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Prophecy and Politics in Istanbul: Charles V, Sultan Suleyman, and the Habsburg Embassy of 1533-1534

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

Three prophecies current in Istanbul in the summer of 1533 pointed toward the imminent destruction of the Ottoman empire by Christian powers. One of the predictions stated that Alvise Gritti, the bastard son of the doge of Venice, would bring about the ruin of the Ottomans. A confidant of Sultan Srlcyman and the grand vizier, Gritti was deeply involved in the war of the Ottomans against Charles V of the Spanish-Habsburg empire, as a commander of Ottoman troops, advisor on Western affairs, and governor-general of the Hungarian kingdom. Widely detested by Ottoman officials, however, Gritti felt that his power was waning in 1534. In response, he perhaps was inspired to play out his prophetic role, for he told an ambassador of Charles V that he would help the emperor's forces capture Istanbul while Sultan Süleyman was away at war. Millenarian speculation was widespread in the early sixteenth century, but sometimes it had direct consequences inasmuch as it came to figure in the calculations of political actors. Examination of the prophecies of 1533 within the context of the time nicely illustrates how prophecy and politics could have a reciprocal relationship, with the former being tailored to the occasion and the latter responding to apocalyptic foreboding.

Affiliations: 1: Universiry of Arkansas


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