Roxolana: From Slave to Legend


Library of Congress Fellowships in International Studies




This project examines the fate and legend of a sixteenth-century Ukrainian woman known in the West as "Roxolana" and in Turkey as "Hurrem Sultan." Sold into the Ottoman sultan's harem as a slave and concubine, she quickly reached the pinnacle of power in the Ottoman Empire--the beloved wife and close advisor of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Roxolana's dramatic life and tremendous impact on Suleiman have excited the imagination of historians and fiction writers for centuries; she has become a legend and the site of various cultural fantasies. This project traces the origins of the Roxolana legend and examines various representations of her figure in history and literature, focusing on the disparities among three varieties of cultural responses: Ottoman, Western European, and Eastern European.