Harem in the Ottoman Empire

The image of a harem conjures visions of opulent surroundings filled with beautiful, sensuous women whose sole duty was to entertain an aging yet still lustful sheik or sultan. This image may have been based on the imperial harems of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of the Ottoman Empire. In this period of history, harems played an important role in the governing of the Ottoman Empire. This most renown period was known as the Reign of Women, the Kadinlar Sultanati. The involvement of the harem women, and more specifically, the Valide Sultan (Sultan's Mother or Queen Mother) and the Sultan's favourites (favoured harem women), in state politics, diminished the power and position of the Sultan. As the Sultan was the head of the government (or Divan), this interference proved to be detrimental to the Ottoman state.