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Suleiman the Magnificent

Archaeologists search for ‘lost heart’ of Suleiman the Magnificent


Archaeologists in Hungary have uncovered the remains of an Ottoman-era town in the area in southern Hungary where Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart is believed to have been buried, and now the hunt is on to recover it.

Suleiman the Magnificent was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to his death in 1566. He became a prominent monarch of 16th-century Europe, presiding over the apex of the Ottoman Empire's military, political and economic power and was well known for overseeing the "Golden" age of the Ottoman Empire in its artistic, literary and architectural development. He personally led Ottoman armies in conquering the Christian strongholds of Belgrade, Rhodes, as well as most of Hungary before his conquests were checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529.  Under his rule, the major Muslim cities, many Balkan provinces, and most of North Africa were brought under control of his Empire and the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and through the Persian Gulf.

The sultan died in Szigetvar while his troops besieged its fortress, defended by locals led by Croatian-Hungarian nobleman Miklos Zrinyi. His death was kept a secret from his troops for some 48 days.  Historians believe Suleiman's heart was buried near Szigetvar, and his body taken back to Constantinople, as Istanbul was then known.

Norbert Pap, a member of the research and excavation team, said the discovery of the Ottoman town should offer clues that will help them narrow down their search for the tomb containing the sultan's heart.

"The town called Turbek was founded by the Ottomans after the death of Suleiman," Pap said. "The settlement was destroyed in the 1680s" after the Turks were driven out of Hungary.

Archaeologists have already uncovered Persian ceramics and glass and Chinese porcelain, which suggests that the town was home to many high-status individuals. The discovery is also unique because it was rare for Turks to build their own cities in areas they occupied, preferring instead to move in to existing settlements.

The research team is using historical references to try to track down the location of the tomb, which is said to be near a mosque, dervish cloister, military barracks and an inn for pilgrims making the journey to the resting place of Suleiman’s heart.

"We are closer and closer to the tomb," Pap said. However, the search is complicated by the fact that the area to be explored is covered by vineyards and orchards, and belongs to around 12 different owners.

Pap concludes that the search is not only about Suleiman’s heart but about “reconstructing each layer of the history and geography of the past 400 years – we have already discovered a lot,” he said.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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