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Death in the hippodrome: sexual politics and legal culture in the reign of Mehmet IV

Baer, Marc David (2011) Death in the hippodrome: sexual politics and legal culture in the reign of Mehmet IV. Past and Present, 210 (1). pp. 61-91. ISSN 0031-2746

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Identification Number: 10.1093/pastj/gtq062


At noon on Friday, 28 June 1680, people crowded into Istanbul’s Hippodrome, the city’s main public space, to stone to death a Muslim woman identified as ‘the wife of Abdullah Çelebi’ for adultery with an infidel, and to witness the beheading of the Jew who was alleged to be her lover, a neighbourhood shopkeeper.1 Neighbours who had raided her home when they knew that the Jew was inside claimed to have found the couple having intercourse, which was doubly illicit: not only was she married, but sexual relations between Christian or Jewish men and Muslim women were forbidden by law.2 The accused denied any wrongdoing, but a mob dragged the two before the chief justice of the empire’s European provinces (known as Rumelia), Beyazizade Ahmet (d. 1686), who had previously been the main judge at Istanbul’s Islamic law (shariah) court.3 Beyazizade accepted the testimony of the witnesses. Denying the accused a trial, he condemned the pair to death. Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha (d. 1683) reported his decision to Sultan Mehmet IV (r. 1648–87, d. 1693), who confirmed the sentence. The sultan attended the double execution in person and offered the man conversion to Islam, permitting him to die swiftly and with dignity by decapitation. Mehmet IV was the only sultan to order an adulteress to be executed by stoning during 465 years of Ottoman rule in Istanbul. Indeed, public stoning of adulterers was such a rare event in medieval and early modern Islamic history that it is difficult to find any other examples of Islamic rulers punishing transgressors of sexual norms in this way.4 Why did Mehmet IV do this?

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 Oxford University Press
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DD Germany
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 10:01
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:21

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