Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire by Leslie Peirce
Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire – The extraordinary story of the Russian slave girl Roxelana, who rose from concubine to become the only queen of the Ottoman empire
In Empress of the East, historian Leslie Peirce tells the remarkable story of a Christian slave girl, Roxelana, who was abducted by slave traders from her Ruthenian homeland and brought to the harem of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in Istanbul. Suleyman became besotted with her and foreswore all other concubines. Then, in an unprecedented step, he freed her and married her. The bold and canny Roxelana soon became a shrewd diplomat and philanthropist, who helped Suleyman keep pace with a changing world in which women, from Isabella of Hungary to Catherine de Medici, increasingly held the reins of power.
Until now Roxelana has been seen as a seductress who brought ruin to the empire, but in Empress of the East, Peirce reveals the true history of an elusive figure who transformed the Ottoman harem into an institution of imperial rule.
“Leslie Peirce, one of the world’s foremost historians of the Ottoman empire, has created a brilliant, absorbing, and profoundly insightful account of one of the most enigmatically interesting figures of the sixteenth century: Roxelana, the captive slave who ultimately reigned alongside Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Peirce is rightly celebrated for her expertise on the fascinating subject of the Ottoman harem, and there is no one better qualified to help us understand how Roxelana emerged from the sultan’s harem to become one of the most powerful political figures of her times. This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in understanding the deep history of Turkey, the Ottoman empire, and the Muslim Middle East.”
-Larry Wolff, author of The Singing Turk
“A riveting story of power, patronage and harem politics in sixteenth century Istanbul. Roxelana, the slave who became a sultana, deserves to figure at least as prominently in the annals of women’s history as her famous European contemporaries.”
-Sarah Gristwood, author of Game of Queens
“Leslie Peirce is uniquely qualified to tell the story of one of the greatest royal love affairs in world history. In her earlier, ground-breaking book, Peirce demystified the Ottoman harem. In Empress of the East, she demonstrates the same careful attention to primary sources, refusing to romanticise what we cannot know. Reality is far more compelling. This page-turning narrative of an Ottoman sultan’s passion draws us deeply into the household of a couple that broke all the rules. Peirce sets S?leyman and Roxelana’s intimate lives within the context of the times, to show how the personal was inescapably political. Roxelana has at last found the biographer she deserves.”
-Caroline Finkel, author of Osman’s Dream
“A brilliant book that restores one of the most fascinating women in Islamic history to prominence. Leslie Pierce, the foremost authority on the Ottoman imperial harem, has done her subject justice in this exquisitely crafted biography.”
-Eugene Rogan, author of The Fall of the Ottomans
Leslie Peirce is Silver Professor of History, Middle Eastern, and Islamic Studies at New York University. The award-winning author of two previous books, Peirce lives in New York City.
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