suleiman versus charles v -- 9/27/22

Today's selection -- from Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference by Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper. Two of the world’s greatest empires, the Ottoman Empire in the East and the Habsburg Empire in the West, were led by two contemporaries, Suleiman the Magnificent and Emperor Charles V:
"Our protagonists include two great architects of empire, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman sultan from 1520 to 1566, and Charles V, ruler of multiple domains in Europe and the Americas from 1516 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 to 1556. The competition between these rulers was in­tensified by their different faiths and their conflicting claims to places once ruled by Rome. Both leaders were inspired by prophetic visions that their dynasties would rule all of the known world. For the Ottomans, conquest of Constantinople -- the second Rome -- in 1453 and Suleiman's extensions of the realm seemed to fulfill a destiny going back to Alexander the Great. For the Habsburgs, the defeat of the last Muslim caliph of Granada in 1492 and the unification of Spanish kingdoms with the Holy Roman Empire were steps toward universal Christian empire.

Portrait of Suleiman by Titian c. 1530

"If Charles V aspired to build a new Rome, his power emerged from the volatile politics left in Rome's wake. On the common ground of Chris­tianity, many lords and kings continued for centuries to assert conflicting powers. Suleiman's possibilities grew out of a more mixed imperial land­scape. Taking over Byzantine territories and going beyond them, the Ot­tomans drew on multiple imperial pasts -- Mongol, Turkic, Persian, Arab, and Roman. The Ottoman polity was more inclusive than the monotheistic Mediterranean empires, more durable than the Mongol khanates. Blocked by the Ottomans and constrained by nobles within their realm, Spanish monarchs looked in a different direction -- overseas -- for new sources of imperial strength. ...

Portrait of Charles V by Titian

"In the Ottoman case, the emperor ruled through subalterns incorporated into his household, people deliberately recruited from outside Ottoman society. In Habsburg Spain, em­perors drew their military force from magnates who had their own followers to contribute to the impe­rial endeavor -- or potentially to be used against it. The relative autonomy of Ottoman rulership from the powers of landed aristocracies gave sultans great flexibility in dealing with the populations of the empire. The Ottomans incorporated leaders of di­verse cultural groups into administrative roles and extended protection (and claims) over subjects of different religions. Spanish rule, on the other hand, was notably intolerant of religious difference. Empires do not grow out of whole peoples who set out to dominate other whole peoples. The Otto­empire was not specifically Turkish, the Habs­burg not specifically Spanish. In both cases society was reshaped by the process of empire-building." 



Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper


Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference


Princeton University Press


Copyright 2010 by Princeton University Press


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment