Presenter Information

Madison A. DerendingerFollow

Presentation Type

Presentation

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Dr. Mehrdad Kia

Faculty Mentor’s Department

Central & Southwestern Asian Studies

Abstract

The Ottoman Empire had its roots as a Turkish frontier kingdom on the edges of Constantinople, the grand city of the East Roman Empire. Ottoman Sultans were warriors, or Gazi’s in Turkish and military conquests were a given. Sons of the Sultans were to be raised diligently by their mothers in faraway provinces, to be judged on his skill in statecraft. When Constantinople fell, the Sultans and their kingdom became centered around the city—subsequentially, the empire grew urbanized. Military expansions slowed after Suleiman I (1566) and the influence of the imperial harem grew. The leading player inside the imperial harem was the Valide Sultan, the Sultans mother. Her duty stayed the same, to raise future Sultans. But now that the center of Ottoman power was sedentarized in Istanbul, Valide Sultan’s took advantage of their proximity.

Failed military expansions and lack of worldly experience from the new Sultans, lead them to retreat further into their harems, away from their duties of kingship. With this vacuum of power, Valide Sultans, incrementally redefined their role of power, as women, in an Islamic empire. Through notable Valide Sultans of this period (1533-1687 AD), I will show how these women used both the Ottoman-Islamic matriarchal structure of childrearing and running the imperial harem, along with the patriarchal system of Sultanic domestic power to increase their position and political prestige within the empire.

Often, in the west, the Islamic veil is seen as a symbol of women’s subordination. The use of the Valide Sultan is not to exaggerate the limitation Islamic women face(d), but rather to show the nuance of power in both the public and private sphere. The Valide Sultan’s teach us the permeability of the patriarchal power structure within the Ottoman Empire.

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Humanities

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VALIDE SULTAN: The Power of the Ottoman Queen Mothers in the 16th and 17th Century

The Ottoman Empire had its roots as a Turkish frontier kingdom on the edges of Constantinople, the grand city of the East Roman Empire. Ottoman Sultans were warriors, or Gazi’s in Turkish and military conquests were a given. Sons of the Sultans were to be raised diligently by their mothers in faraway provinces, to be judged on his skill in statecraft. When Constantinople fell, the Sultans and their kingdom became centered around the city—subsequentially, the empire grew urbanized. Military expansions slowed after Suleiman I (1566) and the influence of the imperial harem grew. The leading player inside the imperial harem was the Valide Sultan, the Sultans mother. Her duty stayed the same, to raise future Sultans. But now that the center of Ottoman power was sedentarized in Istanbul, Valide Sultan’s took advantage of their proximity.

Failed military expansions and lack of worldly experience from the new Sultans, lead them to retreat further into their harems, away from their duties of kingship. With this vacuum of power, Valide Sultans, incrementally redefined their role of power, as women, in an Islamic empire. Through notable Valide Sultans of this period (1533-1687 AD), I will show how these women used both the Ottoman-Islamic matriarchal structure of childrearing and running the imperial harem, along with the patriarchal system of Sultanic domestic power to increase their position and political prestige within the empire.

Often, in the west, the Islamic veil is seen as a symbol of women’s subordination. The use of the Valide Sultan is not to exaggerate the limitation Islamic women face(d), but rather to show the nuance of power in both the public and private sphere. The Valide Sultan’s teach us the permeability of the patriarchal power structure within the Ottoman Empire.