If Sultan Murad's embrace of numerological marvel bespoke a calm Ottoman inclusiveness in the face of millennium anxiety, not all were of one mind. When his presence with the army on campaign a couple of years later raised reminders of the sultan as gazi conqueror, few dissented. The present moment offered ample opportunity to wonder whether both of these images, for all their anachronistic staying power, in different ways voiced a wish for a simpler certainty that always seemed just out of reach.
Ambiguity was everywhere, starting at home. Elite politics are rarely simple. In marriage, in patron–client networks, in slavery and service, the royal family was the model and the mirror of Ottoman society at large. Not only did Murad not curb factionalism, he made it a natural feature of his household relations. Consent granted and consent withheld, by members of the extended royal household especially army officers and their allies, was a kind of public pressure, brought upon the government by the governed. The model was, however, inherently unstable. Violence or the threat of violence became almost routine as a means of negotiating political change. Murad's successor Mehmed III appointed and dismissed seven grand vezirs in his eight-year reign (1595–1603). In such constant political turmoil, the Ottoman sultans often appeared to have little day-to-day political or military authority. Yet beneath the surface instability, Murad's model had the effect of reinforcing the role of the Ottoman dynasty as the common denominator that kept the various segments of the empire together.
War, Rebellion, and Reform
The divan squandered the peace dividend before it had a chance to fully process the lessons of the Caucasus war, which ended in 1590. A campaign against Spain was announced. Koca Sinan set about readying the navy, somewhat neglected since the Cyprus campaign twenty years earlier, but ran into difficulty raising the necessary funds. Provincial governors and treasurers throughout the empire, assessed for the costs, were ordered to start by collecting delinquent taxes.