Ahmed I succeeded his father Mehmed III (1595–1603) in 1603 at age 13. He broke with the traditional fratricide and sent his brother Mustafa to live at the old palace at Bayezit along with their grandmother Safiye Sultan. He was known for his skills in fencing, horseback riding, and fluency in numerous languages.
In the earlier part of his reign Ahmed I showed decision and vigor, which were belied by his subsequent conduct. The wars which attended his accession both in Hungary and in Persia terminated unfavourably for the empire, and its prestige received its first check in the Treaty of Zsitvatorok, signed in 1606, whereby the annual tribute paid by Austria was abolished. Georgia and Azerbaijan were ceded to Persia.
Ahmed was a poet who wrote a number of political and lyrical works under the name Bahti. He was devoutly religious, spending much of his wealth to support the works of scholars and pious men. He also attempted to enforce conformance to Islamic laws and traditions, restoring the old regulations that prohibited alcohol and he attempted to enforce attendance at the Friday Mosque prayers and paying alms to the poor in the proper way. Ahmed I died of typhus in 1617.
Today Ahmed I is remembered mainly for the construction of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture. The area in Istanbul around the Mosque is today called Sultanahmet. He is buried in a mausoleum right outside the walls of the famous mosque.