Centre for Continuing Education

Suleiman The Magnificent: Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

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Suleiman I (1520-66) was the longest reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He presided over the apex of the Empire’s military, cultural, and economic power. Suleiman led Ottoman armies against Hungary and Rhodes, and annexed much of the Middle East and North Africa. He instituted important legislative changes and was known as Kanuni ‘the Lawgiver’. He was a great patron of the arts and his reign is seen as a ‘Golden Age’ in artistic, literary and architectural development. Suleiman married a Christian slave called Roxelana who would have a profound effect on his legacy, since she ensured the succession of her son Selim the Sot.


At the completion of this history course participants should:

  1. Explore the cultural setting of the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.
  2. Survey the developments in architecture in the reign of Suleiman.
  3. Study the interaction of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th Century.
  4. Explore life in the Ottoman harem.


Early Life

Suleiman was born in 1949, the son of Selim the Grim and the harem lady Hafsa Sultan. He studied at the school in Topkapi palace in Istanbul and gained administrative experience in Manisa and Edirne. Suleiman acceded to the throne at 26 years and is said to have looked to Alexander the Great as a model for building a world empire.

Military Campaigns

Soon after his accession Suleiman began a series of military campaign starting with his plan for the conquest of Belgrade which fell in 1521. The following year he attacked Rhodes and expelled the Knights Hospitaller. Afterwards his campaigns took him into the heart of Europe and consolidated Ottoman control over the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Arts and Architecture

Suleiman ushered in a ‘Golden Age’ for the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan was a major sponsor of the arts (painting, poetry, jewellery) which flourished during his reign. He also sponsored monumental architectural development which reached their height under his chief architect Mimar Sinan. One of Sinan’s most famous creations was the enormous Suleimania Mosque in Istanbul.

Personal Life

Suleiman was infatuated by Hurrem Sultan, a harem girl from Poland (also called Roxelana). She had been sold as a slave and rose through the harem to become Suleiman’s favourite. Aware that her sons would be strangled if Suleiman’s oldest son Mustafa came to power (an Ottoman custom to ensure stability) she did everything she could to eliminate the Crown Prince.

His Legacy

Suleiman died on military campaign in 1566 leaving the Ottoman Empire at its height. The Empire had expanded to its greatest extent and was lavishly endowed with stunning architectural creations. The throne passed to his son Selim the Sot who soon showed himself to be disinterested in military campaigning, instead devoting himself to the pleasures of the harem. Military failures soon followed including the disastrous Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Selim’s harem favourite Nur-banu, mother of Murad III, would have a profound effect on the future of the Ottoman Empire.

Intended Audience

This history course is suitable for personal interest adult learners, university students and active retirees.

Delivery Style

This history course in Sydney will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussions will be encouraged.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Certificate of completion