Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The fifth Ottoman grand vizier of the Köprülü family, Köprülü Amcazade Hüseyin Paşa, negotiated the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 and tried to shore up the crumbling Ottoman Empire by instituting far-reaching reforms.

Summary of Event

From 1656 to 1702, the fortunes of the Ottoman Empire were linked with those of the Albanian Köprülü family of grand viziers. It was during the long reign of the inept Sultan Mehmed IV Avci Mehmed IV Avci[Mehmed 04 Avci] (r. 1648-1687) that the first two Köprülü grand viziers, Mehmed Paşa Köprülü Mehmed Paşa (1656-1661) and Fazıl Ahmed Paşa Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed Paşa (1661-1676), expanded the frontiers of the empire to their greatest extent and introduced reforms in the army and the civil administration [kw]Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa (1697-1702) [kw]Hüseyin Paşa, Köprülü Reforms of (1697-1702) Government and politics;1697-1702: Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa [3050] Social issues and reform;1697-1702: Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa [3050] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1697-1702: Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa [3050] Middle East;1697-1702: Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa [3050] Ottoman Empire;1697-1702: Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa [3050] Europe;1697-1702: Köprülü Reforms of Hüseyin Paşa [3050] Köprülü Amcazade Hüseyin Paşa Ottoman Empire;Hüseyin Paşa’s reforms Paşa, Köprülü Amcazade Hüseyin Paşa, Mezemorta Hüseyin Efendi, Feyzullah

Upon Fazıl Ahmed Paşa’s death, his foster brother and brother-in-law, Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa Kara Mustafa Paşa, Merzifonlu , became grand vizier, but his administration (1676-1683) ended with the failed Siege of Vienna Vienna, Siege of (1683) in 1683 and his own execution. Following further military disasters in the Danubian provinces, a palace coup led to the deposition of Mehmed IV and the accession of his younger brother, Süleyman II Süleyman II[Süleyman 02] (1687-1691).

Another Köprülü grand vizier, Fazıl Mustafa Paşa Köprülü Fazıl Mustafa Paşa[Köprülü Fazil Mustafa Pasa] , younger brother of Fazıl Ahmed, served as grand vizier from 1689 until 1691. Demonstrating that extraordinary resilience of which the Ottomans were still capable, he recaptured Nish and Belgrade but was defeated and killed in battle at Slankamen Slankamen, Battle of (1691) (Serbia) on August 19, 1691. Following additional defeats, Mehmed IV’s eldest son, Mustafa II Mustafa II[Mustafa 02] (r. 1695-1703), appointed Köprülü Hüseyin Paşa as grand vizier (in 1697). Hüseyin Paşa was a nephew of Mehmed Paşa and a cousin of Fazıl Ahmed Paşa (who nicknamed him Amcazade, meaning “uncle’s son”), and Fazıl Mustafa Paşa.

Not much is known about Hüseyin Paşa’s birth date or place, or his early life. He served on the Vienna campaign of 1683 and in various posts subsequently: governor of Shehrizor in Iraq; military governor (muhafiz) of Chardak, opposite Gallipoli; and, in 1689, muhafiz of Seddulbahr at the entrance to the Dardanelles. He served briefly as kaymakan (deputy vizier), during January-February of 1692 and again between January and June, 1694.

In December of 1694, Hüseyin Paşa was appointed kapudan-i derya (grand admiral). He was ordered to retake Chios, which the Venetians had recently occupied. In February, 1695, he won two naval engagements against the Venetians off Chios, leading to their prompt evacuation of the island; he became muhafiz of Chios in May, 1695, but was later transferred to Belgrade (September-October, 1696).

The armies of the Holy League Holy League had been approaching the Danube River, and the Ottomans could barely slow their advance. In August, 1697, at a council of war in Belgrade, Hüseyin Paşa advocated speedy negotiations before things would deteriorate, but he was overruled. Then followed Prince Eugene’s Eugene of Savoy overwhelming victory at Zenta Zenta, Battle of (1697) (September 11, 1697), witnessed by the horrified sultan from across the Tisza River. The defeated Janissary corps mutinied and murdered the grand vizier, Elmas Mehmed Paşa Elmas Mehmed Paşa . Shortly thereafter, the sultan summoned Hüseyin Paşa to succeed Elmas Mehmed Paşa

Few grand viziers assumed office in more unfavorable circumstances. Peace and breathing space were absolute necessities, but the new grand vizier also needed the support of the sultan and the weakened military establishment, as well as the compliance of the enemy. Plenipotentiaries met at Karlowitz, near Peterwardein, with Sir William Paget, the English ambassador, and his Dutch colleague, as mediators. The Ottomans were represented by Mehmed Rami Efendi Mehmed Rami Efendi , a future grand vizier, and by an experienced Phanariot Greek, Count Alexander Mavrocordato Mavrocordato, Alexander (1641-1709), who became the Holy Roman Empire’s secretary of state.

Hüseyin Paşa moved to Belgrade with what was left of the army in case negotiations broke down. After seventy-two days, agreement was reached on the basis of uti possidetis, meaning that the Holy League’s members kept their recent acquisitions: the Austrian Habsburgs regained Transylvania and most of Hungary (except the Banat of Temesvar); the Venetians acquired the Morea; and Poland got Podolia. The Treaty of Karlowitz Karlowitz, Treaty of (1699) had been the Ottomans’ greatest humiliation. A formerly all-conquering Islam had been thrown into a defensive mode by its Christian foes. It was for Hüseyin Paşa to persuade sultan, army, and empire that there was no alternative to these terms, which were eloquently defended by the leading Ottoman historian, Mustafa Naima (1655-1716).

Perhaps no member of the Köprülü family did more for the empire than Hüseyin Paşa in persuading his contemporaries to accept the inevitable. One circumstance greatly assisted the grand vizier. This was the support he received from the outstanding naval commander, Mezemorta Hüseyin Paşa Mezemorta Hüseyin Paşa , nicknamed Mezemorta, which is Turkish for “half-dead,” as a result of near-fatal wounds incurred in his youth in a naval battle with the Spaniards. A brilliantly successful Algerian corsair, from 1689 he commanded fleets on the Danube, in the Black Sea, and in the Aegean Sea. He fought beside Hüseyin Paşa in the naval engagements off Chios, and, in 1695, he replaced Hüseyin Paşa as kapudan-i derya

Between September, 1695, and September, 1698, Mezemorta Hüseyin Paşa defeated the Venetians in a series of battles in the Aegean, although Western sources dispute some of these victories. However, in a period characterized by dismal Ottoman performance on land, victories at sea greatly strengthened the grand vizier’s hand. Moreover, the admiral implemented a reform program that mirrored that of the grand vizier: the introduction of sail-driven galleons alongside oared galleys; and the division of the fleet into squadrons, each commanded by a derya bey (bey of the sea), who was responsible for the men, ships, ammunition, and supplies in each squadron. A clear command hierarchy was instituted throughout the service, with officers and men paid regularly and in receipt of pensions on retirement, and the fleet was to be governed by a wide-ranging code of regulations (kanun-nama). Unfortunately, the admiral died in 1701 and was buried on Chios. His death deprived the grand vizier of an invaluable ally in his reform program

Military reforms were Hüseyin Paşa’s highest priority. Scrutinizing the kapi kulu lists (lists of the palace slaves, including the household troops), he dismissed those unfit for service, replacing them with trained Anatolian peasants. Part-time soldiers in the Janissary corps were also dismissed, and the overall size of the corps was reduced to approximately 34,000. However, he also improved conditions of service, constructed new barracks, and repaired fortresses. The sipahi (feudal cavalry) were overhauled, and new recruits were drawn from nomadic Anatolian tribes and from sipahi expelled from Hungary. Their commanders, the sanjak beys, were closely supervised, and abuses in the timars (cavalry fiefs), many of which had passed to landholders who performed no military services, were eliminated. Military;Ottoman Empire

In general, the empire’s economy was in desperate straits. Famine Famine;Ottoman Empire and conditions ideal to famine were widespread, with an accompanying breakdown of law and order. In Anatolia, the peasantry was abandoning the land to migrate to the capital or to embark upon a life of peripatetic brigandage. Hüseyin Paşa sought to settle nomadic tribes on agricultural land that had fallen out of cultivation. He was particularly concerned for the Christian reaya (peasantry) in the Balkan provinces, who had suffered so much from the passage of armies and from fiscal and commissarial exactions. In urban centers, he endeavored to reduce or abolish illegal taxes on items such as coffee, tobacco, oil, and soap. He also sought to protect handicrafts from competition from imported European goods by setting up local workshops.

In all this, he was opposed by vested interests, and especially by the highly conservative sheyhülislam, Feyzullah Efendi Feyzullah Efendi , who was influential because he had been the sultan’s tutor. Faced with bitter opposition and in declining health, the grand vizier resigned in September of 1702 (he had lost his ally, Mezemorta Hüseyin Paşa, in the previous year) and retired to his estate at Silivri on the Sea of Marmora, dying on September 22. He was buried in the mosque and religious college (madrasa) complex that he had founded in Sarajhana in the capital. His splendid yali (waterside residence) at Kapica, north of Anadolu Hisar on the Bosporus, still survives, and his library is preserved in the Süleymaniye complex.


It was entirely appropriate that both the peace negotiations and the abortive reforms that brought the Ottoman seventeenth century to a close should be the work of the last Köprülü grand vizier. Indubitably, the Treaty of Karlowitz ushered in a period of Ottoman decline, but Köprülü Amcazade Hüseyin Paşa probably negotiated the best terms possible under the circumstances, although he had to bear the opprobrium for having “sold out.”

As for his failed reforms and the unwillingness of the Ottoman establishment to see them implemented, if it meant loss of power or profit, that was already, by the end of the century, an old story: Shrewd and perspicacious minds had long identified the systemic weaknesses of the empire, but no reformer had gone beyond tinkering with the problems, not even the first two Köprülü grand viziers. Hüseyin Paşa was an intelligent statesman, but the post-Karlowitz years and his declining health prevented him from confronting the vested interests that had so long put personal gain before public necessity.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Argenti, P., ed. The Occupation of Chios by the Venetians, 1694. London: Cambridge University Press, 1966. This work is crucial for understanding the Venetian role in this period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kurat, Akdes Nimet. “The Retreat of the Turks, 1683-1730.” Vol. 6 in The New Cambridge Modern History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970. An excellent account of Hüseyin Paşa’s administration.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Murphey, Rhoads. Ottoman Warfare, 1500-1700. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1999. A useful work that examines seventeenth century Ottoman military campaigning.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rifat, A. Abou El-Haj. “Ottoman Diplomacy at Karlowitz.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 87(1967): 498-512. An extremely useful article for background to the peacemaking.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shaw, Stanford J. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Vol. 1 in Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. A classic, scholarly history, with integrated treatment of Ottoman governmental developments.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sugar, Peter F. Southeastern Europe Under Ottoman Rule, 1354-1804. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977. Sugar’s work is generally very good on the Köprülü period in the Balkans.

Murad IV Rules the Ottoman Empire

Turks Conquer Crete

Ottoman Empire’s Brief Recovery

Ottoman-Polish Wars

Ottoman-Muscovite Wars

Defeat of the Ottomans at Vienna

Holy League Ends Ottoman Rule of the Danubian Basin

Decline of the Ottoman Empire

Treaty of Karlowitz

Related articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

John III Sobieski; Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa; Bohdan Khmelnytsky; Kösem Sultan; Leopold I; Murad IV. Köprülü Amcazade Hüseyin Paşa Ottoman Empire;Hüseyin Paşa’s reforms

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