9th Grade New York


This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century by examining the esteemed leader Suleiman the Magnificent. By investigating the compelling question “How ‘magnificent’ was Suleiman?” students are asked to evaluate the positive and negative impacts Suleiman had on the region. The formative performance tasks are designed to build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry and should help students recognize the often simplistic nature of historical labels in understanding complex figures. Students ultimately create an argument supported by evidence as to the appropriateness of the label “magnificent” after considering the ways in which Suleiman conquered territories, the bureaucratic systems that he continued and/or altered, and the dual nature of his desire to spread Islam while also allowing religious autonomy.


Compelling Question:

How “Magnificent” Was Suleiman?

Staging the Question:

Students read an excerpt from the National Geographic (2014) article “After 450 Years, Archaeologists Still Hunting for Magnificent Sultan’s Heart.” Discuss what reasons might explain the fascination with finding Suleiman’s remains.

Supporting Question How was Suleiman characterized during his reign?

Formative Task List reasons why Suleiman would be perceived as “magnificent.”

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Inscription on Moldavian fortress (1538)
Source B: Excerpt from Suleyman the Magnificent and His Age
Source C: Excerpt from Lords of the Horizons
Source D: Painting of Suleiman (c. 1530)


Supporting Question How did Suleiman expand the Ottoman Empire?

Formative Task Write a paragraph describing how Suleiman was able to conquer territories and expand the Ottoman Empire.

Sources Source A: Map of Ottoman expansion, 1300–1683
Source B: Excerpt from “The Ottomans in Europe”
Source C: Excerpt from “Siege of the Moles”


Supporting Question What changes did Suleiman make to the governance of the Ottoman Empire?

Formative Task Write a summary of the laws and reforms passed by Suleiman to stabilize his control of the Ottoman Empire.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire
Source B: Excerpt from The Turkish Letters (c. 1555–1562)


Supporting Question To what extent did Suleiman promote tolerance in the Ottoman Empire?

Formative Task Develop a claim with evidence about the extent to which religious and ethnic tolerance was promoted during Suleiman’s reign.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Owning the Earth
Source B: Map of religious divisions in Europe (c. 1555)
Source C: Excerpt from On the Ottoman Empire

Summative Performance Task

Argument: How “magnificent” was Suleiman? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Research the recent debate concerning the depiction of Suleiman in the Turkish soap opera The Magnificent Century. Have a class discussion on how Suleiman’s story should be told.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Research the relationship between church and state in modern-day Turkey.
Assess: Weigh the arguments for and against Turkish membership in the European Union.
Act: Create a class position statement on the issue and email or mail it to the European Commission.