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Selim the Grim
01.24.2014 46114175341

“Honorably anxious to deliver the nation and countries that groan beneath your yoke, we have resolved to lay aside our imperial ornaments, to put on our harness and coat of mail, to display our ever-victorious banner, to assemble our invincible armies, to draw the vengeful sword from the scabbard of our wrath, and to march with our trusty soldiers, whose sabres always inflict mortal wounds, and whose arrows could reach an enemy were he even in the constellation of Sagittarius.” - Selim I, letter to the Persian Shah

Selim the Grim was a semi-insane, full-on-maniacal asskicking warmonger who used the most brutal, vicious, and hard-to-clean methods at his disposal to utterly puree the nutsacks of everyone who ever annoyed him in any conceivable manner.  Incompetent Viziers, heretics, opium dealers, his dad, Shi’ites, disobedient military officers, idiot family members, and the vast majority of the Egyptian population were all ground into meat-sawdust before his relentless blood-churning face-stabby onslaught, as the almighty Sultan of the Ottoman Empire virulently dragged his ten-ton balls throughout the Middle East and North Africa like a post-apocalyptic steamroller pimped out with a spiked roller, twin-linked laser Gatling guns mounted where the headlights are supposed to be, and an airbag deployment system hard-wired to detonate with the force of a fifty megaton thermonuclear warhead. 



A rawhide-chomping neck-snapper notorious for his fiery temper, righteous all-consuming anger, sweet nickname and even sweeter mega-handlebar moustache, Selim the Grim was the son of Bayezid the Saint, a fun fact that pretty much beats you over the head with the Irony Stick.  Despite his name, Bayezid was a largely-unpopular Sultan who spent more time humping his harem and doing hard drugs than building chariots out of the flayed skin of his enemies, but Selim’s grandpa was Mehmet the Conqueror so you know our Prince had some good face-smashing genetics in there somewhere.  Bayezid knew this and was honestly a little freaked out by having such a tough motherfucker for a son, so instead of proclaiming Selim his successor as Sultan he instead decided the crown should pass to Selim’s brother, the significantly-less-severe Prince Ahmed, a man so largely insignificant to the story that he doesn’t even rate an epithet.

The important thing here is that guys with epithets like “The Grim” don’t appreciate being disrespected, even if it is by their own dad.  So I think you can see where this is going.


The situation is looking a little.... grim for you, brother.


In 1512 Selim the Grim marched to Istanbul at the head of an army of twelve thousand Janissaries, rearranged Ahmed’s shit at a molecular level with enough sword points to outfit a Peter Jackson movie, kicked in the front door of the Turkish Palace, and then struck a pose like he’d just scored a touchdown when the entire population of the city came out and threw him a spontaneous parade to celebrate their Prince coming to wreck the fuck out of everything that was wrong with the Turkish Royal Family.  Bayezid, competently realizing he was in kind of a bad situation, immediately quit his job as Sultan and died, leaving the twenty-something Selim to rule as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Selim's first order of business was to have the entire male population of his family murdered.  But, since it was considered barbaric and immoral to spill the blood of the Ottoman Royal Family, he offered his siblings a far more humanitarian death – he had two brothers, five cousins, and any other man who could produce a semi-legitimate claim to the throne ritualistically strangled to death with silk cords by guys with giant hands.  This worked out so well and created such a smooth, succession-war-free transition that from this point on almost every Turkish Sultan would perform the same service to all his brothers when he became ruler.



Energetic, powerful, super-religious, and utterly indifferent to any earthly pleasures not involving conquest, carnage, the complete assimilation of every Muslim culture in the Middle East under the blood-stained banner of the Ottoman Empire, (and, depending on who you ask, copious amounts of opium), Selim  the Grim went to work trying to recreate the Good Old Days of the Middle East-spanning Caliphate, only this time with himself on the throne.  Also, he really hated Shi’ites, so he had all of them imprisoned, executed, or sold into slavery.  Literally all of them.  Then, after making a couple peace treaties with Spain, Italy, and Hungary to secure his Euro borders, the Sultan decided to fight Persia, and not just because Persia was Shi’ite, but because attacking Persia is pretty much a staple of all good warlords who operated in or around the Middle East.  Selim the Grim provoked the Shah in a badass manner, grabbing a pad and paper and sending a bunch of angry, psychotic drunk-text-quality letters to the King of Persia that were more or less a mash-up of death threats, Koran verses, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and sarcastic poetry he came up with himself (I’m not joking about this).  The Shah responded by asking whether or not Selim was smoking crack, and when his messengers delivered the Shah’s letter they also brought a box of really high-quality opium for Selim to dive into.  Which was a nice touch, honestly.

Incidentally, howver, this was pretty much the exact response Selim the Grim was hoping for.  The Mighty Sultan gathered his men, marched a thousand miles across the deserts and mountains of Anatolia, and hurled his warriors into battle with the Persians in 1514. 

The Persians fielded a massive force of spearmen and archers numbering almost 120,000 men. Selim was outnumbered, but he had a little surprise he’d picked up from the Europeans.  Namely, a fucking shitload of cannons and several regiments of infantry equipped with matchlock muskets.



Selim the Grim (whose name is also sometimes translated Selim the Severe because of the severe asswhippings he was dishing out like parking tickets every damn day) drew the Persians out into the open, then scattered his own infantry and rolled up an assload of cannons and riflemen and proceeded to Swiss cheese the enemy with so many fucking bullets you’d think he was air striking them with a squadron of Terminators.  The Shah was wounded and fled the field as fast as his gimpy legs could carry him, leaving Selim to capture his camp (which included the Shah's personal harem).  Any soldiers that surrendered were executed, and all the women and children in camp were sold into slavery throughout the Empire.  Then Selim marched through Persia, captured Baghdad, Kurdistan, Anatolia, Georgia, and parts of Azerbaijan, and when the deposed Persian ruler sent a couple of his friends to ask if he could please have one or two of his wives back Selim responded by having all of the political ambassadors thrown into the ocean and all the wives sold off as slaves. 

As a crazy side note, Selim was also a rather violent and tyrannical patron of the arts.  Like, when he sacked the Persian capital he enslaved the 1,000 greatest artists in Persia, dragged them to Istanbul, and then jammed a pallate and some brushes in their hands and forced them to work to beautify the city.  Throughout his reign, Selim also encouraged intellectuals, astronomers, mathematicians, and scientists to come to Istanbul as well and work together to improve human knowledge.  Which is actually awesome.



Well once Persia was toast, Selim the Grim headed into Syria to do battle with the Egyptian Mamluke Sultans, who at this point were basically worthless anyways so who cares.  Thanks to a tactically-brilliant strategy of “shoot them all in the fucking face, then charge in balls-out on horseback and stab anyone who is still alive afterwards,” Selim’s ultraloyal Janissaries crushed the Mamlukes, captured Damascus, chased the fleeing armies back across Sinai Peninsula, and then vengefully destroyed them in a huge battle on the banks of the Nile in 1517.  Selim, being Selim, then had the population of Cairo whacked, captured the Mamluke Sultan, executed him, declared himself ruler of Egypt, and headed home with 1,000 camels loaded with gold and silver and a bunch of really important Islamic religious artifacts that really looked great hanging on the walls of the Sultan's palace.

Selim the Grim ruled the Ottoman Empire for just eight years, dying of fever in 1520 while he was thinking of brutal ways to exterminate the rebels on the fringes of his empire.  In that short span of time he consolidated his power base in Turkey, had himself declared Sultan, adopted gunpowder as a viable tool of warfare, conquered Persia, destroyed the Mamlukes, captured Damascus and Cairo from the enemy, took control over Baghdad, Jerusalem, Mecca, and Medina, and more than doubled the size of his empire.  Despite being the most tyrannical and militaristic of the early Sultans, Selim also had himself appointed Protector of the Holy Places and Caliph of Islam, meaning that he was officially recognized by world Islam as the “successor to Mohammad”, and the political and religious head of the Muslim World.  He was the first Ottoman Sultan to take the title, but everyone after him would follow suit, including his son Suleiman the Magnificent, a pretty fucking famous dude who would build upon Selim’s successes in the years to come.  Thanks to Selim the Grim, the Turks would be a dominant force on earth and a major player in world politics until the end of World War I almost 400 years later.




Gibb, E.J.W.  A History of Ottoman Poetry.  Luzac & Co., 1902.

Jacob, Samuel.  History of the Ottoman Empire.  Griffin, 1854.

Nafziger, George F.  Islam at War.  Greenwood, 2003.

Schevill, Ferdinand.  History of the Balkan Peninsula.  Harcourt, Brace, & Co., 1922.

Sykes, Percy Molesworth.  A History of Persia.  Read Books, 2006.

Waters, Clara Erskine Clement.  Constantinople.  Estes and Lauriat, 1895.

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Tags: 16th century | Conqueror | Head of State | Military Commander | Turkey

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