Ahmed Köprülü

Ahmed Köprülü (1635-1676), in full Köprülüzade Fazil Ahmed Pasha, was a Turkish statesman and general under whose direction the Ottoman Empire enjoyed a last burst of dynamism and military expansion, before the slow decline and the Turkish retreat through the Balkans.

Ahmed Köprülü was born at Vezir Köprü in northern Anatolia. His father, Mehmed Köprülü, was probably of Albanian descent. He had risen from humble origins to become grand vizier in 1656 and, during his tenure of office, had renewed the war against the Venetians in the Aegean Sea and against Christian and Moslem enemies alike in central Europe and the Islamic lands.

Ahmed succeeded his dead father as vizier in 1661 at the age of 26 and, until his own death, remained in that office for the almost unprecedented period of 15 years, inheriting his father's competence in both civil and military fields. In the domestic sphere, he took stern measures against internal dissidents such as the Jewish messianic leader Sabbatai Levi, and his successful financial policies provided the necessary basis for his military campaignings.

Ottoman Conquests

In 1663 Köprülü led an army through Hungary, and his scouts raided into Austria; and although the Turkish forces were defeated in 1664 at St. Gotthard-am-Raab by the imperial general Montecuccoli, the 20 years' truce in Hungary which followed was not unfavorable to the Ottomans. The conquest of Crete from the Venetians was resumed in 1667, and with the capture of Candia in 1669, virtually all the island became Turkish. Much of Köprülü's subsequent attention was devoted to warfare against the Poles in Podolia, Galicia, and the western Ukraine after the hetman, or chief, of the Zaporozhe Cossacks in 1672 had acknowledged Ottoman authority and appealed for help against Poland.

Kamieniec Podolsk and Lwów (Lemburg) were captured, and despite the defeat of Chotin in 1673 at the hands of John Sobieski, the Turks resumed the offensive and in 1676 controlled Podolia and the western Ukraine. At this point, on his way back to the Sultan's camp, Köprülü died near Edirne (Adrianople) on Oct. 30, 1676, his premature death hastened by debauchery and heavy drinking.

Köprülü was a remarkably cultured man, the patron of scholars, and the founder of a library which still exists in Istanbul. European contemporaries unanimously praised his judgment and vigor, and because of the Sultan's withdrawal into a life of pleasure, Köprülü was the real ruler of the empire. Other members of the Köprülü family held high office in the Ottoman navy and administration, and Köprülü's younger brother, Mustafa, was grand vizier from 1689 to 1691, but after Ahmed's death, the Ottoman position in the Balkans and South Russia deteriorated rapidly under less capable successors.

Further Reading on Ahmed Köprülü

There is no book on Köprülü. He is discussed in A. N. Kurat, "The Ottoman Empire under Mehmed IV," in the New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 5 (1961), and in Paul Cole, The Ottoman Impact on Europe (1968).

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