Ottoman empire sultanate of womenThe Sultanate of women was a period in the Ottoman empire where the females that were close to the Sultan had a profound influence on the political endeavors of the nation.

During that time, the women mingled with the country’s affairs for better or for worse.

In this article, we bring you a detailed account of the women of the Ottoman Empire and how they dominated the Ottoman leadership.

Ottoman Empire Sultanate of Women

The Ottoman Empire was a dynamic play of power between the sons of the original leaders. The world only came to know about the influence of women in the Ottoman Empire much later because the women stayed behind closed doors and were not allowed to roam around freely outside the palace walls.

– Sultanate of Women and Ottoman Politics

From the 16th to the 17th century, the women in Ottoman Empire played a significant role in influencing the political decisions of the time. This altered the course of the empire to a great extent. One way to look at this is that the Sultans were weak and depended on their females far too much. The female consorts took that to their advantage.

Most of these sinister games played by the Sultanate of women were not to harm the empire itself but because of the grudges they held against each other inside the harem.

Because the Sultan used to jump from one wife to another to his mistresses, the toxic cycle was endless. So the females decided to look for other ways to maintain their position inside the Harem and show off their importance to the Sultan.

Most of these women were also not originally from the empire. They were gifts from other nations or were slaves. This explains a lot about the ways of life inside the palaces. Even though the Ottomans started from being humble people, they transformed into something that no one had ever anticipated.

Important Women of the Ottoman Empire

In the Ottoman Empire, the influence of women grew with time. These women played an important role in shaping the nation from the 15th century. The question arises then why the King or the other members of the administration let the women control them. The reason is quite simple and intelligent.

These women were beautiful and portrayed themselves as the well-wishers of the men they secretly wanted to control. Another important reason for this was that the men were almost always at war, and behind their backs, the women were in charge and they could do as they pleased.

In this section is a list of women, Turkish and non-Turkish, that came to power inside the Harem during the Sultanate of Women period. Some of them came as slaves and some of them were born into royalty.

  1. Hurrem Sultan

Hurrem Sultan’s real name was Roxelana. She was born in 1505 in a small town in Ukraine and was smuggled inside the Ottoman Empire and then sold to the palace.

She started as a maid in the Harem. One of her jobs was to please the king when he wanted.

Hurrem sultan hamamThe Sultan fell in love with Roxlena and changed her name to Hurrem. Before Hurrem, the Sultans rarely married anyone. They ket mistresses that bore children for them, but Hurrem was the first maid from the Harem who was legally married to the Sultan of that time, Suleiman I.

Suleiman’s mother did not approve of this marriage, and this was where the troubles began.

Nevertheless, Hurrem kept her ground and survived inside the palace. She bore many children to the King, namely Sehzade Mehmed, Mihrimah Sultan, Sehzade Abdullah, Selim II, Sehzade Bayezid and Sehzade Cihangir. Hurrem Sultan died in 1558 after a successful time in the Ottoman Empire.

  1. Mihrimah Sultan

Mihrimah Sultan was born in 1522. She was the only daughter of Hurrem Sultan and Suleiman I, so she was born into royalty. She was married to the Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha in the court of Sultan Suleiman I.

Like her mother, she was also very intelligent and smart and also being the only daughter, she enjoyed the most attention. Her husband was the vizier and was in charge of many important tasks.

Rustem manipulated Mihrimah and the pair created chaos in the palace because Rustem wanted more power. Hurrem brought Mihrimah to her senses and the matter was peacefully resolved. Mihrimah died in 1578.

  1. Nurbanu Sultan

Nurbanu Sultan was the wife of Selim II, the son of Hurrema and Suleiman I. She was born in 1525 and originally was from Greece. The reason for her entrance inside the Harem is unknown, but it is believed that she was presented to Selim II as a gift of goodwill from the Greek lords.

Selim II married her and the pair had four children: Murad III, Ismihan Sultan, Sah Sultan and Gevherhan Sultan. She died in 1583.

  1. Safiye Sultan

Safiye Sultan is known as one of the cruelest women in the Sultanate of women of the Ottoman Empire. She was born in 1550 in Albania and was married to Murad III. She gave birth to Mehmed III, Sehzade Mahmud, Ayse Sultan and Fatma Sultan. She died in 1619.

  1. Handan Sultan

Handan Sultan was of Bosnian descent and was married to Mehmed III. She was a prominent figure in the Sultanate of women and died in 1605.

  1. Halime Sultan

Halime Sultan was born in 1571 and came to the Ottoman Empire as a slave. She was of Georgian descent. In her lifetime, she became the wife of Sultan Mehmed III, the regent to the future Sultan, and lived a long enough life to see her grandson become the Sultan. She played the role of a co-ruler of the empire when the Sultan was ill.

  1. Kosem Sultan

Kosem Sultan is one of the most well-known Ottoman queens of the empire. She was also known as the most beautiful one.

She was born in Greece, and Sultan Ahmed I saw the painting of Kosem, known as Anastasia at that time. Ahmed reportedly looked at that painting every night before going to sleep.

His mother, Valide Sultan, saw how her son was becoming infatuated with the girl in the painting. She found the girl and bought her from her parents. Kosem lived in the palace for a long time and bore many children. Her children included: Sehzade Mehmed, Murad IV, Sehzade Kasım, Ibrahim, Ayse Sultan, Fatma Sultan, Gevherhan Sultan and Hanzade Sultan.

Kosem died long after Ahmed I did. She was assassinated in her own room in 1651 because she was close to becoming the female sultan of Ottoman Empire.

Sultanate of Women and Turkish Media

The Turkish media has produced many award-winning shows on the Queens of the Sultanate of women of the Ottoman Empire. These shows have become very famous and people from all around the world watch them with full enthusiasm.


To fully understand the role of women in the Ottoman empire, we must see how they influenced the beginning of the empire.

– Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire started when a couple of Seljuk tribes in Anatolia united under the banner of their religion Islam. These tribes consisted of warriors who were simple living people. They lived inside tents and ate what they caught that day. When the tribes started coming together, an empire was formed and they started gaining control over their land from the crusaders.

The empire started in the 13th century and rose to the peaks of power in the 16th century. The fall of this empire is an example of bad decisions made by those sitting in power as the Ottoman Empire was once the most powerful empire in the world. They made some strong allies and rose up in the world of economy.

They took over the Silk Route and became the leading empire of the world. However, what started from humble beginnings soon became something sinister and power-hungry. The Ottomans built palaces and their dynasties began. One could say that among many reasons for the fall of the Ottoman Empire was the over-indulgence of the Sultans of the time.

– Slave Women of the Ottoman Empire

Slavery was an important trade in the Ottoman Empire. As the empire was at an important position on the world map, it connected the East with the West.

With the rising popularity of the empire and also its increasing economy, there was a rise in the need for slaves. The slave merchants came to the empire from all over the world, and men, women and children of all sorts and kinds were put on sale.

This was a gruesome practice of the era and it was all legal. Among them, women slaves from different parts of the world were the most in demand. The royal palaces were a hub of such exotic slaves. They catered to the royal family in whatever they pleased, and history shows that such women became slaves, maids, wives and mothers to the Sultans.

The story of the slaves that rose to be the queens and princesses in the palace is as interesting as it could get. The life histories of such women were dramatic and full of emotions of love and revenge.

– Harem of the Ottoman Empire

In the Ottoman Empire, the royalties lived inside palaces. These palaces were huge and covered a lot of land.

Inside the gates of the palaces, there were many different compounds and complexes, with each compound and complex used for a specific purpose. One such complex was called the Harem, which was built exceptionally like the rest of the palace.

The Harem was the living quarters for all the women involved in the Sultan’s life, specifically the sultan group of wives. From his mother and his wives to extra-marital indulgences, aunts, sisters and daughters, the list of women who were housed in the Harem is endless.

In addition to the relatives of the Sultan, each and every female slave and maid lived inside the closed doors of the Harem. The future kings used to grow up and stay inside the Harem until a certain age.

Every foreign female that came to visit the king for whatever purpose also lived here. Safe to say that the Harem was one of the most secretive places in the empire, and also the most troublesome.

The inside of the Harem was equipped with everything that they could ever need. The only men allowed to go in there were the Sultan and his immediate male family, some important personnel of the court, and male servants who were eunuchs.


Sultanate of womenThe women of the Ottoman Empire were surely very headstrong and vigilant. They altered the course of the history of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Sultanate of women was a period of extreme influence of women over the politics of the Ottoman Empire.
  • The women lived inside the Harem, which was a complex inside the grand palace.
  • The women who rose to become queens and princesses inside the palace were not necessarily of original royal descent.
  • Some of the women came as gifts and slaves from various countries like Ukraine and Greece.
  • The Sultanate of women period lasted from 1533 to 1656.

These women have left their legacy on the history of the world and will always be remembered.