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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 Sultans Mother or Queen Mother and the Sultans 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 Historical Background The harem was defined to be the womens quarter in a Muslim household The Imperial harem also known as the Seraglio harem contained the combined households of the Valide Sultan Queen Mother the Sultans favourites hasekis and the rest of his concubines women whose main function was to entertain the Sultan in the bedchamber It also contained all the Sultanas daughters of the Sultan households Many of the harem women would never see the Sultan and became the servants necessary for the daily functioning of the harem The reasons for harem existence can be seen from Ottoman cultural history Ottoman tradition relied on slave concubinage along with legal marriage for reproduction Slave concubinage was the taking of slave women for sexual reproduction It served to emphasize the patriarchal nature of power power being hereditary through sons only Slave concubines unlike wives had no recognized lineage Wives were feared to have vested interests in their own familys affairs which would interfere with their loyalty to their husband hence concubines were preferred if one could afford them This led
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