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Original scientific paper

Per favore della Soltana: Powerful Ottoman Women and Ragusan Diplomats

Vesna Miović orcid id ; Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU u Dubrovniku, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska

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page 147-197

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The specific relationship between Ragusans and Suleyman’s daughter Mihrimah ought to be viewed through the prism of their contacts with Rustempasha, Mihrimah’s husband. It appears likely that pasha was a Croat from Skradin, and he tended to look upon the Ragusans as his fellow-countrymen, as done by the Ottoman dignitaries of Bosnian roots, such as Hersekzade Ahmed Pasha, Sokollu Mehmed Pasha and Dervish Pasha. Ragusans addressed him as “a kin by blood, of the same mother tongue”. This might explain a most lively trade exchange of textiles for grain between the pasha and Ragusans at a rate never witnessed in the past or later. When Rustem-pasha died in 1561, the Ragusans were not considering further dealings with his widow Mihrimah, since they obviously saw little benefit in it. However, as soon as she proved that she was able to secure a supply of grain, they changed their mind. The fact that the Ragusans became fully aware of Mihrimah’s power may be gathered from their clearly stated wish for her to accept the role of Ragusan protector at such an exceptionally unfavourable moment in the Ottoman-Ragusan relations (1566). Soon after the death of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, the Ragusans introduced a practice of presenting with gifts all the married sultanas (1567). They obviously believed that the influence of the daughter of the late Suleyman would inevitably ebb and that a new “Mihrimah” would emerge, a powerful sultana, wife of a mighty vizier. This, however, did not take place. Until the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic in 1808, Ragusan diplomats and consuls sent regular reports on the sultanas’ weddings, births of princes and princesses and imperial celebrations. Yet, they never singled out any specific sultana. Their diplomatic dealings were confined to the usual gifts (candies, gilt candles and textiles). The only exceptions were Humaşah and Kamerşah, daughters of Hundi Sultan and Hersekzade Ahmed Pasha, whom the Ragusans contacted with regard to the property they had in Dubrovnik. Although she was not a sultana, Fatma, sister of the Grand Vizier Dervish Pasha, should also be mentioned, for she demanded contact with the Ragusans on the matter of her property. The usual Ragusan gift for sultanas did not concern the sultans’ mothers. The Ragusans ignored them even when a succession of powerful mothers of sultans stepped onto the Ottoman political scene and ruled the Empire until the middle of the seventeenth century. Moreover, the Ragusans openly disapproved of the proposal to start presenting Kösem Sultan with gifts, the most powerful woman in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Rewarding the sultan’s mother with a gift, naturally a very expensive one, the Ragusans deemed a risky step which attracted attention. They claimed that every novelty, regardless of its triviality or grandeur, might easily lead towards new demands, the increment of haraç being their greatest fear.


Ottoman Empire, Republic of Dubrovnik, diplomacy, sultanas

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