All the while, Selim had hardly moved. When the man was quite still, Selim released the garrote, unwound it from the mutes neck, and allowed the body to fall forward onto its face. He took the bow and restrung it with the silk cord. Then he carefully replaced the bow in the rack.
Selim motioned to the remaining mutes, who were led away by the servant. A moment later, four of his Janissaries hurried in from the corridor and dragged out the body of the strangled man.
The five kneeling mutes were dispatched to the quarters of Selims two older brothers. There, the mutes carried out Mehmets law. They strangled Selims two brothers in their beds, with silken cords from the archers bow. Care was taken in the struggle that no royal blood was spilled. They immediately sent a message back to the Palace. None of the mutes cared to enter the presence of the Sultan if not absolutely necessary.
But, Selim was still not content. The two dead brothers had five living sons. Selim feared that they, too, might mount opposition to his Sultanate. Their fathers had been the elder sons, and these sons might feel that their fathers were more entitled to the throne than Selim. Again, the assassins were sent out, and this time Selim went with them, listening to the struggles and cries of his nephews from the adjoining room. Some say Selim actually cried when he heard the mutes strangle his favorite nephew, the youngest, who was only five years old. But, who would ever know? The assassins, the only witnesses, were deaf and mute.
By the time Selim, himself, lay dying of cancer in his tent, only eight years into his reign, he had claimed the lives of all his nephews, sixty-two blood relatives, and seven Grand Viziers.
Piri Pasha left Selim, and walked to the tent of the Sultans doctor, Moses Hamon. Hamon had been in constant attendance for several months, as Selims life began to slip away. The Hamon family had served the Sultans of the Ottomans for many years. In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had expelled the Jews from Spain. The Inquisition had steadily eroded the power of the Jews. By the time of the expulsion, thousands had been tortured to death for their perceived corruption of the new Christian principles. These Sephardic Jews emigrated to Portugal, North Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Ottoman Empire. The Portuguese forced baptism upon the new settlers, and the European Christians persecuted the newly arrived Jewry, as had the Spanish. Only under the Muslims was the Jewish community welcomed and able to flourish.
Joseph Hamon was one of the Sephardic Jews who landed upon the shores of Turkey in the late fifteenth century. A skilled doctor, he became the personal court physician of both Sultan Bayazid and his son Selim. Josephs son, Moses Hamon, succeeded Joseph and became the court physician to Selim. Moses would ultimately become one of the most influential men in the Ottoman Empire, and his sons would carry on the dynasty of Jewish doctors who served the Sultans.
Hamon was just finishing his dinner when Piri Pasha entered his tent. The doctor rose from his cushions on the floor, and greeted him.
"Salaam Aleichum, Piri Pasha," Hamon said in Arabic.
"Shalom Alechem, Doctor Hamon," Piri replied in Hebrew.
Hamon smiled at Piris courtesy in using the Hebrew, rather than the Arabic greeting. He motioned to the cushions, and the two men sat down. A servant brought in a tray of fruit and two goblets of wine. Piri waved away the wine, and instead took a bunch of grapes from the tray. Hamon dismissed the servant with a wave of his hand.
"How is the Sultan today, Piri Pasha?"
"The same. No. Worse, I think. He does not wake now. I cannot get him up to eat or drink. I think the end is very near."
"His sleep is a kindness. The tincture of opium is a blessing to those who suffer from the terrible pain of cancer. But, I think you may be right. If the Sultan stops eating and drinking, then he cannot live very long."
Copyright 2002 by Anthony A Goodman. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form - except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews - without written permission in writing from its publisher, Source Books, Inc. www.sourcebooks.com.
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