HAREM, AND THE OTTOMAN WOMEN
Harem Women and Politics
The excessive interference of the harem women in state politics
was instru- mental in the decline and fall of the empire. Ironically
, such meddling began during the reign of Suleyman the Magnifıcent,
the most powerful period in the empire's history (l520-66). It was
then that the women moved with Roxalena from the Old Palace, built
by Mehmed the Conqueror, to the Seraglio harem ( l 541 ) , and approached
the seat of power .This marked the beginning of the Sultanate, of
the Reİgn of Women, which lasted a century and a half, until the
end of the struggle between Kösem and Turhan sultanas (1687).
After Suleyman's death, the sultans no longer led their armies
in campaign or in battle, retiring instead to the womb of the harem.
They detached themselves from world affairs and spent most of their
time in the company of women. This royal seclusion greatly diminished
their ability to govern, and in varying degrees, sultanas began
wielding influence over state officials, with bribery and patronage
supplanting promotion on the basis of merit. A succession of child
sultans and mentally deranged ones after Mehmed III's death in 1603
made women the power behind the throne.