Jacques de Germigny in the Ottoman Empire (1579-1584)

Factional Politics in Constantinople

Europe and the Ottoman Empire

Emrah Safa Gurken and Giancarlo Casale have investigated the role of political factions in Ottoman foreign policy. They have demonstrated that political factions and grandee households wielded significant power in the Ottoman Empire by directing and supporting military and administrative endeavors of it.1Emrah Safa Gurken, “Espionage in the 16th Century Mediterranean: Secret Diplomacy, Mediterranean Go-Betweens and the Ottoman Habsburg Rivalry” (Ph.D. Diss., Georgetown University, 2012), 368-387; Emrah Safa Gurken, “Fooling the sultan: Information, Decision-Making and the ‘Mediterranean Faction’ (1585-1587),” Journal of Ottoman Studies XLV (2015): 57-96; Giancarlo Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration (New York: Oxford University Press 2010), ch. 4. Political advancement was a thus a function of gaining favor and advancement through navigating the political connections of these factions and households. In addition, there was significant jockeying for power at court between these various parties to gain favor for policies (or positions to implement them) that served their corporate interests.

The Ottoman turn away from the Mediterranean and toward Iran in its foreign policy was prompted by the rise of one of these political factions. Before his ascension to the throne, Murad III was surrounded by a faction led by Kara Uveys Pasha, who was the Murad's treasurer (defterdar) in Manisa and was appointed and third financial director of the Empire upon the new Sultan's accession to the throne. This sought to break the power of the the Grand Vezier, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha, who was in power since 1565 and staunchly supported and anti-Habsburg policy.2Cornell Fleischer, Bureaucrat and intellectual in the Ottoman Empire: the historian Mustafa Ali (1541-1600) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 73. This faction found a hero in Lala Mustafa Pasha, an old enemy of Sokollu and third Vizier, and trumpeted war against the Safavids after the death of Shah Thomasb in 1576. In 1578, they had the support of the Sultan.3Fleischer, 75-79. Sokollu protested such a campaign, but to no avail.4Hess, 98; Ebru Boyar, “Ottoman Expansion in the East,” in The Cambridge History of Turkey Vol. 2 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 135; Casale, 154-57.

Dissident groups that desired an end to war in Iran and a return to conflict in the Mediterranean were not difficult to find. The most significant for our purposes was the Mediterranean faction led by Uluç Ali Pasha, Kapudan-i Deyre (Grand Admiral of the sea). He was a protégé Sokollu, who appointed him as the Grand Admiral in 1573. Uluç and his followers—who came primarily from and maintained posts in North Africa—had much to lose while the sultan continued his war in the east. Their position was compromised at court without an open frontier against the Habsburgs. Moreover, their economic position was compromised due to the lack of plunder during times of peace. They were thus relegated to operating a small fleet in the Dardanelles and carrying victuals and troops in the Black Sea.6Emrah Safa Gurken, “Fooling the Sultan:” 66-74.