18 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS.
MOSQUE OF SULTAN ACHMET.
The monarch who erected this mosque, ascended the throne in the year 1603, and
at the age of fifteen. He was immediately afterwards seized with the small-pox, and, in
order that the janissaries might not avail themselves of his illness, he caused his own
brother to be strangled, having first put out his eyes. His object was to deprive the
turbulent soldiers of every pretext for dethroning him, as they were disposed to do,
when there existed no other of the line of Mohammed to succeed him. His next act
was to build a mosque, as fratricide is no impediment to Turkish piety ; and it is remarkable, that in this mosque, two centuries afterwards, was the utter extirpation of these
He was determined that it should exceed in beauty that of Santa Sophia, or the
great Solimanie, so he ordered that it should be distinguished by six minarets. When
this design was communicated to the Mufti, he represented to the Sultan the impiety of
such an act, as the mosque of the Prophet at Mecca had but four, and no sacred edifice
since built had presumed to exceed that number. Achmet assured the Mufti that he
must be mistaken, and immediately summoned a Hadgee, who had just made the pilgrimage to Mecca, into his presence, who affirmed that he had himself seen and reckoned
the six minarets; and, to satisfy entirely the Mufti's scruples, a caravan of pilgrims were
directed to proceed to the tomb and temple of the Prophet, and make their report.
Meantime the Sultan despatched a Tatar, who was to travel night and day, with orders
to the Sheik Islam, that two new minarets should be immediately added to the temple;
and when the slow caravan arrived, they found the number to be what the Sultan had
stated—and reported accordingly. Achmet now pushed on his building with indefatigable activity, and in order to expedite it, he worked at it himself with his own hands,
devoting one hour every Friday after prayers to the employment, and then paid his
fellow-workmen, every man his wages, in order by his personal example to stimulate
The site he selected was the most admirable and commanding which the city afforded.
It forms one side of the Atmeidan, and is separated only by an open screen from this
extensive area, one of the few open spaces within the walls of Constantinople. From
this it is seen to great advantage on one side; while on the other, towering over the
gardens of the Seraglio, and surmounting the lofty hill on which it stands, it is the most
conspicuous object presented to a stranger approaching from the Sea of Marmora, and
gives the first and most favourable view of those imperial edifices. The materials selected
were of the most costly kind, in so much, that it is affirmed that every stone in the
edifice cost three aspers. It stands in an open space, which forms round it an extensive
ambulatory, from the latter of which the edifice arises, and is seen to more advantage than
any other in the city.