HAREM, AND THE OTTOMAN WOMEN
1346, the marriage between Sultan Orhan and the Byzantine princess
Theodora was celebrated with incredible pomp and ceremony on the
Euro- pean shores of Constantinople, which did not yet belong to
the Ottomans. ürhan, camped on the Asian shore, sent a fieet of
thirty vessels and an escort of cavalry to retrieve his purple bride.
'' At a signal, Edward Gibbon wrote in The Dedine and Fall oj the
Roman Empire, ''the curtains were suddenly drawn, to disclose the
bride, or the victim, encircled by kneeling eunuchs and hymeneal
torches; the sound of fiutes and trumpets proclaimed the joyful
event; and her pretended happiness was the theme of the nuptial
song, which was chanted by such poets as the age could produce.
Without the rites of the church, Theodora was delivered to her barbarous
lord; but it had been stipulated that she could preserve her religion
in the harem of Bursa.
the early years of the Ottoman Empire, the sultans married daugh-
ters of Byzantine Emperors, Anatolian princes, and Balkan Kings.
These marriages were strictly diplomatic arrangements. After the
conquest of Con- stantinople, the royal harem became populated with
non- Turkish oda- lisques. This tradition continued until the fall
of the empire. Since these slave girls were his property , in accordance
with Islamic law , the suıtan was not required to marry any of them.
But, once in a while, a sultan-such as Süleyman the Magnificent-chose
to marry a special woman.
In contrast to the odalisques, a sultan's concubines were considered
his wives, kadinlar or kadinefnediler , the number varying from
four to eight. The first wife was called bash kadin (head woman),
followed by ikinci kadin (sec- ond), uchuncu (third), and on down.
If any one of the kadins died, the others below her moved up a rank,
but not before the chief black eunuch delivered the sultan's approval
for such a promotion.