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And now for something totally different. This is a beautifully-produced documentary about the story of Hürrem, a concubine of Süleyman the Magnificent. The latter was the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who expanded its territory from the Balkans into Hungary, into the Middle East and North Africa. His fleets dominated the Mediterranean and Red Seas, he re-wrote the Empire’s laws and he presided over the golden era of the Empire during the peak of its economic, artistic, literary, architectural, military and political power in the 16th century.

Süleyman’s love affair with one of his concubines, Hürrem was unprecedented.  Hürrem, which means “the cheerful one” was the name she was given after her capture from her native Poland. The daughter of a Orthodox Christian priest, Hürrem was captured by Crimean Tatars in the 1520s and she was sold as a slave in Istanbul, where she was selected her for Süleyman’s harem.

In a complete break from Ottoman tradition, Süleyman married Hürrem and she became one of the most powerful and influential women in Ottoman history and the mother of six of his children, including the succeeding Sultan.

Here is one of his besotted poems to her, while he was out on one of his numerous military campaigns:

Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
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 room …
My Istanbul, my karaman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of misery …
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.

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Alexandra Bruce

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  • It’s more “objectionable” to castrate a male than to imprison females as sex slaves and god knows what else? Right. That male historian’s perspective is horrific on all counts. While admitting it’s a bad thing, there is an underlying, unspoken agreement among the historians herein that physical comforts trump slavery and isn’t that nice for all the enslaved? Like most world history it’s too awful for words. Loveless, compassionless, murderous self-appointed elites clamor for power and control through any means possible and nothing is off the table–even the murder of your own son. This path leads every inhumane culture that has existed and there are so, so many. It’s the history of this world, even today.

    Elizabeth was no different nor were any of the monarchs anywhere on the planet. Historians perpetuate the idea that they were “great leaders”. NO. They were barbarous imprisoners who rode humanity and feed on its blood, then and now. I find this dressed-up history abominable and difficult to watch.

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