The Jewelled Gun of Sultan Mahmud I

Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I came to power mostly by good luck. His predecessor was deposed in a Janissary revolt and Mahmud became a figurehead until the leaders of the revolt became unpopular and a year later they, and 7,000 of their followers were executed. That left Mahmud to reign as he wanted.

And he wanted to write poetry. Affairs of state were handled by his chief ministers. They were involved in a European war, but their best work was done while the Persian emperor, Nader Shah, was distracted in Mughal India. He looted the Koh-i-nur, many other famous diamonds and a vast fortune from India. But it’s not easy to fight on two fronts. In fact, the destruction he brought to India caused the Mughals to ally with the Ottomans for a long time afterwards.

But Mahmud never went on campaign himself, which makes this gun even more symbolic than it already is. We’re so lucky these days to be able to view such a precious object. Notice how the curator handles the moving parts.

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