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Because of Magnificent Century, I've been reading Leslie Pierce's The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, (it can be found on LibGen) and it is fascinating. The reality of the situation in the 14th and 15th centuries, at least, is so far from how Western royalty has historically worked, and also from the romanticized/sexualized Western ideas of harem life. (Right from the get-go - the harem was just the women's quarters, and then eventually the sultan's household, not a stable of nubile girls. And most of the women in it were doing administrative work.)

One of the most interesting things (to me) is that it became an almost legalized tradition during that period for the sultan to never sleep with his legal wife/wives, and only father children with concubines, who were all(?) slaves taken from outside of Ottoman lands. Children essentially derived all of their status from the fathers, without being "tarnished" by their mothers' low status or ethnicity. Since all of the sons were expected to compete for the throne, it wasn't seen as fair for some to have the advantage of powerful relatives and others not. And concubines were restricted to having one son, as mothers essentially became heads of their sons' households, and it would again create an unbalanced situation if the mother went with one son and the other was left out in the cold.

Original post: http://chocolatepot.dreamwidth.org/935421.html - comment wherever you please.

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