in which was threatening the Ottoman empire, Ibrahim Pasha had trouble getting along with one of the officials, Iskender Celebi, Ibrahim’s rival. Also, during this military campaign, Ibrahim Pasha dared to give himself a title, which included the word ‘Sultan’, which was a great insult to Suleiman. An insult he could not ignore.
Struggles with Iskender Celebi, Ibrahim’s insolence and possibly also intrigues of the Sultan’s wife led Sultan Suleiman to take a fatal step. Fearing that he could no longer trust his friend, Suleiman acquired a fatwa, which allowed Suleiman to take back the promise he had given to his friend Ibrahim Pasha - the promise that Ibrahim would not be executed under any circumstances. In order to be able to ‘legally’ break such a promise, Suleiman had to build a mosque in Constantinople.
After announcing the fatwa, Suleiman dined alone with Ibrahim Pasha for seven nights, giving Ibrahim the chance to take Sultan’s life, or flee the country. Although Ibrahim was aware of the approaching execution, he willingly took part in these dinners, but attempted nothing. He stayed true to the Sultan and awaited his death with honour. After the seventh dinner, Pargali Ibrahim Pasha was strangled to death.
Sultan Suleiman regretted having ended the life of Ibrahim Pasha, as well as their powerful friendship, as much as twenty years after the incident, which he expressed in his poetry.
One of the many titles Ibrahim Pasha was given was Makbul, which meant ‘the Favourite’. After his death, one more title was added - Maktul, meaning ‘the Executed’.
Pasha - a rank given to governors, generals and dignitaries, a sort of equivalent of knighthood
Pargali - ‘of Parga’, which was Ibrahim’s birthplace
grand vizier - a prime minister in the Ottoman empire, possessed an unlimited political power, dismissable only by the Sultan
Serasker - title used for a vizier commanding an army
‘Rome was pillaged’ - the Sack of Rome in 1527
Holy Roman Emperror - the ruler of The Kingdom of Germany, The Kingdom of Italy and ‘the first among equals’ (among the other Roman Catholic monarchs), at that time Charles V.
The Papal States - territory in the Italian peninsula ruled by the Pope
‘The faith was threatened’ - the Protestant Reformation in 16th century
Ottoman Empire - also the Turkish Empire, the capital at that time was Constantinople after the Turks had conquered it in 15th century
Suleiman - the Sultan (the ruler of the Ottoman Empire) who expanded the Ottoman empire from Algiers in the West to the Caspian sea in the East and all the way to Vien in the North
Siege of Vienna - an unnsuccessful attempt of the Ottoman Empire to capture the city of Vienna in 1529
Fatwa - a form of official opinion of a mufti, a man intelligent and sincere enough for the task
by Martin Krč
Year 2, Issue 3