Dec 12, 2017

Hürrem Sultan or Roxelana, Empress of the East


Episode 340


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In this episode, we explore the life and times of Roxelana, also known as Hürrem Sultan, a slave girl who became chief consort and then legal wife of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I (r. 1520-1566). We trace Roxelana's probable beginnings and the possible paths that took her to Istanbul, asking how she rose above her peers in the Old Palace to become a favored concubine and then the wife of the Sultan. We explore her relationship to other women at the Ottoman court, the politics of her motherhood and philanthropy, and her role in Ottoman diplomacy. In the end, Roxelana's work, her relationship with Suleiman, and the unusual nuclear family they created despite the otherwise polygynous patterns of reproduction at the Ottoman court would transform the rules of Ottoman succession, the role of Ottoman royal women, and the future of the Empire as a whole. The life story of this one remarkable woman sheds light on many facets of the history of the Ottoman Empire, showing how a single individual's story can serve as a lynchpin for grasping the complexities of an age.