Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/126

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his own hand; and finally, in the spring of 1512, Selim advanced from the Crimea to the Danube, and, supported by the Janissaries who would brook no opposition, forced Bayazid to abdicate (April 25). A month later the old Sultan died, poisoned, it can hardly be questioned, by order of his son. It was not to be expected that Ahmad would submit; he seized Brusa; but Selim crossed over to Asia, drove him eastward, and deprived him of the governorship of Amasia. Next year Ahmad made another attempt, but was defeated in battle at Yenishehr and executed. Corcud had not dared to take the field; but in consequence of his intrigues he was likewise put to death. The next victims were the Sultan's nephews, children of other brothers who had died in the lifetime of their father. Thus Selim put into practice a ruthless law which had been enacted by the policy of Mohammad II, that it was lawful for a Sultan, in the interests of the unity of the realm, which was the first condition of its prosperity, to do his brothers and their children to death.

The spirit of Selim I was very different from that of his father. He was resolved to resume the old paths of forward policy from which the studious temper of Bayazid had digressed, and to follow in the way of Mohammad the Conqueror. Yet he was also unlike his grandfather. He revelled in war and death; all his deeds seem prompted rather by instinct than by policy. Mohammad seems almost genial beside this gloomy and restless soul. Selim the Grim delighted in cruelty, but he was extremely moderate in pleasure; like his father and uncle he was highly cultivated. He raised the pay of the Janissaries,—this was the meed of their support; but he soon showed that he was resolved to be their master. The truth is that the Janissaries were an institution ill compatible with a peace policy; amenable to the discipline of war, they were a perpetual danger for a pacific ruler.

The collisions with Persia and Egypt, which menaced the reign of Bayazid, actually came to pass after the accession of Selim. The Shah, Ismail, had given an asylum to the sons of Ahmad, and had made an incursion into the eastern districts of the Ottoman Empire (1513). But the fundamental cause of the Persian war was religious antagonism; it was a struggle between the great Sunnite and the great Shiite power. It was stamped with this character by a sweeping act of persecution on the part of Selim, who, seizing 40,000 Shiites, killed some and imprisoned others; and the mutual attitude of the rival superstitions was shown in a high-flown letter which Selim, when he took the field (1514), indited to his enemy. He marched into the dominions of Ismail, and the decisive battle was fought in the plain of Chaldiran, lying further east than the field which had seen the struggle of Mohammad with Uzun Hasan. The Ottomans were again successful; on this occasion too their superiority in artillery told; and Tavriz fell into the hands of Selim. In the following year Sulkadr was annexed; and in 1516 Northern