Roxelana,from Slave for Sexual Purposes to Wife of the Ottoman Sultan:Her Life and Times

| July 24, 2011 | Comments (3)


Roxelana was a Ukranian woman who has become famous in history,but first a look at her nation.

Famous People of the Ukraine

Ukraine means borderland and has been the home of different nationalities:Jewish,Polish,Russian,Ukrainian.Here are the famous people born there:



Joseph Conrad(1857-1924)

Conrad is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English,though he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties (and then always with a marked Polish accent).His great novels are Lord Jim,Heart of Darkness and Nostromo(his masterpiece,set in an imaginary country in South America called Costaguana).


Sergei Prokofiev(1891-1953)

He was one of the major composers of the 20th century.He composed Romeo and Juliet,War and Peace,Peter and the Wolf.


Mikhail Bulgakov(1891-1940)

He wrote the greatest Russian novel of the 20th century,called The Master and Margarita.He independently created the literary technique called Magical Realism where the magical,supernatural takes place in ordinary life.In the novel we have the Devil in Moscow,a talking black cat who walks on his hind legs called Behemoth,a woman flying through Moscow,a dance with persons who are from hell,etc.There is a novel in the novel,with Jesus and Pontius Pilate as characters.Here is a Part 1 of a film based on the novel,in Russian with English subtitles:



That technique was also used by many writers in Latin America like Asturias(Guatemala),Carpentier(Cuba),Garcia Marquez(Colombia,whose 100 Years of Solitude uses magical realism and is the greatest work in Spanish after Don Quixote),Isabel Allende(Chile),etc.


Sholom Aleichem (1859 -1916)

That was the pen name of Solomon Rabinovich.He was the greatest writer in all Yiddish literature,a comic genius,like Mark Twain,Cervantes,Moliere.The musical Fiddler on the Roof is based on his stories about Tevye the Milkman.


Isaak Babel(1894-1940)

He wrote in Russian and his best works are of Red Cavalry and Tales of Odessa.He participated in the Russian Civil War on the Communist side.


Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

His real name was Leon Bronstein,was a Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army.He was designated by Lenin as his successor but declined because he knew the Russians would never accept a Jew as supreme ruler.He had saved the Russian Revolution during the Russian Civil War by organizing the Red Army.Without him Lenin would never have won.He was assasinated by Stalin.



Taras Shevchenko(1814-1861)

He was a poet and is the Father of Ukrainian literature.He was born a serf and was later freed.


Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)

He was one of the greatest of writers in Russian and is famous for his stories “The Nose” and “The Overcoat” and his historical novel about the Cossacks called Taras Bulba.His early work Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka was heavily influenced by Ukrainian culture and folklore.His also satirized political corruption in the Russian Empire with the play The Government Inspector and his masterpiece,the novel Dead Souls.It is believed he was buried alive,that it was thought he died,was buried and he later woke in his coffin under ground.

Sultan Suleiman/Solomon

We also have the case of Roxelana

There was a Ukranian woman which Ukranian tradition in the 19th century says her name was Anastasia and Polish tradition says her real name was Alexandra Lisowska(1506-1558) who became the wife of Suleiman,the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.In Turkish she was called Haseki Hurrem Sultan.But to the Europeans she was known as Roxelana which is similar to the common Slavic name of Ruslana.Till the 15th century it was common to call the people of Ukraine Roxolany or Roxelany which means “the Ruthenian one”.That is what Roxelana means,the Ruthenian.

She was the daughter of an Orthodox priest who was enslaved by Muslim Tatars and taken to Istanbul and sold as a sex-slave.That is what is said in late-16th-century and early-17th-century sources, such as the Polish poet Samuel Twardowski, who researched the subject in Turkey.She was born in the town of Rohatyn, 68 km southeast of Lvov(also called Lemberg),which is in Galicia,then part of Poland, today in western Ukraine. In the 1520s, she was captured by Crimean Tatars during one of their frequent raids into this region and taken as a slave, probably first to the Crimean city of Kaffa, a major centre of the slave trade, then to Istanbul, and was selected for Suleiman’s harem.

The Koran

Slavery in the Koran

It is approved,it is never condemned in principle.The Koran encourages freeing slaves but only if the master thinks the slave is worthy.Here are all the passages in the Koran about slavery:



Her Life in Istanbul,the Capital of the Ottoman Empire

She quickly came to the attention of Suleiman, and attracted the jealousy of her rivals. One day Suleiman’s favorite,called Gulbahar (“Spring Rose”) got into a catfight with her and beat her badly. Upset by this, Suleiman banished Gulbahar to a provincial town,together with her son, the heir apparent, Prince Mustafa.And Roxelana took her place.Many years later, because of a fear of rebellion,which may be due to Roxelana,the Sultan ordered Mustafa to be strangled.

Roxelana had 2 sons by Suleiman,one called Selim(who became the next Sultan) and another called Bayazid.The reason why many think Roxelana could be responsible for the death of Mustafa,the heir apparent,is that it was the custom of the new Sultan to kill his brothers,to prevent them from killing him.Roxelana,by killing Mustafa,would be protecting Selima and Bayazid.

The State of Affairs in the Ottoman Empire

The situation was the following:

1.There was the systematic enslavement of Christians who lived outside of the empire.

2.Inside the empire there was the devshirme system.

The Ottoman Empire at its height

Why did the Ottoman Sultans have the Devshirme System?

This is a system that lasted in essence for 300 years,from 1330-1630 and where:

1.Every year or every several years thousands of children were stolen from Christian parents,usually from ages 8-12.Those who would not submit and surrender the healthiest, the most handsome, and the most intelligent children were punished. Parents who refused were immediately put to death by hanging. During the time of the Ottoman empire at its height 33% of Europe was ruled by the Sultan.

2.The number of children stolen was at least 500,000,others put it at 1 million.

3.The children were forced to become Muslim.

4.The great majority became soldiers of the Sultan,the janissaries and they had to fight for him.

5.A very small number of the most intelligent were trained to become administrators,even viziers of the empire.

Read this article about the Devshirme System

It is by a Greek man called Anestos Canelides.He shows his bibliography at the end,so you can verify.


The Greatest Architect of the Ottoman Empire was a Christian forced to become a Muslim

The most famous of the devshirme group was Sinan (1490-1588),who was taken at a late age,21 years,and forced to become a Muslim and janissary.He was Greek,others,on more evidence,say he was Armenian,and he became the most famous architect in Ottoman history.

He is famous for 2 mosques,copied after the Hagia Sophia Church built by Justinian in Constantinople.They are the Suleiman Mosque in Istanbul and the Selim Mosque in Edirne.He was responsible for some 300 constructions all over the Empire under 3 sultans.

For 2 reasons:

1.The Turkish nobility was rich but with little civilization and was always trying to control,overthrow,rebel against,the Sultan.He could not depend on them,he feared them,he could not trust the aristocratic Turkish families.

2.But the Sultans needed soldiers and government officials.They did not get them from the Turkish nobility,whose members they did not trust,but from people who had no important family connections,who depended only on him.Because Turkish culture was very low the Sultan decided to steal children.

3.As further proof of the low moral level of Ottoman civilization,when a Sultan died the brothers would fight for succession.The brother who attained power would most of the time order his brothers to be killed,his own family.That did not happen in Europe.

Now for the Treatment of Christians outside the Empire

As I said before the Turks were enslaving them,in fact by the millions.It was done in 2 areas:

1.Slave-catchers who captured people in Eastern Europe,in lands not under Ottoman rule like Poland,Russia,northern Ukraine.It was done by the Muslim Tatars of the Crimea.The Crimea was part of the Ottoman Empire.According the historian Alan Fisher,who is a specialist regarding the subject,and who has written books like “The Russian Annexation of the Crimea, 1772-1783″(1970), “The Crimean Tatars”(1978), “Between Russians, Ottomans and Turks”(1998).

He says that while sources are incomplete,his conservative estimate is that the slave raids against the Christian populations of southern Poland and Muscovite Russia indicate that at least 3 million people-men, women, children were enslaved by the Muslim Tatars.

2.The king of Morocco and the pirates of Algiers(and Algeria was part of the Ottomn Empire) would capture Spaniards,Italians,Frenchmen,Portuguese and others every year,about 5,000 per year (90% of them men),to be sold as slaves.In 300 years 1 million Europeans were taken.Read about it in Robert Davies book “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800″(2004).Here are articles about his book:

The Enslavement by the Barbary Pirates,Subjects of the Sultan

They enslaved Christians of the Mediterranean with the approval of the Sultan.Their center was Algiers.90% of those enslaved were men and only 5% of those captured were ransomed or escaped.Three famous Europeans were slaves of the Muslims:

1.Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

With Leo Tolstoy of “War and Peace” he is considered to be the greatest novelist who has ever lived.He wrote the 1000 page Don Quixote,where Don Quixote,the nobleman on a horse,represents idealism and Sancho Panza,his illiterate peasant companion,who is on a donkey,represents realism.In 1571 Cervantes participated in the naval Battle of Lepanto where the Christians had an astonishing victory over the Ottoman Muslims.It was near Greece and 7,500 Christians died(Italians and Spaniards) and 20,000 Muslims were killed or captured,plus 10,000 Christians who were galley slaves of the Ottoman ships were freed.It was the biggest liberation of Christian slaves in all Ottoman history.

He was a slave of the Muslims for 5 years (1575-1580),from age 28-33 and tried to escape 4 times.He was ransomned on the day he was to be taken as a slave to Istanbul.

2.St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660)

He is a beloved French saint who helped the poor.He was captured in 1605 and converted his master to Christianity and they fled to France in 1607.

3.Antonio Veneziano (1543-1593)

He was a Sicilian poet,who wrote in the Sicilian dialect.He was a slave from 1575-1579 and shared a cell with Cervantes.They became friends and Cervantes wrote about him.

Read about the Myth of the Well-Treatment of Christians in the Ottoman Empire

The Sultanate lasted till 1922 and the Caliphate till 1924.In that time there was the Armenian genocide,the Assyria genocide(a Christian group),the Greek genocide(500,000 killed):


Slave and later Wife of the Greatest Ruler of the Ottoman Empire

Sultan Suleiman(1494-1566) is called the “Magnificent” in the West and ruled 46 years and under him the Ottoman Empire reached its height.He conquered the island of Rhodes(1522) and Hungary(1526),with the battle of Mohacs,where the king of Hungary was killed.But he failed to conquer Vienna(1529) and the island of Malta(1565).He was a poet who was very much in love with Roxelana.

In the West he is called the Magnificent and he was so magnificent that in 1529,after being defeated in Vienna,which he wanted to conquered,he took back with him 50,000 Christian girls and women he had captured as sex-slaves for the Muslim harems.

Suleiman killed 2 of his Sons and 4 of his Grandsons

He also killed his own son Mustafa in 1552,the heir to the throne,who all indicates would have been a brilliant ruler. The Austrian ambassador in Istanbul Busbecq wrote “Suleiman has among his children a son called Mustafa, marvellously well educated and prudent and of an age to rule, since he is 24 or 25 years old; may God never allow a Barbary of such strength to come near us”, going on to talk of Mustafa’s “remarkable natural gifts”.

Later he killed his son Bayezid and his four grandsons in 1561.Bayezid had fled to Persia and found refuge. Following diplomatic exchanges, the Sultan demanded from the Persian Safavid Shah that Bayezid be either extradited or executed. In return for large amounts of gold, the Shah allowed a Turkish executioner to strangle Bayezid and his four sons.Very magnificent indeed.

Roxelana’s tomb

Her Power over Suleiman

Her influence over the Sultan soon became legendary and gave him several children.He wrote tender love poems to her and in an astonishing break with tradition,she was freed and became his legal wife, making Suleiman the first Ottoman Emperor to have a wed wife since Orhan.His marriage to her,an ex-sex-slave, was considered so scandalous that not one of the Ottoman historians mentions it.We only know about from contemporary Europeans who lived in Istanbul at the time and wrote about the wedding.Whether she really loved him or just took advantage of the situation is unknown,I think the second option because the portrait of Suleiman shows a man who is not handsome at all and women do not fall in love with men who they have been forced to sleep with.

She even wrote to the new king of Poland Sigismund II, complimenting him for his accession to the throne in 1549.She also sent him embroidery done by her or under her orders.In all we have two letters that she sent to the Polish king.

A Love Poem by Suleiman for Roxelana

The source is here:

The Love Poem:

“Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan
The most beautiful among the beautiful...
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this world…
My Istanbul, my Caraman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshanmy Baghdad, my Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of mischief…
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.”


Roxelana’s Public Works

Aside from her political concerns, Hürrem engaged in several major works of public buildings, from Mecca to Jerusalem. Among her first foundations were a mosque, two Koranic schools, a fountain, and a women’s hospital near the women’s slave market (Avret Pazary) in Istanbul. She also commissioned a bath, the Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamamı, to serve the community of worshipers in the nearby Hagia Sophia. In Jerusalem she established in 1552 the Hasseki Sultan Imaret, a public soup kitchen to feed the poor and the needy.

After her Death

Hürrem died in 1558. She is buried in a domed mausoleum which is next to Suleiman’s,both in the Suleiman Mosque,built by Sinan,the greatest architect of all time in the Ottoman Empire..Believe it or not,there is even a statue in her honor in Rohatyn,Ukraine,where she was supposedly born.

A further word about the Koran and slavery

First of all the Koran never condemns slavery,not even implictly,and I repeat,not even by implication.

Secondly,it makes the freedom of the slave be conditional.I repeat,conditional,on the good opinion of the master.This is not the same thing as saying:”I condemn the idea of slavery itself.”

To verify the Koranic citations go to, which has:

1.Six translations by Muslims.

2.Four translations by non-Muslims.

3.The text in Arabic,with Latin letters.


Give Freedom to a Slave,but Only if he Merits it

Chapter 24:33:

“And let those who find not the means to marry be abstinent till God enriches them of His bounty.

1.Those your right hands own (Note:slaves) who seek emancipation,

2.Contract with them accordingly(Note:an emancipation agreement)

3.If you know some good in them(Note:if the slave deserves it)

 and give them of the wealth of God that He has given you. And constrain not your slave-girls to prostitution, if they desire to live in chastity, that you may seek the chance goods of the present life. Whosoever constrains them, surely God, after their being constrained, is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.”

It is also made implicit in this verse:

Chapter 8:70:

“O Prophet, say:

1.To the captives (Note:people made slaves in war) in your hands:

2.“If God knows of any good in your hearts(Note:if you deserve it)

He will give you better than what has been taken from you(Note:their freedom had been taken), and He will forgive you; surely God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.” ”

“You are taking the verses out of context”

They mean to say that there is something:

1.In the 23-year career of Muhammad and/or

2.In the Muslim traditions,

That limit the existence of slavery to Muhammad’s lifetime,the for Muhammad slavery was to be gradually abolished.That is not true.We know because after Muhammad died in 632 he was succeeded by:

a)Abu Bekr,his father-in-law (ruled 632-634)

b)Omar (one of Muhammad’s generals and friends)(ruled 634-644,assasinated)

c)Othman(another of Muhammad’s friends)(ruled 644-656,assasinated)

d)Ali,the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad,married to Fatima,Muhammad’s daughter( ruled from 656-661,and was later assasinated).

There is nothing in the documents about the friends and relatives of Muhammad that say they were for abolishing slavery,that it was only temporary,etc. The Koran-only Muslims can’t deny it.

To see a Portrait of Suleiman(with his gigantic turban) and Roxelana-Hurrem watch this Video

First the words are in Turkish and then in English

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