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Princes Ahmed and Mustafa lived together in the Golden Cage. When Ahmed became sultan, he did not have the heart to murder his brother, but he did keep Mustafa in the Cage-with just a few women. He built a wall to block the entrance, leaving a small window through which food was passed to Mustafa, as well as alcohol and opium. Fourteen years later , this same wall was hammered down, and the utterly demented Mustafa was declared sultan.
His own years of isolation had created in Ahmed a void that çon(umed continual diversion. He took a different woman to bed each night, but he favored the Greek beauty Kösem, lavishing on her the finest jewels from his hoard. Kösem was fifteen years old when she became the favorite of fifteen- year-old Ahmed 1.

Ahmed ruled from 1603 to 1617, leaving Kösem a young widow. Mustafa was released from the Cage, to become sultan, while Kösem 's own sons, Murad, Beyazit, and Ibrahim, took his place there. After only a few months, the crazed Mustafa was dethroned by the eunuch corps, who did not favor him, and retumed to the Cage. Mustafa's son Osman succeded him, but the young sultan fell victim to the uprising of the janissaries and the sipahis (cavalry). Troops marched into the Seraglio and dragged the sultan to the common Y edikule (Seven Towers) prison. He was murdered, his ear cut off and presented to his mother as an affront. Although fratricide was common in the Ottoman Empire, this was the first act of regicide. Once again, mad Mustafa was dragged out of the Cage (1622) and en- throned. This time he ordered the execution ofKösem's sons. The eunuch corps-again-intervened and crowned Kösem's oldest son as Murad IV (1623-40). Thus Kösem attained her ambition of becoming valide sultana. But Murad's cruelty disturbed her. He passed a law prohibiting drinking and smoking throughout the empire, while he himself abused both habits. He ordered the execution of anyone else breaking this law .In a drunken stupor and accompanied by a mysterious dervish, Murad wandered the streets incognito, searching for victims. Corpses hung at every street corner. Kösem's youngest son, Ibrahim, was also deranged.

She set her hopes on handsome, astute, and brave Beyazit, who was highly skilled injousting. One day, Beyazit threw Murad off in a joust. Shortly thereafter, while campaigning in Persia, Beyazit was killed by order ofhis brother, an incident that later inspired Racine's tragedy Bejazit.It was debauchery that brought about Murad's demise. On his death- bed, he told his mother how much he disdained his brother Ibrahim, and how it would be better for the dynasty to end rather than continue with insane royal seed. He ordered Ibrahim's death, but Kösem intervened, and Ibrahim was ordered out of the Cage. He was too terrified to come out, convinced that his cruel brother was playing a trick to torment him. He refused to leave until Murad's corpse had been brought before him, and even then Kösem had to coax him out as if cajoling a frightened kitten with food. It was Ibrahim's reign (1640-48) that marked Kösem's real power as valide. With the help of the grand vizier, Mustafa Pasha, the empire was hers to rule. Feeble Ibrahim, entirely absorbed in the joys of the harem, was being devoured by lust and debauchery. The French called him ''Le Fou de' Fourrures'' because ofhis obsession with furs; he wanted to touch, feel, and see furs everywhere in the harem. He searched the empire for its fattest woman. She was an Armenian, with whom he became madly infatuated, declaring her the Govemor General of Damascus. Favored ladies were al- lowed to take what they pleased from the bazaars. He made his sisters serve the odalisques and presented his odalisques with the wealthiest imperiaı estates. In a night of madness, he had his entire harem put in sacks and drowned.

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