Rüstem Pasha

Rüstem Pasha (Turkish pronunciation: [ɾysˈtem paˈʃa]; Ottoman Turkish: رستم پاشا; c. 1500 – 10 July 1561) was an Ottoman statesman who served as the Grand Vizier of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Rüstem Pasha is also known as Damat Rüstem Pasha (the epithet damat meaning "son-in-law" to the Ottoman dynasty) as a result of his marriage to the sultan's daughter, Mihrimah Sultan. He is known as one of the most influential and successful grand viziers of the Ottoman Empire.

Rüstem Opuković
Ruestem presumably.jpg
32nd Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
In office
28 November 1544 – 6 October 1553
MonarchSuleiman I
Preceded byHadım Suleiman Pasha
Succeeded byKara Ahmed Pasha
In office
29 September 1555 – 10 July 1561
MonarchSuleiman I
Preceded byKara Ahmed Pasha
Succeeded bySemiz Ali Pasha
Personal details
Skradin[1] or Sarajevo[2] or Makarska or elsewhere[3]
Died10 July 1561 (aged 60–61)
Constantinople (now Istanbul), Ottoman Empire
Resting placeSehzade Mosque
(m. 1539)
ChildrenAyşe Sultan
Ethnicityprobably Croat

Rustem Pasha was taken as a child to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), where he built a military and bureaucracy career. He was very well educated. On 26 November 1539, he married Mihrimah Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Suleiman I and his wife Hurrem Sultan. His brother Sinan Pasha was an Ottoman grand admiral.

Early lifeEdit

Ottoman sources speak about Rustem as a Croat[4][5] Rustem is referred to as a Croat by Tayib Osman-zade Ahmed, writer of the work "Hadikatul vuzara" and the Turkish encyclopedia Kamus-ul-alam.[5] He is referred to as a Croat by the Turkish historiographer Mustafa Âlî, while a variety of other sources indicate different Croatian, Bosnian or Serb birthplaces or descent.[3]

Rustem Pasha was a man of very humble origins. He came as a child to Constantinople where he studied at Enderun, an institute for the education/indoctrination of talented boys forcibly recruited through Devshirme from Christian parents in the Balkans. At the end, the graduates were able to speak, read and write at least three languages, able to understand the latest developments in science, finance and excel in army command as well as in close combat skills. That was the perfect start for a career in the military and bureaucracy. In 1526, Rüstem took part in the Battle of Mohacs as silahdar (weapon bearer in a cavalry division). Silahdars were an elite division of the Ottoman army. Members of this division could also become ordinary soldiers (non-aristocrat), if they proved to be extraordinarily courageous and loyal.[citation needed]

Rüstem owes his career to the support of Hurrem Sultan, he was extremely ambitious. A few years later Rüstem advanced to mirahur-i evvel aga (chief supervisor of the sultan's stables) and rikab-dar (the stirrup holder when the ruler got on the horse). The mirahur accompanied the Sultan during his travels, so the Sultan knew Rüstem a long time before he appointed him, possibly inspired by Hurrem, the tutor of his sons. In making this decision, he was surely influenced by Rüstem's character. Most historical sources describe Rüstem as a reasonable and calm man with a keen intellect, who always keeps a cool head, and who is always unconditionally devoted to his ruler. These characteristics reflected Rüstem's faith, and brought Rüstem, Suleiman the Magnificent, and the famous jurist Ebussuud Efendi (Mehmed Ebussuud Efendi), permanently closer together. Rüstem was a Sunni and preferred the spiritual order of Sunni Islam Sufism Naqshbandi.[citation needed]

Wealth and legacyEdit

As Grand Vizier, he collected vast wealth. Even Rüstem's sworn opponents admitted, that he never boasted of his wealth or power (although he was a man of fortune), and that he was the very first Grand Vizier in the history of the Ottoman Empire who significantly contributed to the development of the state from his own funds. According to most period testimonies (excluding Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey's "Şehzade Mustafa Mersiyesi"), Rüstem was considered one of the few state dignitaries who didn't take bribes. Nonetheless, Rüstem's famous economic talent and his modest way of life, both highly valued by the Sultan, made him rich, even before his marriage to Mihrimah Sultan. In his last will (a part of endowment charter from 1561), Rüstem made an inventory of every single detail of his property, in order to secure his great foundation projects after his death. Rüstem's testament determines exactly which part of his property belongs to the state, to his foundations, to the Hurrem Sultan's foundation and to Mihrimah's foundations, what he leaves to his wife Mihrimah and to their daughter Ayşe Hümaşah Sultan. He determines his wife Mihrimah Sultan as executor of his last will and his daughter Ayşe Hümaşah as the executor and administrator of his foundations.

All historians emphasize Rüstem's relentless hard work to consolidate the troubled economy of the Ottoman Empire - impoverished by excessive spending on wars and a lavish lifestyle of the court - and his efforts to improve it. The period documents say that he also generously financed this upswing from his own resources. On his lands were built toll free bridges, roads, covered bazaars, granaries, baths, hospices, caravanserais, convents, schools and various other establishments for the public benefit. Their funding was largely secured by the leasing of Rüstem's estates. He supported agriculture, founded new trading centers, like the bazaar in Sarajevo or silk factories in Bursa and Istanbul, social and educational institutions. He developed the domestic economy by encouraging major public works projects and built a modern infrastructure: trade routes, and water networks in Istanbul, Mecca and Jerusalem.

He also found enough money in the treasury to make Suleiman's dream come true (Süleymaniye Mosque, 1550–57), as well as to fund other monumental architectural projects realized by the legendary Mimar Sinan. To reduce protectionism in the state administration, an official installment fee was introduced, and confiscated when the officials misused his authority. Rüstem's reform of the military remained unfinished. At the time of his death in Constantinople on 10 July 1561, his personal property included 815 lands in Rumelia and Anatolia, 476 mills, 1700 slaves, 2,900 war horses, 1,106 camels, 800 gold embroidery Holy Qur'ans, 500 books, 5000 Caftan, 130 kinds of armors, 860 gold embroidered swords, 1500 silver tolga, 1000 silver balls, 33 precious jewels etc.

The Rüstem Pasha Mosque (Turkish: Rüstem Paşa Camii) is an Ottoman mosque located in Hasırcılar Çarşısı (Strawmat Weavers Market) in Fatih, Turkey, which was designed by Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan for Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha. It was built between 1561 and 1563.

Political careerEdit

At first, Rüstem Pasha was a sanjak bey. After the death of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha his way became very easy. He was promoted to Baylerbey of the Diyarbakir. When he married Mihrimah Sultan, Rustem was already a vizier. Suleiman the Magnificent made Rustem the grand vizier for the first time in 1544. But in 1553, Rustem was dismissed from his position. After two years he took this position again from 1555 until his death in 1561.[6]

As a diplomat, Rüstem initiated many trade agreements with European countries and India. His biggest success in the diplomatic area, was the agreement with the King Ferdinand I and the Emperor Charles V, which confirmed, without firing a shot, the western border of the Ottoman Empire for more than 14 years (signed in 1547). Ferdinand renounced his claim to the Kingdom of Hungary and agreed to pay a tax of 30,000 gold ducats per year into the Ottoman treasury. The ambassador of the Emperor Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq wrote that Charles had tried on several occasions to revise the unfavourable agreement, but Rüstem had always prevented it. Rüstem also worked on the agreement with the Safavids (signed 1554), which ended the long-standing Ottoman-Safavid wars, and secured the eastern borders of the Ottoman Empire.

Suleiman was manipulated by Hurrem's intrigues when he murdered Ibrahim and replaced him with his son-in-law, Rüstem Pasha. Rüstem was not Suleiman's son-in-law when Ibrahim Pasha was executed. The background of Ibrahim's execution was much more complicated (e.g. he used the seal "Sultan Ibrahim", retained the majority of the confiscated property of Suleiman's "minister of finance" İskender Çelebi, whose execution he ordered etc.). Ibrahim was replaced with Ayas Mehmed Pasha, followed by Lütfi Pasha and Hadım Suleiman Pasha. Rüstem's career developed, unlike Ibrahim, exactly according to the rules. He became Grand Vizier eight years after Ibrahim's death.

Later Hurrem and Rüstem conspired against Şehzade Mustafa for many years. The very ambitious Mustafa received foreign ambassadors as well as Ottoman commanders many times, without his father's knowledge, and was regarded by them as an important ally against Suleiman. So the Austrian ambassador Ghislain de Busbecq (visiting Mustafa before Süleyman), informed his ruler: "Mustafa will be an excellent sultan, receptive and open to talks." And the Papal ambassador Navagero said: "Mustafa lives with his mother. She says that people adore him." Understanding the danger of the situation, Suleiman remembered his father Selim I dethroning his grandfather Bayezid II (who was killed only a month after his abdication in 1512). Officers loyal to him advised that a part of the army is getting ready to put Mustafa on the throne. In 1552, while preparing a campaign against Persia, Suleiman appointed Rüstem Serasker (commander-in-chief) of the campaign. But soldiers assembled in the military camp in Karaman (Anatolia), rejected Suleiman's appointment, and insisted Rüstem should be replaced with Mustafa (the same problem was faced by Rüstem's brother Sinan Pasha, as admiral of the Ottoman fleet during the Tripolis siege, even though he achieved many victories until his death in 1553).

The destabilization continued. Mustafa's so-often cited correspondence with the Safavids signed "Sultan Mustafa" (kept today in archives), was, in this context, probably not so relevant. It could be authentic, it could be a Safavids' or a Hurrem-Rüstem deception, or maybe Suleiman's safeguard to calm public opinion after Mustafa's death. There are various versions of reports on Mustafa's end in the Ereğli valley. According to one of them, Rüstem Pasha made an offer to Mustafa to join his father's army and at the same time he warned Suleiman that Mustafa was coming to kill him. According to another version, it was Suleiman himself who summoned his son to Ereğli, and Mustafa came, "confident that the army would protect him".

Only Rüstem appears in all the versions as the antagonist. However, it is not surprising, as they are all based on Mustafa's PR chief consultant Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey's elegy, "Şehzade Mustafa Mersiyesi". Even the report of the Austrian ambassador de Busbecq, who claims to have received an account from an eyewitness, had the same origin. Rüstem, suspended and banished, was fair game as an object of violence. No one dared to criticize the Sultan himself. Suleiman probably realized this, and called Rüstem back two years later.

Rüstem's scapegoating as the seemingly dominant figure of the "conspiracy against Mustafa", radically changed public opinion. And so the Rüstem extolled years ago as the "pillar of the Ottoman empire", brilliant economist and sophisticated statesman, was forgotten, as well as his great projects and charitable foundations. He became Rüstem the "black heart, the murderer of the loved Prince Mustafa". Nothing was enough to make him dirty: his "dirty" origin, the imputation of bribery, the story with the louse... Some foreign ambassadors like Ghiselin de Busbecq or Bernardo Navagero, repeated it spitefully in their reports (all the more that Rüstem was as a diplomat an invincible opponent, the agreement from 1547 must not be forgotten). Unlike them, Jean Chesneau, the secretary of the French ambassador, wrote about him: "The grand vizier is a man of humble origin, who, thanks to his talent and will, worked his way up from nothing. He is an agreeable companion, engaging your interest with his acute faculty of judgment, an insightful way of thinking and magnanimous manners. During the negotiations, he is calm and dispassionate, although in his views determined."

Taşlıcalı Yahya Bey's elegy, the reports of ambassadors, administrative dossiers, foundation charters and some private documents like Hurrem's and Mihrimah's plea to Suleiman when Rüstem was expelled to Üsküdar, are the only period sources reporting on Rüstem's life. They were also the basis of the often cited İbrāhīm Peçevī's work "Tārīḫ-i Peçevī", published 80 years after Rüstem's death.

Relationship with MihrimahEdit

Mihrimah Sultan was married off to the governor of Diyarbakır Rüstem in 1539.[7] After his marriage, he was nominated to the vizierate in November 1544.[8]

Though the union was unhappy,[citation needed][dubious ] Mihrimah flourished as a patroness of the arts and continued her travels with her father until her husband's death. This marriage had, like many dynastic unions, a political character. Hurrem's role was probably important. Nonetheless, according to the rules, it was a decision of the father. Rüstem was at that time already a wealthy man and had, since 1538, a splendid career as Governor of Anatolya, one of the two most important administrative regions in the Ottoman Empire. This post was considered to be a preliminary stage to Grand Vizier. Mihrimah knew Rüstem for a very long time as the mentor of her brothers and the adviser of her father.

After his death Mihrimah accomplished his work, as well as the Rüstem Pasha Mosque (1561–63), one of Mimar Sinan's most impressive projects. Rüstem supported Mihrimah's charitable foundations, for example, the Mihrimah Sultan İskele Camii (Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Üsküdar, 1540–48; a known külliye in Istanbul, Mimar Sinan project). Rüstem was also Mihrimah's mentor, particularly concerning political and financial decisions. His last will from 1561, provides evidence of his confidence in his wife. Rüstem's brother Sinan Pasha (who died in December 1553, a turbulent year for the family), was later buried in Mihrimah Sultan Complex in Üsküdar. The daughter, Ayşe Sultan (born 1547), was married in 1561 to Şemsi Ahmet Pasha.


Rüstem Pasha died after a long illness, on 10 July 1561 of hydrocephalus. He was buried in the Sehzade Mosque, dedicated to Suleiman's favourite son Sehzade Mehmed (1520-1543), because his dream project, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, was not yet built. His tomb is alongside that of Şehzade Mehmed's.

Popular cultureEdit

In the acclaimed Turkish television series Muhteşem Yüzyıl, he is portrayed by actor Ozan Güven.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Rustem-paša Hrvat". Croatian Encyclopedia. Lexicographical Institute Miroslav Krleža. 2020.
  2. ^ "RÜSTEM PAŞA - TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi". TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi.
  3. ^ a b Ahcil, Zahit (2015). "State and Government in the Mid-Sixteenth Century Ottoman Empire: The Grand Vizierates of Rustem Pasha (1544-1561)". University of Chicago / UMI Dissertation Publishing | ProQuest LLC. p. 16.
  4. ^ Topaloğlu, Aydın, "Rüstem Paşa", (1999) Yaşamları ve Yapıtlarıyla Osmanlılar Ansiklopedisi, İstanbul:Yapı Kredi Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık A.Ş. C.3 s.471-472 ISBN 975-08-0072-9
  5. ^ a b "Hamdija Kreševljaković, Veliki vezir Rustem-paša, Znakovi Vremena • Sarajevo • 2018" (PDF). www.ibn-sina.net. p. 47.
  6. ^ Necipoğlu, Gülru (1991). Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power: The Topkapi Palace in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. Architectural History Foundation. ISBN 9780262140508.
  7. ^ "Notable life of Mihrimah Sultan". DailySabah. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  8. ^ Casale, Giancarlo (25 February 2010). The Ottoman Age of Exploration. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199798797.


External linkEdit

  Media related to Rüstem Pasha at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
28 November 1544 – 6 October 1553
Succeeded by
Preceded by Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
29 September 1555 – 10 July 1561
Succeeded by