Photo of the theatre of ancient Halicarnassus (4th century BC). Image Credit: Carole Raddato.

Sitting at the Eurasian crossroads, the regions that now compose modern day Turkey have been ruled over by the Hattians, Mycenean Greeks, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans during the las two and a half millennia. Its location made it a hub of cultural and religious exchange. The centrality of Turkey’s position amongst empires meant cities such as Constantinople were significant seats of powers for its rulers.

The Ottoman Empire, established in 1299, dominated much of Western Asia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe from the thirteenth to the twentieth century. Originating in Anatolia, it underwent significant expansion during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, reaching its peak under Suleiman the Magnificent. The empire continued to prosper after Suleiman’s rule, though it lagged behind the Habsburg and Russian empires in the later early modern period. Through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Ottomans experienced a series of territorial defeats and underwent a process of reform, which although granting it more power, did not enable them to regain the lost lands. By 1908 the monarchy had been constitutionalised, however after a series of further political conflicts and imperial defeat after World War I, the Turkish War of Independence saw the Republic of Turkey emerge, which in turn abolished the Ottoman monarchy.

Throughout its history, the Ottoman Emperors ruled alongside a series of successful female consorts. You can find out about some of these rulers and their predecessors below!


Roxburgh, David J. ed. Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600-1600. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005

Akşit, İlhan. The Mystery of the Ottoman Harem. Akşit Kültür Turizm Yayınları, 2000

Davison, Roderic H. Essays in Ottoman and Turkish History, 1774-1923: The Impact of the West. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013

Ergin, Nina. “Ottoman Royal Women’s Spaces: The Acoustic Dimension.” Journal of Women’s History 26.1 (2014): 89-111

Pierce, Leslie P. “Shifting Boundaries: Images of Ottoman Royal Women in the 16th and 17th Centuries.” Critical Matrix: Princeton Working Papers in Women’s Studies 4.2 (1988)

Pierce, Leslie P. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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