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Pargalı İbrahim Pasha (d. 1536) — also called Frenk İbrahim Pasha — was the first Grand Vizier appointed by Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire (r. 1520 to 1566). In 1523, he replaced Piri Mehmed Pasha, who had been appointed in 1518 by Süleyman I's father, the preceding sultan Selim I, and remained in office for 13 years. He attained a level of authority and influence rivalled by only a handful of other Grand Viziers of the Empire, but in 1536 he was executed by the Sultan and his property was confiscated by the State.


Albanian [187690] or Greekmarker by birth, born in the town of Pargamarker, he was sold as a slave at the age of six to the Ottoman palace for future sultans situated in Manisa in Western Anatolia. There he was befriended by Suleiman who was of the same age, and later, upon Suleiman's accession, was awarded various posts, the first being falconer to the Sultan. He was so rapidly promoted that at one point he begged Suleiman to not promote him too rapidly for fear of arousing jealousy. Pleased with this display of modesty, Suleiman purportedly swore that he would never be put to death during his reign. Later, after being appointed Grand Vizier, he continued to receive many gifts from the sultan, and his power in the Ottoman Empire was absolute, just as his master's. Amongst many titles, he was also unofficially known as "the most beautiful man in the empire".

Although he married Süleyman's sister and was as such a bridegroom to the Ottoman dynasty (Damat), this title is not frequently used in association with him, possibly in order not to confuse him with other illustrious grand viziers who were namesakes (Damat İbrahim Pasha (a Bosniak) and Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha (Turkish). He is usually referred to as "Pargalı İbrahim Pasha" or "Frenk (the European) İbrahim Pasha" due to his tastes and manners. Yet another name given by his contemporaries was "Makbul Maktul (loved and killed) İbrahim Pasha".

His magnificent palace still standing in İstanbulmarker is called Turkish and Islamic Arts Museummarker. Attribution of Slavic, Italian (more precisely Genoesemarker) or even Albanian or Jewish origins to this accomplished polyglot, mainly of speculative value, have been put forth, but many clues referring to his period of power, such as the fact that he chose to build his palace in immediate view of Atmeydanı (today Sultanahmetmarker Square) in İstanbul (the famed Hippodromemarker of the Byzantine emperors, facing Ayasofyamarker), clearly indicate that he was Greek. Built according to a design which is unmistakably defensive in concept (he had fearsome rivals), his palace is the only residence built by someone outside the Ottoman dynasty that deserves to be designated as a palace.

On the diplomatic front İbrahim's work with Western Christendom was a complete success. Portraying himself as "the real power behind the Ottoman Empire", İbrahim used a variety of tactics to negotiate favorable deals with the leaders of the Catholic powers. The Venetianmarker diplomats even referred to him as "İbrahim the Magnificent", a play on Suleiman's usual sobriquet. In 1533, he convinced Charles V to turn Hungary into an Ottoman vassal state. In 1535, he completed a monumental agreement with Francis I that gave France favorable trade rights within the Ottoman empire in exchange for joint action against the Habsburgs. This agreement would set the stage for joint Franco-Ottoman naval maneuvers, including the basing of the entire Ottoman fleet in southern France (in Nicemarker) during the winter of 1543.

A skilled commander of Suleiman's army, he eventually fell from grace after an imprudence committed during a campaign against the Persian Safavid empire, when he awarded himself a title including the word Sultan. This incident launched a series of events which culminated in his execution in 1536, thirteen years after having been promoted as Grand Vizier. It has also been suggested by a number of sources that Ibrahim Pasha had been a victim of Hürrem Sultan's (Roxelana, the sultan's wife) rising influence on the sovereign, especially in view of his past support for the cause of Sehzade Mustafa, Suleiman I's first son and heir to the throne, who had been strangled to death by his father on 6 October 1553, through a series of plots put in motion by Roxelana.

Since Suleiman had sworn not to take Ibrahim's life during his reign, he acquired a fetva, which permitted him to take back the oath by building a mosque in İstanbulmarker. He announced the fetva one week before İbrahim's execution and dined alone with him seven times before the final move, so to give his life-long friend a chance to flee the country or to take the sultan's own life. It was later discovered in İbrahim's letters that he was perfectly aware of the situation but nevertheless decided to stay true to Suleiman.

Suleiman later greatly regretted İbrahim's execution and his character changed dramatically, to the point where he became completely secluded from the daily work of governing. His regrets are reflected in his poems, in which even after twenty years he continually stresses topics of friendship and of love and trust between friends and often hints on character traits similar to Ibrahim's.

See also



  1. Joseph von Hammer, the 19th century historian of the Ottoman Empire and still a reference, affirms that he was Greek. Part of the speculations attributing non-Greek origins to Ibrahim Pasha also state that his mother language was, interestingly, Greek. A Bilkent University source (in Turkish, with the abstract also English), treating the literary circles Ibrahim Pasha had assembled around him, makes mention of attributions of non-Greek origins to Ibrahim Pasha, stressing all at the same time his virtually indiscutable origin. The literary life around Pargali Ibrahim Pasha by Esma Tezcan, Bilkent University. İsmail Hâmi Danişmend, another important reference for the history of the Ottoman Empire, does not hide his dislike of the Pasha's personality, and calls him a "magnificent vagrant" of obscure origins. The web sites of Albanians in Turkey [1], [2] consider him as one of theirs.

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