Suleiman the Magnificent was the longest-ruling leader in the Ottoman Empire. The mighty sultan led successful military conquests on multiple continents and the legal system he set in place transformed the lives of millions for several centuries. But like all men, both great and small, he eventually died.
But through an elaborate hoax, his dead body was kept on the throne!
In the fall of 1566, Suleiman and his Muslim forces were locked in a bloody battle with Nicholas Zrinyi and his Croatian military. The sultan had surrounded Zrinyi and his men at the city of Szigetvar in modern day Hungary, and had built a formidable siege against it. It was just a matter of time.
But time was something the 71-year-old sultan didn’t have.
Suleiman the Magnificent was dying in his tent and only one man knew it. As the life slowly drained from the sultan’s body, his most loyal servant, Grand Vizier Mohammed Sokolli, kept Suleiman informed about the battle’s progress. On the evening of September 2, 1566, the sultan asked his trusted confidant about the siege.
Sokolli wasted no words. “We will have to drive a mine under a section of the walls.” Frowning, he mused, “It will take four days, five – perhaps seven.” Suleiman would not live to see the city fall. Five nights later, under the lamp in his tent, the mighty sultan lay dead.
The vizier knew how important the next few days would be. Knowing the army would lose heart if they learned their sultan had died, Sokolli put a wild plan into action that would prevent anyone from learning the truth about Suleiman.
His first act was to strangle the sultan’s physician; no one could know the sultan had died. His second act was to prepare the sultan’s body; it was embalmed and dressed…and then propped up on the throne! Now, the mighty Suleiman was ready for visitors.
For no less than three weeks, Mohammed Sokolli ushered guests into the sultan’s tent to speak with a king they thought was still alive. As reports were given and requests were made, the king’s embalmed body sat silent and motionless on the throne.
Like Suleiman, Jesus led a kingdom. Like Suleiman, Jesus died. But that’s where the similarities end.
Those who witnessed Suleiman on the throne only saw a dead man. Those who witnessed Jesus after His resurrection actually saw a living Man! Jesus talked with His disciples, encouraged them to touch Him, and even ate meals with them!
Unlike Suleiman, this King is alive forevermore.
Suleiman the Magnificent: Sultan of the East by Harold Lamb. Doubleday & Co., 1951, Pages 309-310.
Topics Illustrated Include:
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)