Historically, it is not common for a slave to become an empowered ruler, much less a female slave. But, that is what happened with Roxelena, who became one of the most powerful and influential women in Ottoman history. What is common is when a person does rise to power in any empire or kingdom, it is often fraught with controversy. This, too, holds true for Roxelena, as she influenced and changed the fate of women of the Ottoman empire’s harems and beyond.
In 2009, my father and I took a tour of some of the cities surrounding the Black Sea. In Istanbul, we visited Suleiman’s palace and took a tour of the rooms of his royal harem. It was then I first learned of Roxelena, an unlikely empowered woman—a slave girl–who came to incredible power in a land and at a time where women had no power at all.
Roxelena’s birth name is unknown, but some historians claim her birth name to be Aleksandra Lisovska, and she might have been born to an Orthodox priest and his wife, in 1502-1505. Her family lived in the town of Rohatyn, part of the Polish Kingdom, now known as western Ukraine.
In the early 1520’s, Crimean Tatars raided young Aleksandra’s town and kidnapped her, as they often did with Christian girls. They took her to Istanbul to sell her into the slave trade. Hasfa Sultan, wife of Salim I, and mother of Suleiman the Magnificent, purchased Aleksandra for her son’s growing harem. Aleksandra had to forsake her Christian religion and to convert to Islam. She was educated in the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages, and schooled in the art of lovemaking.
Come back tomorrow to hear about Roxelena’s new life in the Harem of Suleiman.
In the meantime, have you had a chance to pick up my latest release, Bones of the Redeemed?
New Mexico, 1950. Archaeology grad student Ruby Delgado is plagued by guilt after losing her son. So when her latest excavation drops her down a sinkhole filled with suspiciously mutilated bodies, she’s driven to bring the murderer to justice. But when digging deeper brings her dangerously close to a sinister religious sect, she could be their next sacrifice…
Discovering the victims were crucified, Ruby pushes hard to give the evidence to the authorities. But when her trail crosses the path of a beaten man left for dead in the desert, she realizes she may be the only person who can save the community.
Can Ruby stop the sacrifices and slay her inner demons, or will hers be the next body laid to rest?
You can find Bones of the Redeemed on Amazon.