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

Ottoman Foreign Policy

The Ottomans and the Safavids

Murad III maintained an aggressive mentality toward Safavid Iran from the beginning of his reign. He did not even send an ambassador the shah too announce his ascension to the throne just to see his reaction. When the shah died in 1577, Murad pounced on the opportunity to expand his lands to the east. The same year, Murad aligned himself with Poland against Russia to protect its northern interests. The sultan was in the process of stabilizing his frontiers, so he could bring the brunt of his forces down on Iran. This was the beginning of a war that lasted until 1590, diverting most of Ottoman economic and human capital to their eastern front.1Erbu Boyar, “Ottoman Expansion in the East,” in The Cambridge History of Turkey vol. 2 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986),134-35.

As the section on Ottoman Political Factions shows, the turn to the East was not simply a product of Sultanic decree, but also a part of a restructurin of factional politics in Constantinople. This faction with prominent members such as Kara Uveys Pasha, Lala Mustafa Pasha, and Semsi Pasha remained adamently focused on the Safavid War. The war that lasted until 1590 had a series of truces that remained short. For instance in 1582, Murad negotiated a truce with the Safavids in preparation for the festival associated with the circumcision of his son Mehmet. Like so many others, the truce was short lived. The Safavids breached the peace on the Ottoman-Persian border.2Derin Terzioglu, “The Imperial Circumcision Festival of 1582: An Interpretation,” Muqarnas 12 (1995): 86.

The resumption of war that followed brought significant Ottoman success. Beginning in 1583, the Ottoman forces made significant in-roads into Safavid territory led by Osman Pasha. That year he won a significant victory outside of Derbent near the Caspian Sea. By 1585, Osman took the Safavid capitol of Tabriz, but he died during the fighting. Seeking to consolidate his acquisitions, the Sultan sought out diplomatic alliances with Safavid contenders, especially the Uzbeks to the Safavid East. Facing a war on two fronts, the Safavids sought peace in 1590 at almost any cost. The resulting treaty extended Ottoman lands to the Caspian sea.3Ebru Boyar, “Ottoman Expansion in the East,” 136-138.

All of these efforts exasperated much of the Empire's economic, human, and political capitol. In order to mount the successful campaign it took a significant effort from the Empire. The Ottomans could only focus on the Persian front. The only moment when the Ottomans were willing to return to other concerns came under ther Grand Vizierate of Koca Sinan pasha from 1580-1582. The Safavids were suing for peace in 1580; a truce was made in 1582; but it was not for long. Once Koca Sinan fell from favor and Siyavush Pasha succeded him, Ottoman intent against the Safavids was redoubled. All of the Grand Vizier's following Siyavush enthusiastically supported the effort against the Safavids until 1590 when the war came to an end.4Boyar, 136-138; Terzioglu, 86.