Sultans of the Harem

Ali Akyıldız


Women and Politics in the Ottoman Empire

This book is a product of years of research by Professor Ali Akyildiz, who is well-known for his meticulous and rigorous work, based on archival documents and literary primary sources. In the book, Akyildiz explores one of the most enigmatic yet least-known subjects in Ottoman studies: the Imperial Harem. He details the tightly guarded private lives of the Ottoman sultans with particular attention to the mothers of the sultans who were arguably the most powerful and authoritative figures within the walls of the harem. Differentiating itself from earlier works, Akyildiz paints the details of their daily lives by emphasizing their personal belongings and artifacts. The book also includes but is not limited to the following discussions:

  • What is the orientalist take on the Ottoman imperial harem?
  • In which sultan’s time did the institutions of mother sultan become significant?
  • When was the first Mother Sultan Parade held?
  • How did the the mothers of sultans intervene in state affairs?
  • Who was under their protection?
  • What were the limits on their power at the palace?
  • How were festivals and high holidays celebrated at the palace?
  • Were magic and fortune telling widely implemented at the palace?
  • Could they remarry?
  • How were their funerals held?
  • What kinds of charity organizations, waqfs, and buildings did they fund?
  • What changed in the harem during modernization?